Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight grappling ace Gunnar Nelson will look to take out hard-hitting Santiago Ponzinibbio TONIGHT (July 16, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 113 from inside The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
Nelson is in an interesting position at the moment. He’s currently ranked as No. 8 in the world, but he’s without any wins over top 15 fighters. Nevertheless, he has wiped out some tough fighters, and this will be a chance to solidify his position in the division against a ranked foe.
While Ponzinibbio’s debut was really mediocre, he has since found his rhythm and won six of seven fights. This is the biggest test of Argentinian fighter’s career, and it’s his chance to break into the top 10.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both men.
Key Wins: Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 107), Zak Cummings (UFC Fight Night 46), Albert Tumenov (UFC Fight Night 87), Brandon Thatch (UFC 189)
Key Losses: Demian Maia (UFC 194), Rick Story (UFC Fight Night 53)
Keys to Victory: It’s well-known that Nelson is one of the most credentialed and most dangerous grapplers around; the man does have 12 wins via tapout. However, his kickboxing and wrestling still seemed to be underrated, as Nelson has dropped a fair few of his foes before the submission and seems to get the takedown when he needs it.
He’s going to need it here.
Despite the effectiveness of Nelson’s karate striking, it is limited. Nelson throws at a pretty low volume, and he actually gets hit at a reasonably high rate if you take a look at the Fightmetric statistics. Basically, there’s a high chance that striking with Ponizinibbio for a long time will not end well for “Gunni.”
The takedown will be very important here. Despite his aggression, Ponzinibbio tends to do very well in defending reactionary shots, thanks in part to his low stance and strength. Nelson is more likely to land a takedown by finishing a flurry with one of his tricky double leg/clinch body lock combination trips.
If Nelson gets on top, there’s a fair chance the fight is over.
Key Wins: Sean Strickland (UFC Fight Night 61), Zak Cummings (UFC Fight Night 92), Nordine Taleb (UFC Fight Night 105), Court McGee (UFC on FOX 19)
Key Losses: Lorenz Larkin (UFC Fight Night 70), Ryan LaFlare (UFC Fight Night 32)
Keys to Victory: Ponzinibbio has established himself as one of the division’s better pressure boxers. He’s not a simple brawler; Ponzinibbio works well behind the jabs, gets into his range, and then lights up his opponents with fast combinations of hard punches that have resulted in 13 knockout victories.
Despite being rather overlooked by fight fans, this is a very winnable fight for “Gente Boa.” As Rick Story showed a couple years back, there are definitely exploitable flaws to Nelson’s kickboxing, particularly as the fight wears on.
All of the following banks on the idea that Ponzinibbio can avoid the takedown — and thus the submission — which is not definite. However, there is hope, as Ponzinibbio has defended very well against wrestlers lately.
Working behind his jab, Ponzinibbio will want to pressure Nelson. As he walks the Karateka down, Ponzinibbio should look to kick out Nelson’s legs. Nelson’s stance leaves him vulnerable, and Ponzinibbio likes to kick the lead leg anyway; it’s an easy answer.
Over time, low kicks, power punches, and ideally some body shots will wear Nelson down and make him less effective. Ponzinibbio’s activity and conditioning are more trustworthy, meaning he’s likely to come up big if he can drag this fight out into the later rounds.
Bottom Line: It’s a quality style clash between a tough pair of Welterweights.
For Nelson, it’s a chance to extend his win streak and put more distance between himself and the loss to Demian Maia. If he wins here, he’s getting real close to the title mix and is likely ready for another top five opponent. On the other hand, a loss is a major setback, as it will likely push Nelson outside of the top 10 when the Icelandic athlete should be entering his prime.
This is a major opportunity for Ponzinibbio, who has spent most of his career on the bottom half of cards. If he can take out Nelson in violent fashion, it will go a long way in establishing him as a fighter to keep an eye on as well as a potential title threat. Ponzinibbio has the style to gather momentum, and this is his opportunity to make use of it.
Alternatively, a loss keeps Ponzinibbio outside of the top 10 and title mix.
At UFC Fight Night 113, Gunnar Nelson and Santiago Ponzinibbio will clash. Which fighter will take another step towards the title?