Santiago Ponzinibbio will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon next weekend at UFC Fight Island 7 live on ABC from inside Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, meeting welterweight veteran Li Jingliang on the main card.
Ponzinibbio — who has been riddled with injuries and career setbacks over the past few years — hasn’t competed since a knockout win over Neil Magny back in Oct. 2018. That victory brought Ponzinibbio’s current win streak to seven, but the 34-year-old has lost considerable momentum in the welterweight division due to his prolonged absence.
As Ponzinibbio returns to the weight class two years later he finds himself in a different situation than when he left. After taking out Magny to win his seventh fight in a row Ponzinibbio was nearing title contention at 170 pounds. Now, he’s fighting to make it back into the rankings and prove he’s just as dangerous as before. It’s something that Ponzinibbio doesn’t completely agree with considering he hasn’t lost inside of the Octagon since 2015, but he’s ready to move forward and fight beyond the rankings.
“They removed me (from the rankings). Brian Ortega fought three weeks after me and he’s still in the rankings and he was in the main event (against The Korean Zombie). I asked, why is he in the rankings despite the inactivity? Why does he get a main event, and me (an unranked opponent in Jingliang)?” Ponzinibbio told BJPenn.com.
“Listen, I love Brian Ortega. I think he deserves it, he showed to the world he deserves it, he beat a guy and hopefully he becomes a champion. I don’t have anything against him. It’s just our situation’s very similar. For this reason, I repeat, I think the rankings are bulls—t. I go inside my cage and do my work. That’s it. I represent my culture and my people from Argentina and from Latin American and I put a show inside the cage, man.”
Ponzinibbio, who has produced an overall record of 9-2 since his UFC debut back in 2013, would likely win back a spot within the division’s Top 10 if he’s able to knock Jingliang off at UFC Fight Island 7 next weekend. While Jingliang isn’t the biggest name the division has to offer the Chinese fighter is 7-3 in his last 10 UFC fights and offers an exciting stand up game that plays right into Ponzinibbio’s strengths.
We shall see if the long layoff has affected Ponzinibbio’s presence inside of the Octagon or if the Argentinian fighter is ready to takeover where he left off 26 months ago.
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