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UFC Vegas 28: Santiago Ponzinibbio keeps eye on the title, says Jingliang loss ‘doesn’t define me’

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UFC Fight Night: Ponzinibbio v Jingliang Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Santiago Ponzinibbio will try to capture his first Octagon win since 2018 tomorrow night (Sat. June 5, 2021) at UFC Vegas 28 live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, when he matches up with undefeated welterweight contender Miguel Baeza.

Ponzinibbio, who won seven-straight fights at 170 pounds from 2015-2018, made his long-awaited return to the cage this past January after suffering a litany of injuries from 2019-2020. Unfortunately for Ponzinibbio, he ran into welterweight finisher Li Jingliang and suffered his first knockout loss in over five years.

The loss was crushing to Ponzinibbio’s welterweight stock considering he had missed so much time as other fighters ranked up. There are some fighters that are put in that type of position and never rebound from a devastating knockout loss after such a long layoff. Luckily, Ponzinibbio is not one of those fighters. He is already putting the loss to Jingliang behind him and keeping his focus on becoming the best welterweight fighter in the world.

“Let me tell you this, I had a lot of expectations for my return, but it was a lot of mixed feelings,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “The result wasn’t what I expected, and I was shaken because I was on a seven-fight winning streak, fighting for the top of the division, and all that time wasted because of the infection, but that’s how the sports is. A punch landed, it sucks.”

“This fight doesn’t define me,” he continued. “I got in too slow due to my time away. I was starting to connect my jab and my calf kicks in the end of the first round, I was starting to show my game, and one hand connected on the right spot. It wouldn’t have knocked me out if it landed anywhere else but that’s how the sport goes, the best athlete does not alway wins. I believe I’m better then him but that’s in the past, I’ve turned that page.”

For what it’s worth Ponzinibbio didn’t look completely lost in his return. Sure he had to shake off some cage rust, but “Gente Boa” started to regain the confidence and timing that led to his previous seven-fight win streak. Jingliang simply didn’t give Ponzinibbio enough time to really dust the cobwebs off and regain his full capabilities.

“If we had fought 15 minutes and I had given my all in there, showed the world [what I got] and he still beat me, OK,” he said. “But that way, man…there wasn’t much of a fight. I started too slow, he was throwing and I was dodging everything, seeing everything. I would have gotten much stronger in the second round, but that punch landed on the right spot, and it’s over. It’s frustrating. I think I’m better [than him], I hope someday we can do a rematch, but it’s a sport.”

Ponzinibbio, 34, still carries an impressive 9-3 UFC record into this weekend’s festivities. And despite his recent knockout loss Ponzinibbio remains one of the most skilled knockout artists in the division. If he’s able to take out a talented youngster like Baeza he should be able to jump back into the top 15 and make another push towards title contention.

“My goal is the world title. I’m 100 percent focused on this fight and I believe a good win will put me back in the ranking to start climbing again. I’m very talented, I train with great guys and great coaches, and I know my potential. This loss doesn’t define who I am and I’ll show that Saturday.”

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 28 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.