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Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio full fight preview | UFC 287

UFC Fight Night: Thompson v Holland Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight strikers Kevin Holland and Santiago Ponzinibbio will go to war this weekend (Sat., April 8, 2023) at UFC 287 inside Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, Florida.

Holland enters this fight on an 0-2 skid, but there are some caveats to go with that fact. Firstly, he stepped up on 24-hour notice to face Khamzat Chimaev, which certainly didn’t improve his odds opposite the expert wrestler. Then, he was doing fairly well striking with Stephen Thompson until a broken hand shifted the momentum to “Wonderboy’s” corner. Meanwhile, Ponzinibbio’s UFC career since returning from a 3.5-year layoff has been anything but easy. That’s not to say he’s losing every fight, but “Gente Boa” is consistently involved in these grueling back-and-forth wars that are up in the air until the final moment. It’s great entertainment, but it’s a lot more work than just knocking out opponents easily like he used to before his injuries.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

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OCTAGON RETURNS TO THE GREAT WHITE NORTH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Canada for the first time in almost four years when it hosts UFC 289 inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sat., June 10, 2023. In UFC 289’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, women’s Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, will lock horns with No. 5-ranked 135-pound contender, Irene Aldana, while former Lightweight kingpin and current No. 1-seeded contender, Charles Oliveira, battles No. 4-ranked Beneil Dariush in the co-feature with 155-pound title implications on the line.

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Kevin Holland

Record: 23-9 (1)
Key Wins: Tim Means (UFC Austin), Alex Oliveira (UFC 272), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 256), Darren Stewart (UFC Vegas 11), Joaquin Buckley (UFC Vegas 6)
Key Losses: Stephen Thompson (UFC Orlando), Derek Brunson (UFC Vegas 22), Marvin Vettori (UFC Vegas 23), Khamzat Chimaev (UFC 279), Brendan Allen (UFC on ESPN 6)
Keys to Victory: Holland is a devastating combination of length and power. His punches snap like a whip, and he routinely hurts just about everyone he fights at some point or another. The jiu-jitsu black belt is also a capable finisher on the canvas, though he’s been prone to getting outwrestled.

I’ll be blunt: Ponzinibbio is neither as durable nor as fast as he once was. Conversely, Holland’s greatest attributes are his ability to take a shot and deliver a much harder one. Holland’s combination of speed and reach should be able to guarantee than he can plant a right hand on Ponzinbbio’s chin, and I don’t know that Ponzinibbio remains standing after that happens.

If he does, Holland has to be smart. He made the “Wonderboy” fight much more difficult on himself by actively refusing to take top position when opportunities presented themselves. Hopefully, he learned a lesson there, as tipping Ponzinibbio over off a caught kick and dropping bombs from top position also reads like a potential path to the finish.

Santiago Ponzinibbio

Record: 29-6
Key Wins: Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 140), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 113), Miguel Baeza (UFC Vegas 28), Mike Perry (UFC on FOX 26), Sean Strickland (UFC Fight Night 61), Alex Morono (282)
Key Losses: Li Jingliang (UFC Fight Island 7), Michel Pereira (UFC Vegas 55), Geoff Neal (UFC 269), Lorenz Larkin (UFC Fight Night 70)
Keys to Victory: As his third-round rally knockout opposite Morono recently proved, Ponzinibbio still has considerable power. He’s no longer capable of simply overwhelming foes with raw speed and power, but the Argentinian veteran is tough as nails and has plenty of kickboxing craft to boot.

Ponzinibbio is going to have to slow Holland down here, and that means breaking down his base. Looking back at the Geoff Neal fight — another very athletic kickboxer with a long reach — Ponzinibbio struggled mightily in the early goings. However, his combination of grit and low kicks eventually turned the tide, and the fight ended up being a very close split-decision.

Once more, Ponzinibbio should be looking to chop Holland’s calf and punch through his mid-section. Between the two, Ponzinibbio is likely the better combination boxer as well. When he can close distance a bit past Holland’s 1-2 range, he has to capitalize by staying in Holland’s chest and extending the exchanges.

If he can wear Holland down a bit, Ponzinibbio’s experience and toughness could be the deciding factors rather than raw athleticism.

Bottom Line

Someone’s probably going to sleep.

Holland’s back is to the wall here, regardless of the funky circumstances behind his recent losses. “Trailblazer” is 30 years of age, remains unranked at 170 lbs., and just came up short in his step up in competition opportunity against an older veteran. He’s been given a second favorable match up here, and if he knocks it out of the park, Holland’s dream of climbing the Welterweight ladder remains alive and well.

If not, it takes a major hit.

As for Ponzinibbio, it feels as though that myriad of illness and injury that sidelined him for so long stole his chance of capturing UFC gold. Though he’s fought very admirably since coming back, his seven-fight win streak was largely squandered by the layoff. If there’s any chance of regaining his previous status as a potential title contender, he’ll have to upset Holland and build up a new win streak.

At UFC 287, Kevin Holland and Santiago Ponzinibbio will face off. Which man earns the victory?

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 287 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 287: “Pereira vs. Adesanya 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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