Li Jingliang (+240) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (-295)
Weight Class: Welterweight (170 lbs)
Argentine star Santiago Ponzinibbio is set to make his long awaited return to the Octagon at UFC Fight Island 7 later this afternoon. A nationally televised event via ABC, Ponzinibbio will be facing a formidable opponent right away in China’s Li Jingliang, aka “the Leech”.
For Ponzinibbio, it’s been a long road back following a string of frightening health complications. In addition to a hand injury from the fighting side, Ponzinibbio dealt with numerous infections and subsequent complications. He spoke about his tribulations during a media scrum earlier this week. The former top contender detailed his extended hospital stays, weight loss and loads of medications he had to take over a long recovery period.
Despite the adversity, Ponzinibbio said that he is happier than ever to be back, and just as motivated. He returns after nearly three years off with a seven fight winning streak still intact and won’t be easing his way in. Despite being removed from the rankings due to inactivity, Santiago Ponzinibbio was (and hopefully still is) a top contender at 170. The last time he set foot in the Octagon, he walked away with a dominating knockout victory over Neil Magny in Buenos Aires. He was also slated to fight Kamaru Usman just beforehand, which gives you an idea of where he was at as of late 2018.
Stylistically, Ponzinibbio applies heavy pressure and looks to back his opponent up. His last fight against Magny was a masterclass and highlighted his best tools. The Argentine has insanely heavy leg kicks, a powerful right that he sets up well and a very accurate, stinging jab.
As for Li Jingliang, he is certainly a fighter who earns his roster spot. He has turned in a couple great performances in his native China and has been in the UFC for a long time. “The Leech” has a great chin and keeps his power late in the fight.
Now to keep this one simple, I think that if we get anything close to the same Santiago Ponzinibbio that left in 2018, this should be an easy victory for him. Of course the lay off always leaves some uncertainty and we don’t know how the health issues will affect his game, but I’m not super worried. Ponzinibbio was knocking on the door for a title shot before the layoff and Li Jingliang just isn’t on that tier. Of course there’s risk, but elite fighters never seem to be hindered all that much by ring rust.
I definitely think that Ponzinibbio will spend much of this fight like he did the bout with Magny; mirroring his opponent step for step while backing him up. I’m not confident enough to bet on a knockout given the unknowns, but I definitely think he’ll be landing heavy shots that at least lead to a unanimous decision.
Ultimately, (-300) or there about is a tough price for a fighter coming off the layoff Ponzinibbio had. With that said, if he’s remotely the same guy, this will look cheap. As a result, I see this as a great parlay piece and will be using it as such. I’ll be placing 1U on a parlay of Ponzinibbio moneyline and Mosvar Evolev moneyline; the latter having just booked a fight with Nik Lentz at UFC 257.
I’ll have the breakdown for that one up within the next few days, but the skinny is that Lentz has no path against Evloev. Evloev is better all around and Lentz has taken too much damage. I’m not sure how Evloev will win yet, but he almost certainly should. The line is steep at (-450), but this is sure to close near (-600) come fight day. By the timeI get the breakdown up the line may no longer be worth it on that one, so I would recommend pouncing now.