Santiago Ponzinibbio left no room for debate.
The American Top Team-trained welterweight obliterated Gunnar Nelson with first-round punches in the UFC Fight Night 113 “Nelson vs. Ponzinibbio” main event on Sunday at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. Ponzinibbio closed the deal 1:22 into Round 1 and continued his steady ascent in one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s deepest divisions.
As has always been his custom, Nelson carried his hands low while probing for openings on the feet. Ponzinibbio clipped him with an overhand right, pushed him to the fence and floored the dazed Renzo Gracie black belt with a clean left to the face. A few follow-up punches on the ground forced Leon Roberts’ hand, the highly respected referee diving on top of the defenseless Nelson to prevent further damage.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Nelson vs. Ponzinibbio,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Santiango Ponzinibbio vs. Rafael dos Anjos: Ponzinibbio is in full bloom at age 30. The Argentine powerhouse has rattled off five consecutive victories, three of them finishes, since his ill-fated encounter with Lorenz Larkin in June 2015 and now owns a stellar 7-2 record inside the Octagon. Ponzinibbio has beaten Nelson, Nordine Taleb, Zak Cummings, Court McGee and Andreas Stahl during his current tear, emerging as a potential sleeper in the welterweight division. A former lightweight champion, dos Anjos made a successful debut at 170 pounds on June 17, when he captured a three-round unanimous decision from Tarec Saffiedine at UFC Fight Night 111 in Kallang, Singapore.
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza: The UFC appears to have a serious player on its hands in Calvillo. The Team Alpha Male prospect improved to 6-0 with a convincing unanimous decision over Joanne Calderwood in the co-main event. Calvillo has run through the opposition since joining the UFC roster in March, recording wins against Calderwood, Pearl Gonzalez and Amanda Bobby Cooper. Her degree of difficulty figures to increase from here, as the 30-year-old San Jose, California, native works toward a potential title shot at 115 pounds. Esparza rebounded from an upset loss to Randa Markos in February by securing a unanimous verdict against Maryna Moroz at UFC Fight Night 112 on June 25. The former women’s strawweight champion has gone 2-2 since surrendering her title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk a little more than two years ago.
Paul Felder vs. James Vick: Felder spoiled the homecoming for Steven Ray and did so violently, as he shredded the Scottish lightweight with a volley of first-round elbows in their pairing at 155 pounds. The former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder has rattled off four wins over his past five appearances, a technical knockout loss to Francisco Trinaldo in September his only misstep. Like Felder, Vick has pieced together a modest two-fight winning streak. The 30-year-old Lloyd Irvin protégé last competed at UFC 211 on May 13, when he stopped Marco Polo Reyes with punches inside one round to improve to 11-1.
Khalil Rountree vs. Dominick Reyes: After experiencing a few hiccups upon entering the UFC as one of the sport’s top prospects, Rountree appears to have reclaimed some of his past magic. The 27-year-old Syndicate MMA export won for the second time in as many outings, as he wrecked Paul Craig with punches 4:56 into the first round of their lightweight showcase and continued to distance himself from disappointing losses to Andrew Sanchez and Tyson Pedro. Reyes, 27, has finished his last three opponents in less than a minute. He dazzled in his Octagon debut in June, when he cut down Joachim Christensen with punches just 29 seconds into the first round of their encounter at UFC Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. John Moraga: Pantoja does not believe in storybook endings. The former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion extended his winning streak to 11 fights on the undercard, as he tapped the retiring Neil Seery with a third-round rear-naked choke. Pantoja has not suffered a defeat since he dropped a unanimous decision to Jussier da Silva at a Shooto Americas event more than seven years ago. The Brazilian looks more and more like a viable contender at 125 pounds. Moraga last competed at UFC Fight Night 110 on June 11, when he snapped a three-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision over Ashkan Mokhtarian in Auckland, New Zealand.