The Film Room: Santiago Ponzinibbio

By Kevin Wilson Nov 16, 2018
Santiago Ponzinibbio headlines UFC Fight Night 140. (Photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

Santiago Ponzinibbio returns to the Octagon for the first time in nearly a year to take on Neil Magny in the biggest fight of both men’s careers. Ponzinibbio is 8-2 since joining the UFC in 2013 and is looking to extend his current winning streak to seven with a win over No. 8-ranked Magny.

Ponzinibbio has become known for his blitzing combos, but most of his striking success comes from his snapping jab that he can use on the lead or counter. Although his aggressive combos are what graces the highlight reel, Ponzinibbio spends a good amount of time patiently jabbing his opponent and making reads on their reactions. Once he knows how the foe will react to the jab he will feint it into combos or take an angle off the jab to set up the rear straight.

Once Ponzinibbio is committed to the lead he comes forward with viciously fast one-twos and right hooks. Early in his career Ponzi was overly aggressive and relied on his knockout power and hand speed to overwhelm opponents rather than take a tactical approach. Now with five years of UFC experience and a decade total under his belt, he has become adept at mixing in his natural abilities with a tactical approach to become one of the most feared strikers in the division.

Ponzinibbio generally spends the beginning of rounds feeling out his opponent, but once the pace of the fight is set he will back them to the cage and force wild exchanges in the pocket. Ponzinibbio thrives under pressure and has the rare ability to stay calm in chaotic exchanges and intelligently pick his shots while looking for openings. Notice in every one of these exchanges how the opponent is visibly flustered and throwing wild hooks while Ponzi is jabbing, setting up shots and mixing up his attack to the head and body while rarely getting out of position to defend.

Although Ponzinibbio is usually the leading attacker, he has the skills to counter opponents when they move first. The knockout that put him on the map at welterweight was a beautiful counter right straight against Gunnar Nelson in 2017. His TKO of Court McGee was started with a counter right hook, as well.

The early days of MMA were built on grappling but the last five years we have seen an influx of striking-based fighters that have learned proficient takedown defense. The common belief is that wrestlers dictate where the fight takes place at all times but that is not always true. We have seen recently with fighters like Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Stephen Thompson and Israel Adesyana that an elite striker with good takedown defense can dictate where the fight takes place just as much as an elite grappler. Ponzinibbio and many others have adopted this same approach and thus far few have been able to keep him on the ground.


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