The Ultimate Fighting Championship will make its long-awaited debut in Argentina this Saturday with UFC Fight Night 140 -- a card that falls firmly into the fun-but-not-essential category. The promotion’s stop in Chile on May 19 stands as an obvious comparison and featured many of the same fighters. This time, there are few more matches of interest, both in terms of entertainment value and relevance. Plus, there is the added angle of a main event featuring Santiago Ponzinibbio, who has the chance to post a breakout win in his home country.
Without further ado, let us get to the UFC Fight Night “Magny vs. Ponzinibbio” breakdown:
WelterweightsNeil Magny (21-6) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (26-3)
ODDS: Ponzinibbio (-320), Magny (+260)
It remains unclear exactly what having a native Argentinian star would mean for the UFC, but Ponzinibbio has the chance to take that step with a win here. It has been a surprising rise for Ponzinibbio. At first, he was considered little more than an “Ultimate Fighter Brazil” alum with a funny name, but even after some initial success in the Octagon, he was still slotted by most as a mid-tier action fighter. However, after a 2015 loss to Lorenz Larkin, Ponzinibbio kept improving from fight to fight and racked up the wins as a result. It was a bit surprising when Ponzinibbio received the main-event call to face Gunnar Nelson in 2017 -- particularly since he was coming off an assignment on the prelims -- but the UFC’s faith in “Gente Boa” paid off, as he scored a quick finish of the Icelandic contender. Ponzinibbio followed the win against Nelson with a smart but exciting performance over Mike Perry, and the UFC looks ready to position him as a regional star. He was slated to main event the promotion’s debut in Chile before injury struck, and now finds himself at home with a major opportunity against Magny.
Magny is another fighter who has enjoyed a somewhat improbable rise up the ranks. Coming off of a wretched season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and losing two straight fights would have gotten Magny cut at almost any time prior to 2014, but his losing streak coincided with the UFC’s need for more fighters to fill out more cards.
Given one more shot to stick on the roster at UFC 169, Magny wound up turning it into a seven-fight winning streak that put him on the fringes of the welterweight title picture. Since then, Magny has served as somewhat of a gatekeeper to title contention, as there has been a clear delineation in his results. Save for a win over Kelvin Gastelum, the divisional elite has run through Magny, but he has done a successful job of turning away everyone else through a combination of his long striking game and solid offensive wrestling skills. Magny has been turned away enough times that he probably just is who he is at this point, so this fight becomes a lot more about whether or not Ponzinibbio can break through; a win here would keep Magny as a viable B-side for important fights.
It is a fascinating test, but I am not sure Magny is going to provide much more of a challenge for Ponzinibbio than either Nelson or Perry did. Magny’s reach almost always causes problems for his opponents, but he can be a rote and predictable striker, so while Ponzinibbio may have some early trouble, I do think Magny is the type of opponent the Argentinian can eventually figure out. There are some interesting paths to victory for both guys, however, particularly if either chooses to wrestle. Ponzinibbio has some solid defensive grappling, but Magny has sometimes relied on a good clinch and wrestling game to win rounds as needed. On the flipside, Magny’s defensive wrestling has been legitimately terrible against high-level competition, and while Ponzinibbio has never particularly looked to take things to the mat, the chance might be there if he wants it. Also, given that there is this narrative about Ponzinibbio seeking a breakthrough win, it is worth noting that Ponzinibbio might actually already have the better resume than Magny. Ponzinibbio’s wins over Nelson and Perry are probably better than any of Magny’s results, except for that Gastelum win, as his path to contention was built a lot more on quantity than quality of wins. It is not a lock, as Magny’s wrestling in particular worries me, but I think Ponzinibbio overcomes a slow start and eventually winds up overwhelming him. The pick is Ponzinibbio via third-round stoppage.
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