After over two years away from the octagon thanks to well-documented health issues including infection, COVID-19, and a broken toe, Argentina’s Santiago Ponzinibbio finally returned to action Saturday. At UFC Fight Island 7, the welterweight star was paired up with late replacement Li Jingliang — a tough out after so much time off.
Ponzinibbio had put together a red-hot seven-fight win streak up until November 2018. But after so much time off, there was of course the question of ring rust, and whether Ponzinibbio would be able to find his rhythm enough to ensure a successful comeback.
China’s “The Leech” Jingliang, meanwhile, looked to bounce back from a loss to Neil Magy in his last outing.
A touch of gloves and they were off, Santiago Ponzinibbio inside the octagon for the first time in years. Both men looked to feel out their opponent. Ponzinibbio opened with a leg kick and Jingliang fired back shortly after with a pair of his own. Ponzinibbio next came in with a right hand that Jingliang countered, firing off a left of his own. Jingliang moved forward with a combination and Ponzinibbio fired back with a right.
Timing, cardio, there would be all sorts of questions about Ponzinibbio, but early on, he appeared to be looking for a finish. But it was Jingliang who looked to be opening up with his hands a bit. And as expected, with apologies to Dominick Cruz, Ponzinibbio looked like he was finding his feet after his long layoff. A little rusty, perhaps. Jingliang moved forward with a left, right combination that Ponzinibbio slipped away from — but Jingliang followed it up with low kick that found its mark. Jingliang was now piling on the strikes and followed each combination with another leg kick. Ponzinibbio did his best to check them. Suddenly Jingliang exploded forward to counter the right hand of Ponzinibbio and landed a crushing left that sent Ponzinibbio to the mat. Ending the contest in a heartbeat.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
Consider the parade rained on. Li Jingliang spoiled the return of Santiago Ponzinibbio — in the process earning one of the biggest wins of his own career.
Official Result: Li Jingliang def. Santiago Ponzinibbio by knockout, Round 1, 4:25