3 logical next opponents for Santiago Ponzinibbio after his UFC Vegas 28 win

UFC Vegas 28: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza
UFC Vegas 28: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza

Santiago Ponzinibbio has always been close to 170-pound stardom. His MMA and UFC record is seriously impressive, but a serious injury dropped a heavy setback on his career when he was at his best..

'The Argentine Dagger' was riding high on MMA's biggest stage after building a seven-fight winning streak that featured wins over Neil Magny, Mike Perry, Gunnar Nelson and Zak Cummings. After a staph infection stalled his rise, Ponzinibbio hoped to pick up where he left off when he returned this year. A knockout loss to Li Jingliang in January made it clear a lot of work is needed if he is to reach the top of the division again.

Against Miguel Baeza at UFC Vegas 28, Santiago Ponzinibbio made it clear some of that work has already been completed...

UFC Vegas 28: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza

How good is it to see Santiago Ponzinibbio back to his best? The Argentinian was one half of Saturday night's best fight against Miguel Baeza. He certainly played his part in what was a certain 'Fight of the Year' contender.

After battling back from some rough early damage to his lead leg, Ponzinibbio threw viciously for the remainder of the fight and earned a decision victory. After a knockout loss in his return, he needed this.

Santiago Ponzinibbio showed what he is capable of in the division at UFC Vegas 28.

Having returned to the win column on Saturday, the Argentine will be looking to carry forward his momentum and become a contender once again. With that said, here are three logical next opponents for Santiago Ponzinibbio after his UFC Vegas 28 victory.


#3 Belal Muhammad

UFC 236 Holloway v Poirier 2
UFC 236 Holloway v Poirier 2

Although Belal Muhammad is set to face Demian Maia at UFC 263 this weekend, he'd have only fought a week later than Santiago Ponzinibbio so you'd expect their recovery and next fight timeline to be rather similar. Despite fighting the ninth-ranked Brazilian, win or lose, I think a fight between Muhammad and Ponzinibbio would make sense.

Currently ranked one spot above the Argentine in 12th, aside from a recent no contest against Leon Edwards, Muhammad has won four-in-a-row since his defeat to Geoff Neal in 2019. Wins over Lyman Good and Dhiego Lima secured the part-Palestinian fighter a spot in the 170-pound top 15.

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Despite being outside the top 10, Santiago Ponzinibbio is still one of the bigger names in the division and a win over the Argentine would certainly be huge for the career of Belal Muhammad, especially if it were to come after a win over Maia. He could of course be matched against someone like Neil Magny or Michael Chiesa, but a clash between 'Remember the Name' and 'The Argentine Dagger' is a mouthwatering prospect.


#2 Neil Magny

UFC 248 Adesanya v Romero
UFC 248 Adesanya v Romero

Now this could be some rematch. After beating Geoff Neal last month, Neil Magny would be forgiven for expecting a higher-ranked opponent than Santiago Ponzinibbio. But the history is there already.

In 2018, Ponzinibbio extended his winning streak to seven. In doing so, he became just the second man to sleep Neil Magny (Mike Ricci was the first to do so). In the fourth-round of their main event matchup, the Argentine caught 'The Haitian Sensation' with the vicious right hand we've seen him rock opponents like Gunnar Nelson with. But unlike against Nelson, no follow-up was needed this time. Magny fell face first to the canvas in what was one of the year's most brutal finishes.

While Santiago Ponzinibbio was sidelined following their first meeting, Magny has won four out of his five fights since. Wins over Li Jingliang, who knocked Ponzinibbio out this year, Anthony Rocco Martin and Robbie Lawler firmly established Magny as a contender. A defeat to Michael Chiesa was a brief setback, before a rebound victory over Geoff Neal maintained his top 10 welterweight status.

Magny may well be keen to avenge his loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio, and given how the first fight ended, Dana White and the matchmakers may support that matchup...


#1 Muslim Salikhov

UFC 251: Dos Santos v Salikhov
UFC 251: Dos Santos v Salikhov

How about a matchup for Santiago Ponzinibbio with another of last weekend's winners, Muslim Salikhov? The Russian is riding high after extending his UFC winning streak to five against Francisco Trinaldo on Saturday. With just one defeat since 2012, the 'King of Kung Fu' has gone under the radar as a prospect in the division due to his veteran status and his recent time on the sidelines with health issues.

But his striking is as fast and slick as ever and a matchup with Ponzinibbio could provide us with another classic. For Salikhov, it would offer him the chance to add a big name to his resume and make a push for a ranking. For Ponzinibbio, it would give him the opportunity to form a winning streak and really show he is a contender again.

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Although Santiago Ponzinibbio called out Vicente Luque, I think it's fair to say the Brazilian is in line for a top five or at the very least a top 10 opponent next time out. Ideally, I think a matchup with Geoff Neal would make the most sense and would be a mouthwatering prospect. But understandably, Neal is set to take some time away from MMA to look after his body.

With the Argentine ranked 13th and Muslim Salikhov newly-ranked at 15th, this matchup makes the most sense and is probably very likely to be arranged for later in the year.


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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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