The welterweight division has a new contender.
Despite walking into the UFC Fight Night 113 main event as an underdog, Santiago Ponzinibbio needed less than 90 seconds to dispatch of No. 8 ranked Gunnar Nelson with an absolutely devastating first-round knockout.
The Argentinean born welterweight had won four fights in a row heading into Sunday’s card in Scotland, but Nelson had looked better than ever during his recent win streak while also being considered one of the top grapplers in the world.
Unfortunately for Nelson, he never even got the opportunity to show off his world class grappling because Ponzinibbio clipped him during an early exchange that led to a rapid-fire finish in the opening round.
Nelson came out of the gate looking strong on his feet and it appeared that he may have wobbled Ponzinibbio early, which probably only bolstered his confidence to stay striking on the feet.
That strategy backfired a moment later when Ponzinibbio clipped Nelson with a huge right hand during an exchange where both fighters came forward with aggressive punches.
Nelson staggered backward toward the cage and that allowed Ponzinibbio to stalk forward. He measured his shots before unleashing a perfectly timed left straight down the middle that blasted the Icelandic welterweight and sent him crashing to the mat.
As Nelson’s eyes rolled back into his head, Ponzinibbio followed with one more right hand before the referee could swoop in to stop the fight at 1:22 into the opening round.
“This is a very big test for me,” Ponzinibbio said after the stunning victory. “This is my job. I’m here to face the best fighters in the world. I’m training for the best [fighters] in the world.”
Ponzinibbio has now won five fights in a row, but none more impressive than taking out Nelson in the first round by knockout. Training under head coach Mike Brown at American Top Team in Florida, Ponzinibbio has shown tremendous improvements lately and now he will undoubtedly crack the top 10 at welterweight as he looks to continue his climb up the rankings in 2017.
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“I’m the best striker in this division. I’m the next champion in this division,” Ponzinibbio shouted after the fight. “I am ready for anything and everyone at 170 pounds in the world.”
With this knockout, Ponzinibbio now has 14 career first-round finishes.
The welterweight division is notoriously a snake pit, where it’s tough to string together several wins in a row, but if the fighters at 170 pounds didn’t have an eye on Ponzinibbio before now, he certainly made everyone pay attention to him with this victory.
As for Nelson, he moves to 7-3 in his UFC career with the loss to Ponzinibbio putting an end to his recent two-fight win streak.