Santiago Ponzinibbio (18-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Ryan LaFlare (8-0, 1-0 UFC)
A bout between two welterweight prospects takes center stage on the main card as Santiago Ponzinibbio makes his UFC debut against Ryan LaFlare. Ponzinibbio was a cast member of season two of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Ponzinibbio was the favorite to win the season as he made it to the finals but was forced out due to injury. He is riding a seven-fight win streak heading into his official UFC debut. LaFlare fights for the second time for the UFC and is looking to remain undefeated in his career. He has eight straight wins to start it and is coming off a decision win over Ben Alloway at UFC On FUEL TV 9 in April.
Fight Breakdown- Ponzinibbio was headed to the finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil season two before a broken hand forced him out, and he was replaced by eventual winner Leonardo Santos. He won bonus awards during the season for both best knockout and best fight, and he may be the best prospect to come out of either of the two seasons of TUF set in Brazil. He has won 18 of his 19 fights and 16 of those wins have come by stoppage. He has ten first-round wins and is an explosive fighter. During his current seven-fight win streak, he has won all of those by stoppage and blends solid striking with good submissions. He has been out of official action for exactly 17 months when he steps into the Octagon for the first time, but he looks to be an excellent addition to the roster.
LaFlare won the first seven fights of his career fighting for the Ring Of Combat promotion in New Jersey, which saw him starting to get looked at by various promotions. He originally signed with the World Series Of Fighting, but he was let out of that deal to sign with the UFC. He debuted in April with a solid decision win over Benny Alloway at UFC On FUEL TV 9 in Sweden. It showed that LaFlare can go the distance in a tough fight as it was the first time he won by going the distance, and he controlled the fight using his takedowns and solid top control. He has a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and his striking is coming along nicely, but he gets a tough fight against Ponzinibbio on Saturday.
Ponzinibbio has to be the favorite in this fight. He is an aggressive fighter who will push forward, and he has solid power. LaFlare relies on his wrestling and top control, but it will be hard for him to take Ponzinibbio down to the mat. Ponzinibbio has fast punches and devastating kicks, and his ground game is very good as well. The biggest question for him is whether ring rust will exist as he has been out of action for quite a while, but he has all the tools to win the fight. LaFlare is a proven finisher, but he has never quite been truly tested in his career the way Ponzinibbio will be able to test him. If he gets the fight to the mat, he will need to be careful from the top as Ponzinibbio is good at finding chokes. LaFlare should look to pressure Ponzinibbio against the fence and work hard in the clinch and use some strength to drain Ponzinibbio’s cardio down. Ponzinibbio can get a little careless with his strikes, so LaFlare should be ready to counter if Ponzinibbio gets reckless. This is a solid fight with two prospects, but Ponzinibbio should be the one who shines in this one.
Why It Matters- This is a solid opportunity for both Ponzinibbio and LaFlare to show the kind of skills they have. It is a test for both men, and both are going to be around for quite some time. The crowd in Brazil will solidly be behind Ponzinibbio so LaFlare is going to need to drown them out and focus on getting the win. You will be seeing plenty more from both men over the years to come, and it is a good chance for the winner to pick up a very solid win.
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts, Ryan LaFlare, UFC, UFC Fight Night 32, UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 2