Streaking Argentine welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-3, 15 KOs, 6 SUBs) will meet China’s Jingliang “The Leech” Li (17-6, 7 KOs, 5 SUBs) at UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Holloway on Saturday, January 16, 2021 at UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The card airs live on ABC starting at 9pm ET. In the main event, former featherweight champion Max “Blessed” Holloway (21-6, 10 KOs, 2 SUBs) squares off against No. 6 Calvin Kattar (22-4, 11 KOs, 2 SUBs). Let’s take a look at the Ponzinibbio-Li betting odds and break down your best online betting picks.
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Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-3, 15 KOs, 6 SUBs)
It’s been two years since Ponzinibbio last stepped into the octagon - a period of inactivity that explains his absence from the rankings. The good news is that it’s not like he had a blown ACL or anything. The bad news is that the 34-year old battled with both staph and bacterial infections that left him bedridden for months. After that came a bone infection that threatened his fighting career - it was so bad that he couldn’t walk without anti-inflammatories. To top it all off, the man got Covid while trying to book an early 2020 fight. Thankfully, Ponzinibbio is in a place where he feels good enough to scrap.
Here’s where he left off: eight straight wins, four of which have come by knockout. His victims during that run include solid fighters like Gunnar Nelson, Mike Perry and most recently, Neil Magny. It’s been two years since Ponzinibbio last stepped inside the cage, but he was approaching dark horse contender status - perhaps just a win or two away from a title shot. The divisional landscape has greatly changed since he last fought, but Ponzinibbio could very much be a player in this current field.
Let’s hope that Ponzinibbio returns the same fighter: he was a helluva lot of fun to watch. While he’s a capable grappler, “Gente Boa” is at his core an action fighter who thrives off creative striking. He uses all eight points to attack, and understands when to take risks and when to stay patient. In short, he’s an excellent striker, a good athlete and difficult to put on the mat.
Jingliang Li (17-6, 7 KOs, 5 SUBs)
Before Weili Zhang rose to prominence, it was Jingliang Li that was seen as China’s best prospect. By now, it’s clear that Li will never be a contender - the best he can hope for is a top 15 ranking. While he’s been able to string together three and four-fight winning streaks, he has yet to be a standout opponent. And every time he levels up in competition, Li ends up taking the L. Case in point: he took a three-fight win streak into a matchup against Neil Magny - the biggest fight of his career. After coming out strong in the first round, Li badly faded in the subsequent frames and ended up battered and exhausted. As one of the division’s stout gatekeepers, Magny is a guy that any prospect has to beat if he wants to advance.
Li evolved from a grinding wrestler into something of a slugger - a switch that has largely worked well for him. Though not a quick or athletic fighter, Li has a lot of natural strength. Before, he’d use that to drag guys to the mat and grind on them. These days, he stalks opponents and lays into them with power punches. A strong chin has afforded him the ability to apply pressure, but Magny showed that he can be stunted by a strong long-distance attack.
Significant Striking Stats
Strikes landed per minute: Ponzinibbio 4.27 / Li 4.51
Striking accuracy: Ponzinibbio 39% / Li 42%
Strikes absorbed per minute: Ponzinibbio 4.02 / Li 3.69
Striking defense: Ponzinibbio 64% / Li 59%
Takedowns per 15 minutes: Ponzinibbio 0.54 / Li 1.32
Takedown accuracy: Ponzinibbio 44% / Li 39%
Takedown defense: Ponzinibbio 60% / Li 59%
Submission average: Ponzinibbio 0.0 / Li 0.0
Ponzinibbio holds several key advantages here. Physically, he should be the quicker guy. In a striking matchup, the 34-year has better technique and easily the more dynamic of the two. The risk here is that Li lands a few takedowns early and turns this into a top control game, but that really hasn’t been the Chinese fighter’s approach as of late. We expect Ponzinibbio to land at a higher volume and take a clear decision.
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Kattar Card & Odds
Featherweight - Calvin Kattar +130 vs. Max Holloway -157
Featherweight - Jacob Kilburn +177 vs. Austin Lingo -215
Heavyweight - Justin Tafa +154 vs. Carlos Felipe -186
Middleweight - Punahele Soriano +130 vs. Dusku Todorovic -157
Welterweight - David Zawada +207 vs. Ramazan Emeev -255
Women's Bantamweight - Vanessa Melo +188 vs. Sarah Moras -230
Welterweight - Li Jingliang +239 vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio -298
Middleweight - Nassourdine Imavov +113 vs. Phil Hawes -137
Middleweight - Alessio Di Chirico +221 vs. Joaquin Buckley -274
Welterweight - Matt Brown +143 vs. Carlos Condit -171
Flyweight - Joselyne Edwards -102 vs. Yanan Wu -122
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