Ponzinibbio (28-4) picked up his first win in over three years on Saturday, as he outlasted Baeza (10-1) in a back-and-forth battle at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Ponzinibbio, who missed all of 2019 and 2020 with lingering medical issues.
"Fifty-six months, no fight," Ponzinibbio said. "One punch won't beat me. I had frustration in myself. The first round is just warm up -- second round I could put on my game."
Ponzinibbio, 34, had his back against the wall going into this weekend. The Argentinian was on a seven-fight win streak when he was sidelined by injury. He finally came back in a fight against Li Jingliang in January, suffering the quickest loss of his career -- a knockout defeat at 4 minutes, 25 seconds of the opening round.
Saturday got off to a nightmarish start for Ponzinibbio, as Baeza went to work with the calf kick. Ponzinibbio's lead leg showed the effects of those kicks immediately, and his mobility was in jeopardy. He eventually turned the tide in the second round, however, and actually started to use his own calf kick against Baeza.
"You think I'm worried about a kick?" said Ponzibbio, who at one point wasn't sure if he'd be able to fight again. "Man, you have to kill me in there."
Both welterweights had success in the third, but it was Ponzinibbio who took charge in the majority of the exchanges. He sat down in the pocket and caught Baeza with heavy left hooks. Baeza, who had never lost a pro fight going into Saturday, looked a bit demoralized from the shots but still responded with offense of his own.
It's a big win for Ponzinibbio -- not only because it's his first in so long, but Baeza is considered a talented up-and-comer. Prior to Saturday, Baeza was 3-0 in the UFC with three finishes.
Heavyweight: Marcin Tybura (22-6, 9-5 UFC) def. Walt Harris (13-10 1 NC, 6-9 1 NC UFC) by TKO
Tybura is likely on his way to a top-10 ranking after finishing Harris inside the first round.
Tybura weathered an early storm of offense from Harris on the feet before taking him out with strikes on the ground at the 4:06 mark of the opening round. It's Tybura's fifth win in a row, and a nice feather in his cap. Harris was the UFC's No. 8-ranked heavyweight coming in.
Harris, 37, looked great early -- before the fight hit the floor. He wobbled Tybura with a right hand after drawing his attention to a head kick, and he unloaded a long combination of strikes along the fence. Tybura did just enough to cover up from the brunt of the strikes, and then he dumped Harris on his back after catching a kick midway through the round.
That was the beginning of the end for Harris. He looked lost trying to defend positions on the canvas. Tybura, of Poland, methodically moved to side control, worked behind Harris in a turtled position and then flattened him out with a back mount to secure the finish. Tybura has finished only two of his latest five wins, but he has now finished two in a row.
Harris, who trained for this fight in Las Vegas, has now lost three in a row.
Middleweight: Roman Dolidze (9-1, 3-1 UFC) def. Laureano Staropoli (9-4, 2-3 UFC) by unanimous decision
Dolidze isn't going to win any style points. But he is back on a winning track.
With a clinch-focused game plan and execution, Dolidze outpointed Staropoli via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a fight that wasn't anything you'll want to rush out and tell your friends about.
Dolidze was able to get Staropoli's back and stall him against the cage standing up in each round. And to Dolidze's credit, Staropoli wasn't really able to do anything about it. The position became so commonplace that the two actually laughed about it in the middle of the third round.
Dolidze, 32, has won two of three in the UFC and this was his first victory as a middleweight in the promotion. The Republic of Georgia native lost for the first time in his career in his most recent bout, a unanimous decision loss to Trevin Giles in March. Staropoli, a 28-year-old Argentina native, has lost three straight.
Middleweight: Gregory Rodrigues (10-3, 1-0 UFC) def. Dusko Todorovic (10-2, 1-2 UFC) by unanimous decision
Fifteen days ago, Rodrigues was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, winning the vacant LFA middleweight title. Less than 24 hours after that, Rodrigues was called with the opportunity to make his UFC debut on short notice.
Now, two weeks after the biggest win of his career, Rodrigues has arguably an even bigger one. Rodrigues beat Todorovic via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in his first chance in the Octagon.
"I just fought two weeks ago and I accepted this fight, because I'm a fighter and fighters fight," Rodrigues said. "I've just started."
Rodrigues was throwing hard shots from the start. He landed a nice throw on Todorovic in the first round, plus a big right hand and a hard punching combination. There was more of that in the second round. Rodrigues mixed in a takedown, landed a nice knee against the cage in the clinch and a big combo late with Todorovic wading in.
In the third, Todorovic rallied. He landed a knee and combination against the cage, then a big right hand that snapped Rodrigues' head back. Rodrigues and Todorovic both landed in exchanges during the round. Late in the third, Rodrigues landed a big right hand coming out of the clinch to put a stamp on a nice victory.
Rodrigues, 29, has won three straight after losing on Dana White's Contender Series in September 2020. The Brazil native has won nine of 10 overall. Todorovic, a 27-year-old Serbia native, has lost two straight after winning his UFC debut against Dequan Townsend last October.
Women's flyweight: Montana De La Rosa (12-6-1, 5-2-1 UFC) def. Ariane Lipski (13-7, 2-4 UFC) by TKO
Montana De La Rosa traps Ariane Lipski, wins by TKO on the ground
Montana De La Rosa gets Ariane Lipski on the mat and overwhelms her with strikes for the TKO win.
De La Rosa leaned on her strengths and thoroughly dominated Lipski on the floor en route to her fifth win in the UFC.
Fighting out of Texas, De La Rosa easily took Lipski down in their flyweight bout and finished it with ground-and-pound at 4:27 of the second round. It's only the second win via strikes of De La Rosa's career. The first came against fellow UFC flyweight Cynthia Calvillo in a non-UFC bout in 2017.
Lipski, of Curitiba, Brazil, landed a few combinations early, but her deficiencies on the ground were glaring. A former high school wrestler, De La Rosa barely broke a sweat taking Lipski down, and she went on to easily control the action and pass Lipski's guard.
The finish came after De La Rosa secured a full mount and went to work with elbows and punches from the top. Lipski had no answer and the fight was mercifully called.
De La Rosa has been hit or miss in recent fights -- she had a record of 1-2-1 in her past four going into Saturday -- but she's only 26. She signed with the UFC as a 22-year old in 2017. Lipski falls to just 2-4 inside the Octagon.
Heavyweight: Ilir Latifi (16-8, 8-6 UFC) def. Tanner Boser (19-8-1, 3-3 UFC) by split decision
Latifi picked up a split decision win -- his first since February 2018. Two judges scored it for Latifi via scores of 29-27 and 29-28. A third had it 29-28 for Boser.
According to UFC Stats, Boser out-landed Latifi in total strikes 84 to 51, but Latifi combated that with 6:38 of control time on the floor. The bout was essentially one of two stories. Boser had his way on the feet, utilizing feints to neutralize Latifi's counterstriking, while Latifi easily controlled the bigger man on the ground.
Boser, of Alberta, Canada, came close to finishing the fight in the second round, when he hurt Latifi with a right hook. Latifi reacted to the shot as if he'd been poked in the eye. Replays showed the hook going wide and perhaps Boser's thumb catching part of Latifi's left eye. Action continued, however, and Boser swarmed for a finish.
Latifi managed to survive and then clinch Boser along the fence to slow things down.
It's a much-needed win for Latifi, who used to compete at light heavyweight. Boser loses two in a row for the first time in his UFC career.
Welterweight: Muslim Salikhov (18-2, 5-1 UFC) def. Francisco Trinaldo (26-8, 16-7 UFC) by unanimous decision
Salikhov cruised to his fifth welterweight victory in a row, despite Trinaldo's best efforts to turn the tide in the final round.
Salikhov, of Dagestan, defeated Trinaldo via unanimous scores of 30-27. Salikhov managed to win every round, although the 42-year-old Trinaldo refused to go away and arguably did some of his best work in the third frame.
Of course, the third round might have been heavily impacted by an accidental eye poke. In the opening minute, Trinaldo caught Salikhov's right eye badly, and although he went on to finish the bout, the eye was badly swollen and appeared to affect his vision. Salikhov spent portions of the final round in retreat, but he did score a big takedown late.
The best news for Trinaldo, a longtime lightweight, is that his incredible run of never being knocked out in 33 professional fights continued. The streak was in jeopardy in the first round, when Salikhov dropped him with a short uppercut and delivered some heavy ground-and-pound. Trinaldo survived, however, and looked fully recovered in the second.
Salikhov, 36, will likely be looking for a higher-ranked name now. His five-fight win streak has not included the biggest names, bit it's the second longest in the division behind only champion Kamaru Usman.
Men's featherweight: Kamuela Kirk (12-4, 1-0 UFC) def. Makwan Amirkhani (16-6, 6-4 UFC) by unanimous decision
Featherweight newcomer Kirk, of Arizona, earned an outstanding three-round upset over Amirkhani on short notice.
Kirk accepted the 145-pound fight only a week ago, when Amirkhani's original opponent, Nate Landwher, was forced off the card. A former contestant on Contender Series who failed to get a contract in 2019, Kirk made the most of the opportunity, as all three judges saw the fight in his favor 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Amirkhani tried to lean on his wrestling to secure the win, and he did manage to take Kirk down in all three rounds. The effort it took to do so, however, might have gassed Amirkhani out, as he appeared to move a bit slower as the fight progressed, and Kirk had a lot of success attempting submissions and reversing position.
Kirk also looked sharper on the feet. He went to work on Amirkhani's legs with low kicks and landed some good punches to the body in the middle frame. He surrendered a handful of takedowns by going for guillotine chokes, rather than fighting off Amirkhani's entries, but those takedowns didn't end up costing him on the scorecards.
"I took the fight on short notice and am happy with the results," Kirk said. "If this is me on short notice, you're in for a real treat when I get a full camp."
Kirk lost to UFC featherweight Billy Quarantillo on Contender Series two years ago. Since then, he went 2-1 fighting for the promotion LFA. Amirkhani drops to 1-2 in his past three.
Lightweight: Alan Patrick (15-3 1 NC, 5-3 UFC 1 NC) vs. Mason Jones (10-1 1 NC, 0-1 UFC 1 NC) results in a no-contest due to eye poke
After an accidental eye poke by @MasonJones1995, referee Chris Tognoni explained the procedure that took place.— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 5, 2021
The #UFCVegas28 bout between Jones and Alan Patrick was ruled a No Contest. pic.twitter.com/fBmfxfjRFO
An accidental eye poke looked like it robbed Jones of a likely win, as his lightweight bout against Patrick was ruled a no-contest.
Jones, of Wales, was looking for his first victory in the Octagon, and he was on his way. He nearly finished Patrick, of Brazil, in the opening round with strikes, and Jones was also dominating the second frame.
Midway through the round, however, Jones accidentally caught Patrick's right eye with his outstretched fingers. Referee Chris Tognoni paused the action, and it was quickly ruled that Patrick could not continue after he told the ringside doctor that he could no longer see out of the compromised eye.
It's a disappointing result for the 26-year-old Jones, who came into the promotion carrying high expectations as a two-weight champion in the U.K. It has been a rocky start, as Jones lost a unanimous decision to Mike Smith at the start of the year, and now adds a no-contest to his short UFC resume.
Patrick, 37, looked dangerous early on, and he caught Jason with some of his patented, unpredictable offense. Jones settled in as the fight played out, however, and badly hurt Patrick on the feet late in the first round. He followed that sequence with elbows on the ground, opening a cut near Patrick's left eye.
Women's flyweight: Manon Fiorot (7-1, 2-0 UFC) def. Tabatha Ricci (5-1, 0-1 UFC) by TKO
Manon Fiorot overwhelms Tabatha Ricci with strikes
Manon Fiorot backs Tabatha Ricci into the cage and overwhelms her with punches, forcing Herb Dean to stop the fight in Round 2.
Fiorot dominated Ricci in her second UFC appearance -- and likely caught the attention of the flyweight division in the process.
Fiorot, of Nice, France, finished Ricci via TKO at 3:00 of the second round, as she unloaded a long combination of punches along the fence. The finish came moments after Fiorot dropped Ricci with a running right hand.
It was not an unexpected result, as Fiorot was a sizable betting favorite. Ricci, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, accepted the fight earlier this week after Fiorot's original opponent, Maryna Moroz, withdrew. Ricci usually competes at 115 pounds, rather than 125.
Fiorot utilized her size advantage in the opening round and relied mostly on kicks from a distance while she felt Ricci out. Going into the second round, however, it was obvious Fiorot wanted a finish. She stayed right on Ricci from the opening bell, aggressively throwing her hands and even briefly looked for a takedown.
She's a contender— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) June 5, 2021
Fiorot has been fighting professionally only since 2018, but she has looked very capable in a 2-0 start in the UFC.
"I think that with two knockouts in two fights, I can get a top-10 or [top-]15 opponent," Fiorot said.
Men's featherweight: Sean Woodson (8-1, 2-1 UFC) def. Youssef Zalal (10-5, 3-3 UFC) by split decision
A featherweight bout between Woodson and Zalal looked competitive on paper going in, and it certainly played out that way, resulting in a split decision.
Two judges scored the contest 29-28 for Woodson, while a third had it by that same score for Zalal. Zalal, of Morocco, gave an exasperated look as the scores were read.
According to UFC Stats, Woodson, of St. Louis, landed 118 total strikes to just 46 for Zalal. He struggled to use his height and reach advantage consistently through the fight, but he was the far more active featherweight on the feet.
"It was super important for me to win this fight," Woodson said. "I can't even put it into words. It was super important for me to show that I belong here. I feel like my back was against the wall. I don't know for sure, but I could have been fighting for my job. It was really important I get that win here."
Zalal countered that with good in-and-out movement and a lot of control time against the fence and on the ground. He managed to take Woodson down a couple of times in the fight and held him there for periods of time, although he didn't rack up a ton of offense.
For Zalal, it's his third decision loss in a row. Woodson, 28, improves to 2-1 in the UFC.
Lightweight: Claudio Puelles (11-2, 3-1 UFC) def. Jordan Leavitt (8-1, 1-1 UFC) by unanimous decision
In a battle between two lightweight prospects, it was Puelles who scored a minor upset over the favored Leavitt.
Puelles, of Lima, Peru, defeated Leavitt via unanimous decision, as all three judges scored it 29-28 in his favor. The 25-year-old won the majority of the positional battles and managed to take Leavitt's back a couple of times in the second round.
It was not the most exciting 155-pound affair, especially compared to Leavitt's most recent fight -- a 22-second slam knockout of veteran Matt Wiman. This one turned into a methodical grappling contest, with Leavitt occasionally threatening submissions off his back but Puelles racking up control points on top.
For Puelles, it improves his UFC record to 3-1, and he has now won three in a row.
"I just need a couple more fights and people are going to notice I'm a threat," Puelles said. "I just need time to train and get better. Every time I step in there, people are going to see my improvements. I'm definitely going to be busy this year. It's hard to stay relevant with only one fight a year. I hope I can get two more this year."
Leavitt, who lives and fights out of Las Vegas, falls to 1-1 since earning a UFC contract on Contender Series.