GOIANIA, Brazil -- Santiago Ponzinibbio pulled out of the TUF: Brazil 2 finale with an injury, and Leonardo Santos, the guy he beat in the semifinal, earned the trophy. Five months later, Ponzinibbio finally made his UFC debut, but Ryan LaFlare had his hands raised in the end.
Undefeated in MMA, LaFlare didn’t have an easy night at UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiania, Brazil, on Nov. 9, but he did enough to leave the cage with the unanimous decision victory.
He’s not happy with the way he won, though.
"Yes, I’m always (disappointed when I don’t finish the fight). I’m used to finish my fights, and I couldn’t do it in my last two fights," LaFlare said after the three-round battle. "I really wanted to get the finish. I hurt him with that knee in the end, rushed on top of him to try the finish, but he came back because I missed a lot of the shots. And then he hit me with a couple shots, so I had to pay for my mistakes.
"I don’t like to fight like that, I like to fight for the finishes. My submission game is actually really good, so that’s why I believe I was a little disappointed."
Ponzinibbio had his good moments in the fight when he rocked LaFlare, but Long Island’s own played smart to recover.
"I was a little dazed, I wanted to make sure I could clear my head and continue to fight," he said. "One of the things my coach explained to me was ‘don’t turn this into a scrap, don’t play his game.’ When I got rocked, instead of tucking my chin and throwing bombs, I’d play the safe way. And it worked out."
LaFlare is 2-0 in the UFC with a pair of victories over TUF veterans, and he wants more.
"You know, keep feeding me the Ultimate Fighter guys," he said. "I thought I should have been on the show a couple seasons ago but I didn’t make it. Everything happens for a reason, but I wanna prove that I should have been there. Give me someone tough. I’ll fight whoever. I’m only getting better from here."
He asked for it, and UFC said "yes". Four days after his win over Ponzinibbio, UFC announced that LaFlare will return to the Octagon at UFC on FOX 9, on Dec. 14 in Sacramento, CA, to replace an injured Kelvin Gastelum against TUF 11 winner Court McGee.
At 9-0 in MMA, the Ring of Combat veteran sees a parallel between his career and Chris Weidman’s, who earned a shot at the UFC middleweight title with the same record as his after building his career at ROC.
LaFlare doesn’t expect to fight for the title anytime soon, but looks up to Weidman as an inspiration for his MMA career.
"I’ve known him since I was 18, and he was a lot better wrestler than I was," he said. "We both got to MMA right at the same time. We were from the same camp, we both trained together and I see him all the time."