When the main event of UFC Fight Night 113 was announced, the general consensus was that Santiago Ponzinibbio didn’t belong in a headlining slot against Gunnar Nelson.
Sunday at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena, Ponzinibbio had two answers to that critique: A huge left hand, followed by a brutal right. The American Top Team welterweight by way of Argentina needed just 1:22 to make the biggest mark of his career as he scored a knockout victory over Nelson.
“I trained very hard for a long time and I knew that the positive results would come,” Ponzinibbio (25-3) said after his fifth straight victory and seventh in his past eight. “ I respect Gunnar a lot and knew he would come ready for a war. Beating a tough opponent like him in the first round, in less than two minutes, was really surprising. For those who did not believe in me, here is the result.
Nelson (16-3-1) never had a chance to get untracked, as Ponzinibbio pushed forward and pounced on the first opening he saw. A wicked overhand left dropped Nelson to the mat, then a brutal right brought and end to the festivities.
The co-main event turned out to be an entertaining scrap with a disappointing finish for the hometown fans. The crowd turned up the volume for Joanne Calderwood (11-3), who weighed in at 118 pounds for what was supposed to be a strawweight bout with Cynthia Calvillo (6-0).
While Calderwood struck with more volume — including during a memorable spot in the second in which both fighters simultaneously threw spinning back elbows — Calvillo landed the harder shots. She also ended both the opening and final rounds working for submissions.
And that was enough to get the unanimous nod on scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28. With that, Calvillo, a Team Alpha Male fighter, became the first competitor on the UFC roster to record three wins in 2017. She’s also won six fights in 11 months, having made her pro debut last August.
“I wish I could have got the finish but I got the win so ultimately that’s what matters,” Calvillo said. “Two times I had that choke in though. If I’d had 10 more seconds she would have been done, she would have been tapped out. That choke was in deep. Literally as soon I heard the bell ring all I heard was her breathing, like she felt so much relief.”
Scotland’s Stevie Ray respectfully called out Philadelphia’s Paul Felder for a lightweight showdown, and Felder certainly obliged. The duo put on an entertaining show before Felder took over.
“The Irish Dragon” dropped Ray with a wicked knee in the clinch in the opening round. And while Ray hung tough, Felder (14-3) answered with nasty elbows which put Ray (21-7) out cold. The stoppage came at 3:57 of the first as Felder won for the fourth time in his past five fights.
"I feel fantastic,” said Felder, who dedicated the victory to his father, who passed away during his training camp for the fight. “I knew it was going to be insane coming here to fight in his home country, but I knew that the whole entire training camp and what it was going to be like. My training partners just kept saying to me, focus, focus, focus. That’s all we kept saying before I entered the Octagon.”
A middleweight fight between Jack Marshman and Ryan Janes proved to be competitive. Marshman clearly took the first and Janes (9-3) the third, so it came down to how you scored the second. In this case, the judges apparently weighted Marshman’s heavy strikes landed over Janes’ control, giving the Welshman the win in front of his UK fans. The judges scored the bout 29-28 across the board as Marshman (22-6) improved to 2-1 in the UFC.
“He pushed me a bit in the third but I felt I took the first two rounds, easy,” Marshman said. “He’s got an iron chin. Every time you land on him, he just walks through it.”
Light heavyweight Khalil Rountree (6-2) had the most impressive performance of his career with a first-round knocked out Scotland’s Paul Craig (9-2). Roundtree pushed the pace from the outset, landed brutal kicks to the body, then finished Craig off with a wicked roundhouse. He added a few more to the downed Craig before the bout was waved off at the 4:56 mark.
“It couldn’t have ended any better,” Rountree said after his second straight win. “I think that anybody who knows who I am, knows that I possess knockout power but they think that’s all that I possess. I’ve just got to keep showing what I can do and keep getting better. They’d better get me now while I’m young. ... I don’t plan to be a fighter for long so I’d like to take out one of the old guys at the top and hold down one of those spots at the top of the division.”
In a heavyweight bout, Justin Willis made his UFC debut count with a unanimous decision win over James Mulheron (11-2), who was also making his debut. While at no point coming close to a finish, Willis (5-1), an AKA fighter, nonetheless dominated the fight in every aspect, earning across-the-board, 30-27 scores.
“I think that the first fight jitters in the UFC is a real thing,” Willis said. “I had to come in here, compose myself and get that W. The guy was ready to go and he took a lot of left hands. I’m very, very surprised that he took that many left hands. ... Now that those jitters are out of the way, it’s time to take on anybody."
In undercard bouts of note, Irish veteran Neil Seery competed in his retirement fight, which he lost at flyweight to Alexandre Pantoja via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:31 of the third round. The 37-year old Dubliner finishes his career with a record of 16-13, 3-4 in the UFC.
“Do you know what, when I look back to where it all began, I’m glad I started when I did, and I’m glad it started that way,” Seery said. “Back then, when I started, no-one ever gave me a chance. Nobody ever gave me a chance. So to think that I was able to move forward to this level…my coaches always believed in me and they made me believe in myself. When nobody gave me a chance, they did. It has just been a fantastic journey. I’m glad it’s ended now.”
For his part, Pantoja, a 27-year-old from Rio, improved to 18-2 with his seventh career submission win and is now 2-0 in the UFC.
Galore Bofando made his UFC debut memorable, as he knocked out Charlie Ward (3-3) with a throw at 2:10 of the opening round of their welterweight fight. The Brit improved for 6-2 with his fourth career knockout.
“At the start I just tried to size him up a bit, test the distance and test how strong he was,” Bofando said. “When we got into the clinch I realised his legs were a bit weak so I was able to turn him over and I dumped him on his head. He was strong but it was pretty much what I was expecting from him.”
Bantamweight Leslie Smith opened the show with an impressive performance, scoring a second-round TKO over Amanda Lemos to win for the third time in his past four fights.
Smith (10-7-1) then said she wants Bethe Correia next.
“I called out Bethe because I think it would make a great fight,” Smith said. “She got where she is because of her mouth and so I want to use everything that she’s worked for to get myself a bit higher up. I’ve been fighting for everything that I’ve got and she’s been able to talk her way to get to where she’s at, so I want what she’s got."