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Santiago Ponzinibbio shuts down eye poke talk: ‘The No. 8 in the world lasted 82 seconds'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Santiago Ponzinibbio scored the biggest win of his MMA career Sunday, finishing Gunnar Nelson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 113 in Glasgow, Scotland. His opponent’s post-fight comments about an eye poke though created a small controversy.

Nelson says he “should have stopped” the action after getting poked in the eye because he was "seeing two Ponzinibbios” in front of him. He was dropped and finished a minute later.

A day after the bout, Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting he “didn't even notice” an eye poke during the fight.

"I went there to knock him out and thank God it went as expected, I won by knockout,” Ponzinibbio said. "If (the eye poke) happened, of course it wasn’t intentional, but I watched the video again and didn’t see it. I don’t know. But it was a knockout with the right hand that I landed on him. The right hand hurt him and I finished with a precise jab."

Now riding a five-fight winning streak with three first-round finishes, the Argentinian doesn’t feel bothered by Nelson’s post-fight comments.

"It doesn’t take anything away from the win,” Ponzinibbio said. "What he says doesn’t change anything. There’s a referee inside the Octagon looking at it, and he can stop the fight any time he wants. The No. 8 in the world lasted 82 seconds. He’s 28, he’s versatile, a great athlete, one of the best in the division, has a bright future in the UFC, will be at the top, but it was an excellent win. (He) lasted 82 seconds.

"I was well trained, the distance, connected heavy hands,” he added. "I don’t think it takes anything away from the win. He can say whatever he wants. A beautiful knockout for my career, another one in the first round. It’s my fourth first-round knockout (in the UFC). I’m happy."

Days before the UFC main event, Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting he predicted to win by knockout, and that’s exactly how it ended. Yet, he expected Nelson to last longer.

"I thought it would take longer for me to find the right distance because he moves well, that’s why I didn’t throw many punches in the beginning of the fight,” he said, "But he exploded with two or three shots that connected. When I found the distance, I threw the hand that landed and started the knockout. But I thought it would last longer, a second- or third-round knockout."

The fight lasted exactly 82 seconds, but Nelson also had his moment early on, hurting Ponzinibbio with a right hand.

"It was a hand that I didn’t see coming,” the American Top Team talent said. "It wasn’t that hard, but when you don’t see the hand coming, that’s dangerous. It was a quick uppercut that caught me."

Nelson’s unorthodox striking surprised Ponzinibbio early on. After the fight, many people — including UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping — criticized “Gunni" for keeping his hands low and chin up, but Ponzinibbio defends his opponent.

"That’s his style, man, the karate stance,” he said. "He has his hands down but he moves well. People like to talk, but he’s an excellent athlete. I connected the hand, he connected a quick one as well. It’s part of the game. He’s a great athlete."

Ponzinibbio will likely enter the top 10 of the division after the quick victory, and has an ideal opponent in mind. At the post-fight press conference in Glasgow, “Gente Boa” mentioned Carlos Condit and Neil Magny, but he actually has a favorite.

"Magny. I want Magny. If it can’t be him, I want Condit, but I really want Magny,” Ponzinibbio said. "He needs a fight, he hasn’t fought in a while, so bring Magny. That would be a great fight, a good match-up."

Magny hasn’t fought since a decision win over former champion Johny Hendricks in December, improving to 11-2 in his last 13 UFC fights.

"I think it’s going to be an exciting fight for the fans,” he said. "He’s a versatile fighter, has beaten great athletes like Kelvin Gastelum and Hector Lombard. He’s the No. 5 in the division, so I want to fight the best welterweights. It would be a great five-round fight."

And if the UFC really makes his debut in a South American country not named Brazil in December, Ponzinibbio calls for the main event slot.

"It’s my third time fighting in their territory,” the rising welterweight said. "I have no problem with that, but I’d like if they gave me an opportunity to fight in Argentina and I would like this fight. Let’s see what they say."

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