Santiago Ponzinibbio went from a clash with Robbie Lawler to facing Alex Morono at UFC 282, and feels the switch will ultimately benefit him going forward even though his new opponent is not a popular legend like “Ruthless.”
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, Ponzinibbio said Morono is a great opponent because he’s 8-2 in his past 10 octagon appearances and enters the cage on a four-fight winning streak, “and a win over him will be great for my career.”
“I think that a win over Morono will be more important [than beating Lawler],” Ponzinibbio said. “Maybe not name-wise, but for this moment. Lawler wasn’t on a good moment. Former champion, but he lost his last fight. Morono will mean more for the rankings than Lawler because he won his last four and is very competitive. A good win over him will prove I’m ready to fight the best.”
Morono knocked out Donald Cerrone in May 2021 before winning decisions over David Zawada, Mickey Gall and Matt Semelsberger, a contrast to Ponzinibbio’s disappointing 1-3 run since returning from a career-threatening injury that had him sidelined for more than two years between 2018 and 2021.
A switch of opponents on less than a week’s notice, going from a southpaw to an orthodox, isn’t easy, Ponzinibbio said, but “I have the skills to beat Morono [because] I consider myself the better athlete.”
“He’s a great challenge,” he continued. “I didn’t have the time to prepare for him but I have what it takes to beat him. Sometimes things don’t happen the perfect way in life but we can make them perfect. When I enter the octagon and beat him and have my hands raised, everything will happen for the better.”
Ponzinibbio said he won’t call out Lawler with a victory at UFC 282. Instead, he has his eyes on big-name opponents that push him up in the rankings, especially strikers like Vicente Luque and Stephen Thompson who can produce “exciting fights for the fans.”
“I have other goals now,” Ponzinibbio said. “My goal is to get back to the top-10 and face the best and have my shot at the title. I was one fight away from the world title when I got ill and then things got stuck. I came back with a loss, a punch early in the fight, an accident, and then I won a good fight with Baeza, but the last two were split decisions to two very tough fighters. I think I won both fights, and so do a lot of people. If I had won those two fights I would be 10 in my last 11 and could be talking about the belt now.
“I’m focused on going back to the winning track now and show I can beat a guy that’s on a rise, so I can get a big-name fight next and have my shot at the world title.”