UFC on ABC Betting Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs Li Jingliang

Ponzinibbio is such a fun name to type, said no one ever. We will call the Argentinian “Santiago” today and you know I am going to obviously favor Li over Jingliang although the latter is much more fun to say.

Well, that is unless you’re doing a Chris Tucker impression from Rush Hour: “Li! Sha-moan Li!

Santiago is coming back from an extended period of time away from the Octagon as he has had a string of injuries that have kept him sidelined for over two years. We have to flash back to November of 2018 when The Ponz looked better than ever in a TKO win over Neil Magny. This was also the last time we saw Neil lose a fight. He has looked great since albeit not fighting guys currently on the level of the Argentine Dagger or “Daga” en Espanol. Santiago was well on his way to a title shot in the UFC Welterweight Division before he was forced to take time off.

The UFC is giving him a beatable opponent here but they are also looking to put on an entertaining fight. Li Jingliang has only ever been stopped once in his professional mixed martial arts career and that was a submission.

If you have ever seen the guy, you can quickly assume why nobody has been able to put him away. He has a blockhead and a jaw that dwarfs mine by the tune of 5 to 1. I’m not joking. Why do you think I have a beard?

Digression.

That is one of the first things you notice about most of these UFC fighters when you meet them. Their heads are massive. Even Eddie Bravo, the creator of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, who never fought MMA, has a gigantic dome piece.

I know that testosterone and HGH can grow your head and jaw. That is part of it and there is also a bit of natural selection going on here as the fellows with small jaws, heads, and hands usually don’t make it to the highest level.

So, Li has a large jaw. Maybe he used steroids. Maybe not. His looks mostly genetic but the point is, the larger the jaw and head, the harder it will be to knock these guys out.

Pro Tip Real Quick:
Watch the weigh ins and pause it during the staredown. Pay close attention to the size of each fighters’ heads. If the style is right, then you can use this to get an edge on the sportsbooks.

Watch the weigh ins live and if you see a big discrepancy with the power puncher having the much bigger head and the smaller guy doesn’t have the wrestling to get himself out of trouble, then you may have a strong play on your hands.

I’m not saying that I think just because Li has a huge jaw that he will be able to beat a superior fighter in Santiago Ponzinibbio but maybe we can target the over or possibly a method of victory for the Argentine.

Let’s take a look at the betting odds provided to us by BetOnline.AG and make a strong betting play to start the year.

Santiago Ponzinibbio (-290) vs Li Jingliang (+245)

What to do with this moneyline?

Parlay?

I like that but Li is durable and Santiago is coming off of an extended layoff. The Chinese superstar isn’t going to take him down most likely. He isn’t better technically and he can’t overpower the Daga with strikes.

So, where is the path to victory for Li? That is a good question. I don’t think he has more power than his opponent but I do believe that he has enough to rock him and put him away.

Now, we must ask ourselves what are the chances that Li wins this fight? The betting odds say 75% and I have to agree. I think it should probably be up at 80%. Where would the betting line be if he has never taken this amount of time away from competitive fighting?

Maybe (-350). I don’t think it would be that different but maybe some sharp money with ultra deep pockets would invest and get him to 4 to 1 but the difference wouldn’t be too much. So, we agree with the betting and even have a 5% edge on the sportsbooks at the moment and that’s enough to make a strong play but very rarely do we play straight bets north of (-220).

How about the round total?

Wow, hard to find a round total for this fight but I did find betting odds at BetOnline.AG on whether or not this fight goes the distance.

Decision

  • Fight Goes to a Decision: +110
Distance

  • Fight Ends Inside the Distance: -140

Now, we are talking. Santiago has 3 losses in his career to go along with his 27 wins and out of those 3, he was finished just once with strikes by one of the fastest punchers in the history of mixed martial arts, Lorenz Larkin.

I’m telling you guys…You can run the tape or you can take my word for it.

I was “lucky” enough to move around with Lorenz once. He was in Vegas and getting ready for previously mentioned Neil Magny and he saw my lanky self attempting to hit the bag like a pro. His coach called me over and we moved around. His speed was something I have never seen before and never have since, not in Thailand or anywhere else.

That dude is very very fast and while Ponz is long, powerful, large, and accurate, he isn’t the fastest guy at 170 pounds.

I don’t see him being finished again here so the question is will he be able to put away Li whose mega jaw has been able to hold up for the entirety of his MMA career?

I think we have to favor history over a hunch here so let’s see what the betting odds say.

I think we can do better than (+110) on a method of victory for Ponz, though. I’m looking at a flyer here for Ponzinibbio by submission and you can get that for (+1300)! He has never submitted anyone in the UFC before but the man is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt.

When he fought Mike Perry, he took him down 3 out of 4 times and say what you want about Mike. He was in his “prime” when he fought Ponz and still maintains a 77% takedown defense. That is really good for a guy who people have a hard time trading power with and will likely have people in on his legs all the time.

This is evidenced by the fact that Ponzinibbio took him down 3 times. Li is a big strong athlete, though, and maybe Ponz is a little light on his explosive ability coming off of several injuries and time away.

I am torn on where to go with this. I would say put a small amount on the Argentine Daga to win by submission at (+1300). Even if it’s just .25 units, that will pay you back more than 3 total.

Then we put 1 unit each on Ponz to win inside the distance and also to win a decision. The betting odds are plus money each way so as long as Li doesn’t shock the world, we make money no matter what.

Santiago by TKO is (+150) and we are covered on the submission so this gives us a few more points. He is (+250) to win a decision as well so bear with me here.

We put a unit each on these two and .25 separately on the submission method of victory prop.

Please Note:
If he wins by TKO, then we lose .25 on the submission play as well as 1 unit on the decision line. That puts us down 1.25 units but we just got paid 1.50 so we make a small profit of a quarter of a unit. If we do the ROI calculation, though, we see that quarter of a unit represents a return on your investment of 11%. That isn’t great but over time, it’s enough to make money, and outside of Li winning, of course, this is our worst case scenario. The sub prop will pay 3 units and we walk away with a profit of 1 unit. If he wins a decision at (+250), then we lose 1.25 units on the other two bets but we get paid 2.5 units. So, we can make .25, 1, or 1.25 units with these plays.

I know it might sound complicated but you can find these holes sometimes. The only risk is we are wagering 2.25 units and our best potential payday has odds of (-122). I just don’t know what to expect from Ponz but he is still fairly young and on a higher level as a mixed martial artist than his opponent so I feel safe finagling this the way we did.

The Bets
Santiago by Decision
+250
Santiago Wins Inside the Distance
+130
Santiago by Submission
+1300

In Conclusion

I am psyched to have fighting back more than anyone I know! This stuff is my life. No matter where I travel-Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, and even buttcrack of dawn early at 0430 on a Sunday in Thailand, I’m watching the fights and probably getting loud.

  • We are about to be flooded with fighting in a few days when the UFC kicks off the new year with their first event on Fight Island this Saturday night. Calvin Kattar and Max Holloway will headline the event.
  • Then, on Wednesday, we get to see two very similarly styled Welterweights get their chance to shine in a UFC main event when Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny fight for valuable position inside the top ten of the Welterweight Division.
  • Then, less than 70 hours later, UFC 257 headlined by not one but two premier fights in the Lightweight Division including the rematch of Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor 6 long years since the two men first met at Featherweight.

Stay tuned, team, because we will be hammering these events hard and one fighter I think will be a lot more hammer than the nail in his fight on Fight Island is Argentina’s Santiago Ponzinibbio.

He will have to put in the work against the highly durable Chinese star and UFC veteran, Li Jingliang. We did our predictions a little bit differently today. Let’s just hope Li doesn’t ruin our party.

The Argentine Dagger is a higher level of fighter, though, in my opinion, and I think that will carry him to a victory.

Get your bets in now and enjoy all of the fights coming up on Fight Island.

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.