Saturday’s UFC Argentina event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Buenos Aires, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Arena Parque Roca.
There is no arguing with the seven-fight winning streak put together by Santiago Ponzinibbio, and it’s clear that he’s on the short list of fighters in line for a shot at Tyron Woodley’s welterweight title in 2019. Saturday night’s punishing win over Neil Magny proves that “Gente Boa” is ready for prime time, but it will likely take another victory to put him in with “The Chosen One.” Stephen Thompson? Darren Till? I’d watch either of those matchups with no problem whatsoever.
2 – Ricardo Lamas
The thing about guys like Ricardo Lamas and Darren Elkins is that they’re old school, no nonsense fighters who deliver on what they promise. These featherweights promised a gritty battle in Saturday’s co-main event, and that’s what we got, with Lamas looking better than he has in a long time in stopping Elkins in the third round and snapping a two-fight losing streak. This version of “The Bully” will insert himself right back into the title picture in 2019.
3 – Johnny Walker
The charismatic man from Brazil, fighting out of England, and with a name straight off a bottle of scotch has all the prerequisites to be a star in the UFC. But could Johnny Walker fight and win at this level? Yes. On Saturday night, Walker fought like he’s been here for years, ending the night of Khalil Rountree Jr. in less than two minutes. We’ve been talking for a while about the need for young stars to make their move at 205 pounds, and Mr. Walker just may be the light heavyweight we need in 2019.
4 – Cynthia Calvillo
Cynthia Calvillo was the greatest thing since pizza for much of 2017. Then she lost her final fight of the year to Carla Esparza, was suspended for most of 2018, and then missed weight for Saturday’s bout on Friday. In short, Calvillo needed to show up to fight Poliana Botelho with something big last weekend, and she did, submitting the surging Brazilian in the first round. Now Calvillo can move forward confidently in 2019 and make it feel like 2017 all over again at 115 pounds.
5 – Ian Heinisch
Given everything he’s been through in his life, Ian Heinisch probably wasn’t too stressed out about fighting Cezar Ferreira in Argentina on short notice last Saturday. And the result proved it. But this was a big deal, as Ferreira is an experienced and dangerous veteran who was 5-1 in his last six and on the verge of making a move on the top 15 in 2019. Now that’s the job of Heinisch, who showed a level of talent and maturity that makes him one to watch at 185 pounds next year and beyond.