Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sluggers Alex Morono and Santiago Ponzinibbio will square off this weekend (Sat., Dec. 10, 2022) at UFC 282 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ponzinibbio has lost three of four since returning to action following a really serious layoff due to injury, but the stats do not tell the whole tale. His last two defeats came via split-decision to ranked and well-regarded foes, so it’s not like Pereira has completely fallen off a cliff in terms of performance.

Meanwhile, Morono will replace the Robbie Lawler on just five day’s notice! The 32-year-old Texan has won four in a row, most recently picking apart Matthew Semelsberger to disrupt the knockout artist’s momentum. It’s impossible to know how prepared Morono is for this contest, but if he’s in shape, fans are still in for an excellent scrap.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

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YEAR-END PPV BLOWOUT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closes out its final pay-per-view (PPV) of the year on Sat., Dec. 10, 2022, with a battle for the vacant Light Heavyweight crown between former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Jan Blachowicz, looking to stop the momentum of No. 3-seeded Magomed Ankalaev. In the co-main event of UFC 282, which will take place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, breakout star, Paddy Pimblett, intends to keep his momentum going at the expense of gritty veteran, Jared Gordon.

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Santiago Ponzinibbio

Record: 27-6

Key Wins: Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 140), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 113), Miguel Baeza (UFC Vegas 28), Mike Perry (UFC on FOX 26), Sean Strickland (UFC Fight Night 61), Nordine Taleb (UFC Fight Night 105)

Key Losses: Li Jingliang (UFC Fight Island 7), Michel Pereira (UFC Vegas 55), Geoff Neal (UFC 269), Lorenz Larkin (UFC Fight Night 70)

Keys to Victory: Ponzinibbio has lost a touch of speed since coming back from his layoff, and he’s still majorly fast! The Argentinian talent’s best weapons include a shotgun-like jab and nasty calf kicks, which have helped him stop 15 foes via knockout.

Range is important here. Ponzinibbio does his best work at the edge of his kicking range, where his jab, 1-2, and low kicks are at their most effective. Morono likes to strike at that distance also, but between his speed advantage and footwork, Ponzinibbio should be able to maintain an advantage on the feet.

Beyond that, Ponzinibbio should be blasting kicks as often as possible. Throughout his UFC career, Morono has never come up with a consistent answer to opponents who move their feet and kick him. Ponzinibbio has the skills to frustrate Morono, damage his legs and body, then try to move in for the kill down the stretch.

Alex Morono

Record: 22-7 (1)

Key Wins: Max Griffin (UFC Fight Night 161), Matthew Semelsberger (UFC 277), Donald Cerrone (UFC Vegas 26), David Zawada (UFC Vegas 36)

Key Losses: Anthony Pettis (UFC Vegas 17), Khaos Williams (UFC 247), Jordan Mein (UFC on FOX 30)

Keys to Victory: Morono is a funky fighter, and he’s very much filling the role of crafty veteran nowadays. “The Great White” is a slick grappler who rarely uses his jiu-jitsu, instead relying on off-beat timing and unusual angles to outwork “better” strikers.

Again, if Morono is in fighting shape, this is a great fight! Yet, on paper, it’s a fight unlikely to go well for Morono. Ponzinibbio is the more athletic striker by a fair margin, and he’s unlikely to get taken down by the Texan.

Fortunately, Morono tends to exceed expectations. His timing is really tricky, and he’s skilled enough to hold his own at distance and in the pocket. Despite facing a heavy-handed and sharp counter puncher, a bit of pressure may be necessary for Morono. Realistically, he’s going to have to hurt Ponzinibbio at some point to sway the momentum to his favor, and his best shot at doing so is to get Ponzinibbio backing up.

I’d also like to see Morono at least attempt some takedowns. They probably won’t land, but mixing it up creates opportunities to land on the break and will help disrupt the Argentinian’s kickboxing flow.

Bottom Line

This is a pure action fight.

Given his recent results, it feels like the Top 10 is now just barely out of reach for Ponzinibbio. Still, he’s always a ton of fun to watch, and he can give just about anyone in the division a good scrap at a minimum. This should be a rebound fight for him, a chance to really establish himself as an action fighter and gatekeeper to the top of the division.

As for Morono, his ceiling feels fairly established. He hasn’t yet shown the raw athleticism or depth of skill to really break into the ranks at 170 lbs., and he’s been on the roster since 2016. While that goal is currently looking unlikely, stepping up on short-notice to score a big win and extend his win streak to five remains a big deal. If Morono can pull it off, he deserves a chance against a ranked foe next time out.

At UFC 282, Alex Morono and Santiago Ponzinibbio will throw down. Which athlete will remain standing when the dust settles?