31-Year-Old UFC Lightweight 13-3-1
June 11, 2018 Al Iaquinta News
RotoWire Fantasy Analysis
Iaquinta told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that he has one fight remaining on his UFC contract following his upcoming bout against Justin Gaethje.
Iaquinta has been one of the more outspoken fighters with respect to his contract situation, but gained some bargaining power by accepting a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov on just a day's notice at UFC 223. Though the undefeated Nurmagomedov was a bit too much for him to handle, Iaquinta remains an in-demand fighter that the fans want to see, especially against an opponent as electrifying as Gaethje. Iaquinta acknowledged that he's now been given a small pay raise, and that one fight has been dropped from his much-discussed UFC contract. What he chooses to do after his final two fights is anyone's guess.
Al Iaquinta: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta took lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov five rounds in a title fight back in April after accepting the bout on short notice -- a feat that shouldn't be taken lightly. Though he absorbed 134 significant strikes and was taken down six times, that is hardly reflective of the fighter Iaquinta has been throughout his career. The Serra-Longo product had won his previous five fights dating back to 2014, sports a positive striking differential (even after the Khabib fight) and defends takedowns at a rate of 77 percent. Iaquinta may not have the pure athleticism to throw the type of volume Gaethje will come at him with, but he's the smarter, veteran fighter. This one projects as an incredibly close matchup.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta took this fight on short notice. He struggled throughout the contest, but in some ways he exceeded expectations. After the first two rounds, he defended multiple takedowns and made the final bell. However, he ended up getting outlanded on the feet against a fighter known mostly for his wrestling. Iaquinta did the UFC a favor, and he will be around for a long time. This fight did not do very much to change his status with the company.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta, a last-minute replacement for Max Holloway, weighed in at 155.2 pounds Friday, which is 0.2 pounds above the limit in title fights. However, after determining the underwear he was wearing weighed exactly 0.2 pounds, Iaquinta will be allowed to fight for the belt after all. In the eyes of the New York State Athletic Commission, Iaquinta would not be champion in that scenario, but the UFC has the final say in the belts the promotion hands out. At the very least, this adds some additional intrigue to Saturday's bout, as the No. 11-ranked lightweight could be crowned champion if he pulls off the dramatic upset.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta had originally been scheduled to face Paul Felder on the pay-per-view portion of the card, but will be called upon on short notice for the main event matchup. Iaquinta weighed in at 155.2 pounds for his original matchup, missing the lightweight title maximum by 0.2 pounds, so he will not be fighting for the belt. Nonetheless, he'll get a big pay day and the opportunity to fight for glory as a massive underdog in front of his hometown crowd.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta has been vocally opposed to what he perceived as an unfair deal in his prior UFC contract, and apparently had been willing to walk away from the sport before fighting again at that level of pay. Rarely, if ever, does a fighter get to restructure a deal with just two fights in their current contract, but "Ragin' Al" achieved just that, and it could lead to other fighters attempting to follow suit. Few have the leverage of Iaquinta, however, who has won five consecutive fights despite dealing with injuries for much of the last two years. Now healthy, Iaquinta will look to begin a new ascent up the ladders of the deep lightweight division. His first roadblock will be the 32-year-old Felder, who is riding a three-fight winning streak of his own.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta was originally supposed to do battle with Felder at UFC 218, but wasn't able to recover from PCL and MCL injuries in time for the fight. The New York native has a 13-3-1 career record, and it'll be intriguing to see if Iaquinta's injuries will slow him down against Felder, as he looks to extend his win streak to six fights.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta suffered a torn PCL and sprained MCL back in September, and while he was hoping to be ready in time for his upcoming lightweight bout, it appears that won't be the case as he's still working his way back to full strength. Felder is expected to stay on the card, though a replacement hasn't been announced yet. Charles Oliveira appears to be the frontrunner to take Iaquinta's spot.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta is on the mend from a torn PCL and sprained MCL in his left knee, but he will enter the octagon on Dec. 2 nonetheless. He's set to square off against a worthy opponent in Paul Felder, who has won two straight fights via decision and holds an overall record of 14-3.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta previously tore up his right knee two years ago, but it's the other knee that's presenting problems this time around. The lightweight fighter said that he hopes the knee will heal through physical therapy and allow him to resume fighting in a few months, but acknowledged that he would be willing to reenter the cage at less than 100 percent if it meant getting a chance to face rival Kajan Johnson. That may have just been posturing on Iaquinta's part, but it's clear the 30-year-old intends to fight again despite the prospect of rehabbing from another major knee injury. Iaquinta is riding a five-match winning streak, with his latest victory coming in April against Diego Sanchez, who he knocked out in the first round.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta did a good job of navigating his way through Sanchez's power shots early before timing a counter with his right hand that put the 35-year-old down. Sanchez tried to continue, but quickly ate another counter shot, which sent him to the canvas for the final time. A knee injury and a contract dispute kept Iaquinta away from the cage for more than two years, but he showed the UFC his worth by dominating a tough opponent. Iaquinta is now riding a five-fight winning streak, having notched four stoppages over that span. Despite a step in the right direction, Iaquinta remains vocally upset about his current UFC pay, as well as the promotion's decision to not award him a post-fight bonus, so it remains to be seen if or when Raging Al will set foot into the octagon once again.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta spent nearly a year-and-a-half on the shelf due to a knee injury, and had verbally agreed to a return fight at UFC 205 against Thiago Alves. Competing in his native New York should have had plenty of appeal, but after taking a closer look at the bout agreement, he decided that his compensation was not sufficient. He has been highly vocal about his displeasure with his current UFC contract, but nonetheless agreed to take this bout. Iaquinta should draw plenty of viewers for this fight, as Sanchez has strong name recognition, mostly due to his grit, determination and long tenure with the promotion. Although Sanchez is on the tail end of his career, Iaquinta's layoff of nearly two years will make this fight incredibly difficult to predict.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta hasn't had a UFC fight since April of 2015, as he's had bouts against Bobby Green, Gilbert Melendez and Beneil Dariush cancelled. The latter two were due to knee problems, and Iaquinta eventually elected to have surgery last November to address the issue. That surgery came with a 6-to-8 month timetable, putting him right in line to fight in front of a home crowd at Madison Square Garden. Prior to the injury, Iaquinta had accumulated four quality wins, defeating the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Joe Lauzon, Ross Pearson and Rodrigo Damm. Any momentum built during that stretch has likely faded, however, as it will be a year-and-a-half out of the octagon when he enters the cage. His opponent has been dealing with an undisclosed injury of his own, as Alves hasn't fought since a loss to Carlos Condit in May of 2015, which should negate the rust factor when analyzing this bout.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta originally wanted to avoid surgery, and had hopes of fighting Beneil Dariush in January. Those plans will be put on hold, however, as the 28-year-old will hope to correct the nagging ailment moving forward. Iaquinta will risk losing the momentum he's built up in the lightweight division, as he's won four straight fights in the UFC, three of which have been by knockout.
Fantasy AnalysisIt was reported early last month that Iaquinta needed surgery, but that apparently won't be the case. According to Helwani's report, Dariush is also interested in the potential matchup. It makes sense rankings wise and it wouldn't be a shock to see the fight agreed upon in the coming weeks.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta was originally scheduled to face Gilbert Melendez at UFC Fight Night on July 15, but after Melendez was suspended for a failed drug test, he decided not to fight and to instead correct a knee issue. According to his doctor, Iaquinta has very little cartilage left in the knee, so the procedure was likely overdue. He'll likely be on the shelf for several months.
Fantasy AnalysisThe UFC was trying to find Iaquinta a new opponent, but he decided against fighting and he will instead have a previous knee injury fixed. No word yet on how long Iaquinta will be sidelined with the injury. Considering he was planning on fighting next week, it can't be too serious.
Fantasy AnalysisThe UFC is hoping to keep Iaquinta on the card and they are currently searching for a potential replacement. Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting.com spoke with Iaquinta shortly after the news broke, and to no one's surprise, "Raging Al" wasn't particularly happy with the news. Iaquinta was originally due to face Bobby Green in San Diego, but he was forced to drop out due to an injury. Melendez had agreed to replace Green on short notice.
Fantasy AnalysisIaquinta mentioned Melendez as a possible replacement for the injured Bobby Green and he got his wish. It will be by far the biggest challenge of his career. Iaquinta, who has won four in a row and seven of eight, is coming off a split decision victory over Jorge Masvidal in April.
Fantasy AnalysisThere's no word yet if Iaquinta will remain on the card against a different opponent. When reached for comment, "Raging Al" suggested Gilbert Melendez, Dustin Poirier or Efrain Escudero as possible replacements. It remains to be seen if any of those guys would be willing to take the fight on less than a month's notice.