Al Iaquinta somehow managed to survive having Kevin Lee on his back, threatening with a rear naked choke for almost the entire second round, in his unanimous decision victory at UFC 169 last Saturday night (results). Several times it appeared as if the Team Serra-Longo lightweight was going to succumb to the choke attack.
Just how close was he to going out?
"I was pretty damn close," Iaquinta told MMAmania.com after the fight's conclusion. "I was having flashbacks of The Ultimate Fighter Finale. I just told myself it wasn't happening again. I grabbed that top hand and pulled it down. I hear Matt Serra yelling ‘grab the top hand and move it.'"
During the TUF 15 Finale, Iaquinta went unconscious, rather than tap out. While in deep trouble in the round, it appeared as if he was willing to do it again.
"I wasn't willing to lose," he admitted. "That was it. I wasn't going to wake up on the floor, so I grabbed that top hand and I got out of it."
"He did good," said his coach, Matt Serra. "Longo was about to pass out in the corner. I was more worried about the big guy than I was about Al."
Now 3-1 in the UFC, the New York native nearly ended the fight with a submission of his own in the opening round, but was unable to close the deal with his heel hook attempt. He said it was a "done deal," if not for some clever gamesmanship from Lee.
"He grabbed the inside of the glove," Iaquinta explained. "If he wasn't grabbing the inside of the glove, that's a done deal. That's my move right there. Don't shoot a single leg on me," he warned.
The young lightweight wants to ride his three-fight win streak and get back in there as soon as possible. However, next up for the fighter will be his first venture into the acting world. As reported right here on MMAmania.com (story here) Iaquinta is playing the featured role of Judd Pulaski in the MMA television project "Choke Artist."
"That's going to be fun," he said. As far as crediting himself as an actor, Iaquinta said, "Absolutely not," generating some laughs from the assembled media. "It's definitely difficult. I'm going to have my work cut out for me this week."
The character he is playing is similar to himself: a young fighter coming up in New York, where as we know, the sport is illegal. As for his thoughts on when the day will come?
"I'm not holding my breath," he said. "When it happens, it happens. It's been too long since we've been saying ‘this is the year, this is the year.' New York could be making the money, filling stadiums. We have the champ in Long Island. Let's do it."
For more UFC 169 results and fallout, including recaps, videos, highlights and more, check out our "Barao vs. Faber 2" live story stream by clicking here.