Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight bruisers Khabib Nurmagomedov and Al Iaquinta clashed last night (April 7, 2018) at UFC 223 inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
How can I possibly capture all the pre-fight madness in a five sentence intro blurb? If you don’t know the full lead up, MMAmania has approximately 12 articles for you to catch up with. Ignoring the nonsense and focusing on the athletes, Nurmagomedov finally had his long-awaited chance to fight for the UFC strap. Iaquinta, meanwhile, had the odds stacked against him, but it was an unexpected chance to immediately place himself in the title mix.
Fighting in a low stance, Iaquinta stalked Nurmagomedov to open the bout, looking for power hooks. Iaquinta also threatened with the takedown, attempting to use the level changes to fire punches.
Nurmagomedov shot in and grabbed the ankle, eventually lifting it above his head and tripping his foe down. Iaquinta scrambled up quickly, but Nurmagomedov hung on and drug him back to the mat. Iaquinta continued to work to get up, but Nurmagomedov kept putting him down with the single leg. Throughout all the scrambling, Nurmagomedov picked his shots and did some real damage.
Iaquinta survived the round without getting brutalized, but things did not go well for him either.
Iaquinta was able to defend a couple shots before the inevitable happened, but Nurmagomedov would not be denied. This time, Nurmagomedov snuck both hooks in as Iaquinta scrambled, fully taking the back. He nearly locked in a rear naked choke, but Iaquinta gave up the mount instead. Nurmagomedov continued to pursue the finish both via choke and ground strikes, but Iaquinta hung tough and actually did a decent job of avoiding damage.
He survived the round, dominated but still fairly undamaged.
Iaquinta came out winging shots, whereas Nurmagomedov picked at his awkward, anti-wrestling stance with jabs and kicks. Nurmagomedov began to land jabs consistently, which allowed Iaquinta to time a couple counter right hands. Nurmagomedov took one shot but otherwise chose to strike, largely jabbing his foe up.
Nurmagomedov won the round, but choosing to stand up with Iaquinta was definitely the riskier path.
Iaquinta defended a couple of shots to begin the fourth, but Nurmagomedov kept jabbing him up. “Raging Al” did begin to find his range just a bit, landing some clubbing hooks. He used one particularly nice set up, firing a hook-cross after a partial single leg attempt. Unfortunately for Iaquinta, Nurmagomedov’s volume was far higher, winning him yet another round.
On the bright side, Iaquinta still had five minutes left to score the knockout, and he had defended Nurmagomedov’s recent takedowns.
Iaquinta landed with better consistency to start the fifth, including a hard left hook to the body. In fact, he was actually winning exchanges for the first time in the fight. That didn’t last long, however, as Nurmagomedov turned it up with a big flurry, cutting Iaquinta open and taking him down once again. Nurmagomedov found his back, locking his foe down and burning a ton of time off the clock. Iaquinta kept scrambling and did his best to escape the position, but Nurmagomedov finished the fight riding the back mount.
There was absolutely no doubt who won every single round of this fight.
Nurmagomedov won every portion of this fight outside of about 60 seconds in the fifth round. Even then, Nurmagomedov decided that he’d had enough of Iaquinta’s little rally, turning it up with a vicious series of strikes and throwing him down to the mat with authority. Nurmagomedov took breaks, sure, but he utterly dominated whenever he really tried to.
Joe Rogan may be disappointed, but Nurmagomedov smashed Iaquinta on the mat and jabbed him up on the feet. He also showed smart weapons like the uppercut and front kick that took advantage of Iaquinta’s stance and opened up the takedown.
Nurmagomedov called out Georges St. Pierre, but that’s goddamn nonsense. Keep booking the Tony Ferguson fight until it happens or one of them retires.
Iaquinta is game as hell. He did his best to defend takedowns, and his defense on the mat kept him in the fight. He was never brutalized there like Edson Barboza or Michael Johnson were. Instead, he was able to survive to see the later rounds, where he did find some success.
It wasn’t enough, but most never expected it to be. Iaquinta shut toughness and skill, and if anything, proved he can hang with the elite class of Lightweights.
Last night, Khabib Nurmagomedov lived up to his own potential by becoming champion at 26-0. Can anyone defeat the Dagestani athlete?
For complete UFC 223: “Nurmagomedov vs. Iaquinta” results and play-by-play, click HERE!