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NURMAGOMEDOV vs IAQUINTA
There would be no Miracle on Atlantic Avenue for Al Iaquinta. Looking to catch top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov napping in their UFC 223 main event at Barclays Center, the Long Islander gave a gritty effort for five rounds, but the unbeaten Nurmagomedov was not to be denied, as he won a shutout unanimous decision to win the UFC lightweight title.
The victory was the culmination of a bizarre week for Nurmagomedov and the UFC, as the Dagestan native saw opponents Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway both fall out of the title bout to determine a successor to Conor McGregor before Iaquinta, who was originally scheduled to face Paul Felder on the card, stepped in.
“Nothing changed,” Nurmagomedov said. “It doesn’t matter who if you’re ready. Give me 30 minutes and I can fight with anybody.”
Scores were 50-44 and 50-43 twice.
Iaquinta came out in a low stance and caught Nurmagomedov with a quick right hand before tossing aside his opponent’s first takedown attempt. He wasn’t as fortunate with the second one, and Nurmagomedov went to work, briefly taking Iaquinta’s back before the New Yorker got to his feet. He wasn’t there long, as Nurmagomedov put him back on the canvas. This time Nurmagomedov was able to land several left hands as Iaquinta sought daylight, but there was none there. By the end of the round, Iaquinta was on his feet, but his left eye was rapidly closing.
Just as in the first round, Iaquinta was able to avoid Nurmagomedov’s initial takedown attempt of round two, but not the second, as the swarming Dagestan native was relentless with his grappling attack. Midway through the frame, Nurmagomedov took Iaquinta’s back and began firing off punches as he fished for a submission. Iaquinta was game as expected and was able to make it out of the round, but he had few answers for “The Eagle.”
After dominating the first two frames on the mat, Nurmagomedov showed off some of his striking game in rounds three and four, bloodying Iaquinta’s face with a series of stiff jabs. The Long Islander got in some shots in retaliation, but they didn’t affect the Russian, who put two more rounds in the bank.
Down on the scorecards but not willing to cave in, Iaquinta had some of his best moments of the fight early in round five, as he landed strikes and avoided a Nurmagomedov takedown, but from the midway point of the round on, it was Nurmagomedov surging back into action and putting Iaquinta on the mat. And while Nurmagomedov did his best to finish his opponent in the closing minute, “Raging Al” wasn’t having it, as he was able to make it to the final horn.
With the win, Nurmagomedov improves to 26-0. Wantagh’s Iaquinta falls to 13-3-1.