It was a fight that Al Iaquinta thought would never happen after beating Kevin Lee back in 2014. Although than newcomer Kevin Lee started talking rematch almost immediately, it was a fight that to Iaquinta didn’t make sense. Until now. Truth be told although it always appeared to be in the back of Kevin Lee’s mind, it’s a fight that was eventually off of his radar as well. Now the fight makes perfect sense. Lee has climbed his way up the lightweight ranks above Iaquinta ranked 4th to Iaquinta ranked 8th respectively. This creates the perfect opportunity for Iaquinta to climb into the Top 5 in the division. Outside of avenging his first UFC loss, Lee now see’s value in fighting Iaquinta once again. A valiant five round effort against Khabib Nurmagomedov raised Iaquinta’s stock up about as much as one can after a loss. In Lee’s mind if he can beat the guy in Iaquinta who went five rounds with the best in the world that would put him even closer to a title shot of his own. “It was bound to happen” Iaquinta told FOX. “He’s been calling me out for a long time. I think I’ve always been on his mind.”
With both fighters making significant strides over the years the Saturday match up gears up to be an entertaining one. Iaquinta who comes from a wrestling background has displayed just how dominant of a standup fighter he is. He’s shown that he’s one of the most dangerous strikers in the division with knock out power. Raging Al is versatile on his feet putting punches together well, tactically picking apart his opponent. Lee will need to be mindful of Iaquinta’s dominant standup power.
Lee has made major improvements in his stand up over the years. His footwork and head movement has gotten stronger from fight to fight which will help him while fighting a powerful striker in Iaquinta. Although Lee is much improved Iaquinta still has an advantage on the feet. Watch for Lee to weather the storm and attempt to take The Serra Longo fighter down. The Chicago native brings a strong wrestling game to the table. Never the less, this will prove to be a tough task for Lee as Iaquinta has shown how impressive his take down defense is.
Although most dangerous on his feet Raging Al has other ways to catch an opponent. With the right opportunity Iaquinta has the knack for finding submission opportunities in awkward positions. In the first match up between the two Iaquinta caught Lee with an impressive heel hook that was dangerously close to forcing Lee to tap. This is also an area where Iaquinta will have to be careful this time around. Lee continues to improve as a grappler complimented by the strength of the 155lber.
Although both fighters most recently fought five round fights, Iaquinta will still have the advantage when it comes to endurance. You could make the case that Iaquinta’s cardio is up there with the best in the game. If the fight goes deep into the later rounds Iaquinta has shown an ability to push the opposition mentally breaking them down. Expect Iaquinta to do that with Lee if the fight heads in that direction. If Kevin Lee looks to stand in the pocket and exchange with Iaquinta he may be in for a very rude awakening. Along with a dominant jab, expect to see Iaquinta’s dangerous right hand and left hook on display. Where Lee has shown knock out power of his own, Iaquinta is an explosive counter puncher.
It will be interesting to see the direction the fight heads with two of the top fighters in the division. Many expect to see a possible stand up war. Iaquinta has other ideas. “I’ve been in plenty of wars” Iaquinta said. “I want to go in there and make it look smooth and easy. I’m a more seasoned fighter at this point, I’m going to outsmart Kevin Lee.” Whether it’s a stand up war, a grappling chess match, or something in between, expect to see an exciting matchup between Iaquinta and Lee. “I’ve visualized the fight going different ways” Raging Al said. “No matter how it goes I’m going to beat Kevin Lee again.”