For the second week in a row, a first pick proved worthy of the hype with a victory in the TUF Live Octagon. Al Iaquinta’s sturdy chin and full gas tank helped him overcome Myles Jury’s long reach, and after weathering a rocky opening round, Team Faber's first pick scored the first win of the season for the blue team by outpacing Jury via split decision.
Jury – two inches taller but with a five-plus inch reach advantage – used knees and kicks in the first round, connecting particularly well with his left shin up high. But Iaquinta walked through most of the blows, coming forward with jabs and responding with counters, all of which kept “Fury” on his heels. Jury shot for a takedown, and Iaquinta briefly popped back up before being pulled back down, where he tied up the ground game with a spladle (the wrestling term for a big limb-pretzel). Iaquinta worked back to his feet, but Jury sealed the stanza with a suplex.
Round two started with an accidental low blow from Jury, but after a short break, Iaquinta moved forward even more aggressively than he had in the first. By this time, the differential in the two fighters’ gas tanks was on display, with Jury moving slowly and reactionarily. In an exchange that went from one fence to another, both men were wobbled – Iaquinta notably by a backhand from Jury; Jury getting clipped with a left on the exit. Iaquinta continued to stalk, finding his range and landing some wild overhands. In one close exchange, Jury clinched and took hold of Iaquinta’s back, worked to get one hook in, but Iaquinta pushed his way out. Both men livened up a little, trading kicks and body blows. With ten seconds left, Jury got a big takedown, and the two traded elbows on the ground. Jury’s forehead was cut in the exchange, his face visibly bloodied as he stood at round's end and lifted his arms in victory.
But it was not to be, as the judges’ scorecards had the fighters all even, requiring a sudden-victory round. Jury looked gassed as Iaquinta swarmed him with punches early on. The Team Cruz member seemed on the verge of buckling, but managed to shuffle out of danger and backpedal to safety. Most of the rest of the round consisted of Iaquinta moving forward with one arm down, picking enough shots to keep Jury rattled. Jury threw halfhearted knees, whiffed high kicks and appeared to be struggling to see out of his left eye. This time, Iaquinta easily shook off Jury’s last-minute takedown attempt, and the two went all-out with strikes in the final seconds of the round.
Both men raised their hands at the bell, but it was Iaquinta who edged out his opponent with split third-round scores of 10-9, 10-9 and 9-10.
"It was definitely a different routine getting ready; I’ve had the same guys helping me for every one of my pro fights," said Team Faber's Iaquinta, who trains under Matt Serra and Ray Longo at home in Long Island. "To get the win is great! It’s a whole new game now."
UFC president Dana White agreed: "Faber wanted that win bad. To finally regain control is big for him. Team Faber is back in the game -- with a huge momentum shift.”