Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC on Fox 31 as Kevin Lee takes on Al Iaquinta in a lightweight clash. This is a rematch of a fight they had in 2014 in which Al Iaquinta won by unanimous decision.
Al Iaquinta (Record: 13-4, +250 Underdog, Power Ranking: B)
A Long Island born and raised lightweight, Al Iaquinta unexpectedly contended for the lightweight title in his last bout due to injuries to Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway. Despite losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov, he impressed some by going all five rounds and having some success on the feet later in the round. Prior to that bout, Iaquinta had won five straight fights in the UFC.
The long time Serra-Longo team fighter entered the UFC with good amount of hype after he made it all the way to the finals of TUF Live back in 2012. After the season final loss, he won eight of night fights in the promotion. Iaquinta is mainly known as a striker capable of landing a devastating knockout punch. Seven of his thirteen wins have come by knockout. The 29-year-old lightweight lands 4.28 significant strikes per minute and does so at an above average percentage of 40%. While he can secure an occasional takedown, it’s not a big part of his game. He holds a purple belt in jiu jitsu under Matt Serra and does have some submission wins to his name, but can be overwhelmed by better grapplers. Defensively, he’s never been finished by strikes. He has a good chin and has rarely been hurt in fights. Where there are some holes are in his submission defense. Three of his four career losses have been by submission.
Kevin Lee (Record: 17-3, -300 Favorite, Power Ranking: B+)
The 26 year old Grand Rapids, Michigan born Motown Phenom has quickly become one of the best fighters in the lightweight division. Lee has six out of his last seven with five of those victories coming by stoppage. In his last bout, Lee beat up Brazilian Edson Barboza to get the biggest win of his career thus far.
The Motown Phenom is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the weightclass. He has a good standup game landing 45% of his significant strikes at 4.06 strikes per minute. However, where he has really risen his game is his wrestling. Lee has developed into an excellent wrestler. He’s now suffocated his last few opponents taking fighters to the mat with relative ease. Overall, Lee has earned takedowns in his last seven bouts. Lee secures a whopping 3.33 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage which is among the highest in the division. His physicality has become a real strength for him as he looks to keep improving and get himself back into the lightweight title picture.
In the final main event on Fox prior to the UFC heading to ESPN, Al Iaquinta takes on Kevin Lee in an important lightweight bout. In a deep division with fighters jockeying for a position to take on the division’s elite, this fight will go a long way to setting up the winner for a big bout in 2019. These two fighters fought in 2014 in New Jersey. Kevin Lee had Al Iaquinta in trouble on the mat in the opening round, but was unable to secure a submission. Iaquinta took over in the second half of the fight and was able to win a decision. Since that time, Lee has perhaps improved more than any other fighter in the division. Offensively, his wresting has become stout and a huge weapon to control fights. Secondly, he’s much more physically strong and can hurt opponents on the feet or with the vicious ground and pound he employs. Iaquinta has not been active taking time away from the sport. This will only be Iaquinta’s third bout in the last three years. While he has done fairly well in those matchups, he showed that he couldn’t stop the takedown attempts of Khabib Nurmagomedov early in their fight. Kevin Lee is the closest comparison to the lightweight champion early in bouts, so the expectation is that Lee will also be able to take Iaquinta to the mat. On the ground, Lee is aggressive and I expect him to exploit Iaquinta’s submission defense. Look for Lee to find a hole and submit Iaquinta inside of two rounds to further move up the lightweight ladder. The Lee by submission prop has not been released yet, but as of publication Lee inside the distance is as low as -139. Look for a + money prop on Lee to win by submission and to cash it in the early rounds of the main event.