Like most pundits, rising UFC lightweight contender Al Iaquinta is picking Khabib Nurmagomedov to beat Dustin Poirier in their proposed title unification bout.
Iaquinta, who dropped a unanimous decision to Nurmagomedov in a short notice title fight at UFC 223, has a lot of respect for Poirier but feels Khabib’s wrestling will be too much for the newly-crowned interim champ.
“Never say never but I would think Khabib with the wrestling, that’s a huge X-factor,” Iaquinta explained in a recent interview with Submission Radio (h/t Abhinav Kini of The Body Lock). “That’s something Max didn’t really have. Even when you’re just worried about the wrestling, that opens up Khabib’s striking.
“His striking is good, he’s got a unique style, he knocked Conor down. You would never think that would happen but it was really set up all because of his wrestling. He’s got a couple of different layers to his game and that’s a huge problem to deal with.”
Iaquinta is hoping to secure a rematch with Nurmagomedov after he gets past Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone next month at UFC Fight Night 150.
‘Raging Al’, who is oozing with confidence after his dominant win over Kevin Lee at UFC on FOX 31, says he would use his wrestling much more aggressively in the rematch.
“Now I know I’m ready,” Iaquinta added. “I don’t make the same mistake twice, never. I think that things would be a lot different even if I did get to fight on a day’s notice, it’d be way different.”
“I wasn’t really training for a wrestler [at UFC 223]. I think my wrestling is up there, especially with my timing with the takedowns. There was a few times where I even got in on Khabib and I didn’t follow through. It’s only going to take a few more changes to really make that fight a big difference. The one thing will definitely be the confidence in my cardio to go five rounds because now that would be an advantage.”
UFC Fight Night 150, which will feature Iaquinta vs. Cerrone as the main event, takes place next month, May 4 at the Canadian Tire Centre Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Khabib is expected to defend his lightweight title against Poirier in September, although the bout hasn’t officially been confirmed.
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