If you agreed with people who had Kevin Lee as the favorite heading into his recent bout with Al Iaquinta, the lightweight’s striking coach, Ray Longo, is wondering how that could have been possible…
Depending on who you talked to or what betting line you looked at, Iaquinta was a fair sized, underdog heading into the UFC Milwaukee contest. As you now know, however, “Raging Al” moved to 2-0 against Lee, by working his way to a unanimous decision over his fellow, lightweight contender.
Recently Longo was a guest on MMA Junkie Radio, and while discussing his fighter’s underdog status, the charismatic coach said this (quotes via MMA Junkie):
“Why you would make Lee the favorite is beyond me,” Longo said.
“Kevin Lee does not do that to (Edson) Barboza if Barboza wasn’t just rolled by a grizzly bear for three rounds,” Longo added, while referencing Lee’s win over Barboza, who was also decisively beaten by Khabib Nurmagomedov prior to that bout.
“…I really took that Khabib fight as a huge plus,” Longo noted, while referring to Iaquinta’s own loss to Nurmagmoedov this past April. “I didn’t take one negative thought out of that fight. I really don’t believe people can really grasp what was happening there. He was not training for a five-round fight. He didn’t do any wrestling for that fight; he was training for Paul Felder. To take a fight on 24 hours’ notice that a lot of guys turned down is just a win. I didn’t really care what happened. You saw what he did in a short period of time, and I don’t think people gave him credit.”
It’s certainly true that more than a few people looked past what Iaquinta demonstrated in his fight with Khabib. Really, some folks had forgotten about what Iaquinta is capable of (he can wrestle, has very dangerous hands and is ridiculously tough) due to the fact he’s fought just three times since 2015.
But, the fact Lee was the betting lines favorite was expected. After all, Lee had gone 10-2 since his first loss to Iaquinta back in 2014. In addition to defeating Barboza, “The Motown Phenom” also scored wins over Michael Chiesa, Francisco Trinaldo and Jake Matthews during that time.
All this aside, it’s going to be really interesting to see who Iaquinta fights next. As a result of his win over Lee, the heavy-handed fighter has moved into the #4 ranking of the UFC’s lightweight division.