Al Iaquinta has prepared for every scenario ahead of his main event fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone on Saturday night.
On paper, the lightweight fight would appear to have all the makings of an instant classic with Iaquinta and Cerrone combining for 20 finishes during their respective UFC careers.
As much as Cerrone has built his career on exciting performances, Iaquinta actually expects a different approach from the winningest fighter in UFC history when they clash this weekend.
“I honestly think he’s going to try to take me down,” Iaquinta said abouot Cerrone when speaking to MMAWeekly. “I think there’s a good shot. He’s been wrestling more in his fights so I think he’ll use his kicks, try to wrestle if it gets to that.
“I think he’s just going to be in there, he’s going to enjoy fighting but very quickly I don’t think he’s going to be enjoying it.”
While Cerrone has been one of the most active fighters on the entire UFC roster over the past eight plus years, Iaquinta’s greatest enemy has been his own inactivity.
Dealing with a severe knee injury that could have ended his career coupled with contract disputes put Iaquinta on the shelf for a big part of past four years.
Thankfully that all changed starting with his short notice title fight last April because Iaquinta has been staying busier than ever before and he believes that’s going to be bad news for Cerrone.
“I’ve been inactive in the past and now I’m more active than I’ve ever been and after every win, I keep building and building and getting more comfortable,” Iaquinta said.
“Before that Khabib [Nurmagomedov] fight, I had fought 90 seconds in like three or four years. I was going into that fight off a tremendous layoff. Now I built off that into the Kevin Lee fight and now into this one, I’m going to keep building and building and I keep feeling better and better. It’s all coming together.”
If Iaquinta has another advantage over Cerrone it’s that he’s known for being a quick starter out of the gate with a string of first and second round finishes on his resume.
Meanwhile, Cerrone has been brutally honest about his own inability to come firing off the starting line and that has come back to bite him in the past.
As much as the New York native believes he can put Cerrone away in the opening round if he has a slow start on Saturday night, Iaquinta is more than ready to put it on him for 25 minutes if that’s what it takes to get the job done.
“I think I’m a first-round finisher that picks it up as the fight goes on,” Iaquinta said. “If I don’t get him out of there in the first round, I pick up steam, too. I think the five rounds is in my benefit and I think him starting slow is in my benefit, too. He’s going to have to pull out a trick somewhere but it’s going to be all me.”
If there was one piece of bad news that Iaquinta has to share with the fans in attendance in Ottawa as well as those watching on ESPN+ on Saturday night it’s that they shouldn’t expect a fire fight between two lightweights just itching to see which one of them lands first.
Instead, Iaquinta is planning to systematically dismantle Cerrone from the first second until the last in a dominant showcase.
“Everyone says ‘this has the makings to be a great fight, ‘Fight of the Night’, blah, blah, blah. That’s not what I’m in there to do,” Iaquinta explained. “I’m in there to make it look seamless, easy and if it’s anything other than that, I’ll be ready because I’ve been putting in the work.”