At the UFC Ultimate Fighter Live Finale, the season winner of TUF Live will be crowned as Al Iaquinta (5-1-1; UFC Debut) faces Michael Chiesa (7-0; UFC Debut). This Lightweight fight is the semi-main event of the night. As you would expect, neither man is currently ranked in the USA TODAY / MMA Nation Consensus MMA Rankings. The main card airs live on FX Friday night at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.
The build up to this finale is a definite underdog story. Iaquinta is the obvious favorite, as he was Urijah Faber's #1 pick on the season and has looked very good in his path to the finals. Chiesa is the underdog, but he's a great story. After his father passed away one week into filming, Chiesa began fighting with a true sense of passion. He's dedicated every fight to his family, and it's worked. Despite being down in his last two fights, he stayed in it, showed heart, and found a way to win. He's outmatched once again here, but can he triumph when it most matters?
How do these two stack up?
Iaquinta: 25 years old | 5'9" | 68.5" reach
Chiesa: 24 years old | 6'1" | 76" reach
What have these two done recently?
Iaquinta: L - Pat Audinwood (Sub) | W - Gabriel Miglioli (TKO) | W - Gabriel Miglioli (SD)
Chiesa: W - Darrel Fenner (Sub) | W - Matt Coble (Sub) | W - Evian Rodriguez (Sub)
Note: I'm only including their pro fights here, not the exhibitions from TUF
How did these two get here?
Al Iaquinta had a bit of an easier time making it to the finals, defeating Myles Jury (Dec), Andy Ogle (KO), and Vinc Pichel (Dec) on the show. The Pichel and Jury fights were both back and forth affairs, though Iaquinta used his superior all around game to take the decision. Outisde of TUF, Iaquinta trains with Matt Serra and Ray Longo and has fought all 7 of his pro fights in the Ring of Combat promotion. His most notable opponent is UFC veteran Pat Audinwood, who submitted Iaquinta last November. A tough fighter, Iaquinta uses Longo's boxing-centric approach to striking, and mixes it with a solid wrestling and ground game.
Michael "Maverick" Chiesa had his work cut out for him on the show. After a relatively easier win over Jeremy Larsen (Dec), he drew #1 pick Justin Lawrence in the quarter-finals. Chiesa showed tremendous heart in that fight, eventually ground and pounding Lawrence out for the huge upset win. He followed that up with another G&P stoppage over James Vick. Chiesa fights out of the Pacific Northwest, where he's undefeated with 5 submission wins. A ground specialist, he has very good takedowns and ground control, but a marked weakness in the stand-up.
Why should you care?
Here's the thing - no, these guys are not totally UFC ready right now, particularly in the tough Lightweight division. But they've both turned in exciting fights on the show, and it's hard not to be drawn into Chiesa's story of fighting to honor the memory of his late father. This fight should be great in that TUF Finale way. A bit sloppy? Sure. But tons of passion and emotion to carry the day.
More UFC TUF Live Finale preview coverage from Bloody Elbow after the jump.