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Al Iaquinta defends Khabib from UFC 223 critics: ‘His standup was really good’

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Al Iaquinta responds to critics who disparaged both his and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s performances at UFC 223.

After ten straight wins in the UFC and an undefeated professional record of 26-0, Khabib Nurmagomedov finally captured the undisputed lightweight title. But it was a win that did not go without any criticism.

One main problem that most people saw from Khabib that night was his striking game. Opponent Al Iaquinta, however, came to the Russian’s defense, having experienced it first-hand.

“His standup was really good,” Iaquinta said on a recent appearance on The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting). “I felt like I was a step behind him, just from the first two rounds of trying to get up and stay against the cage, he was kind of wearing on me a little bit. So I felt a little behind, but his jab is good.”

“Every time I tried to let so combos go, he’s awkward, he’s got like the Russians — it’s just a different style of boxing. They were saying he’s got his head up. I connect with everybody.”

“It was hard to get to him. He’s tough, he’s tough,” he added. “He’s got his own style. He’s awkward. Maybe it doesn’t look like it from the outside, but, he’s definitely, he’s f—ng tough man.”

Iaquinta was also not spared from all the flak from observers like Eddie Alvarez, who do not think too highly of him as a lower-ranked opponent made to step in to fight in the big show.

To this, “Ragin’ Al” also had a response.

“I come in there to fight every time. There’s a reason why guys don’t look good against me,” Iaquinta said.

“I know he didn’t want to exert his energy trying to finish me because he knew he was going to have to kill me to finish me, and if he didn’t kill me, he was going to gas himself out. And five rounds is a long fight,” he added.

“So I know he knew that, he definitely respected me, and he felt that. I think he’s got a little bit of — people are like, ‘Is he really that good?’ Don’t think like that.”

UFC 223 was Iaquinta’s first loss since 2014, as he now holds a record of 13-4-1, with eight wins by stoppage.