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Al Iaquinta: Jorge Masvidal 'has every right to be upset' about fighting me

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jorge Masvidal is not pleased with his opponent Saturday in Fairfax, Va.

Masvidal was supposed to get former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and he'll tell anyone who will listen that Al Iaquinta is not the big-name foe he was hoping for at UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas.

"Not at all," Masvidal told the Sporting News. "I still wanted the toughest fight I could possibly get. I don't think he's that fight or the highest ranked guy I could possibly get. He's not that dude at all."

Iaquinta, for his part, gets what Masvidal is saying. He knows he doesn't have the name of someone like Henderson or Donald Cerrone. But the Long Island native also knows something else: He's just as good as those guys and that's why Masvidal is likely most annoyed.

"I don't have the name," Iaquinta said. "I'm not the former champ. I'm not this or that, but I think I'm just as tough a fighter, if not tougher. So I think he's definitely on to something. It's definitely not a good fight for him. He has every right to be upset."

Iaquinta (11-3-1) is another one of those guys from Serra-Longo who just seem to get better every time they enter the Octagon. While Chris Weidman's rise was meteoric, Iaquinta's has been slow and steady. He has now won three straight fights, all by knockout. Going back even further, Iaquinta has won six of seven with the only loss, against Mitch Clarke last May, coming by submission in a fight he was winning.

Iaquinta, 27, came into MMA as a solid former college wrestler. Now, he's a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Matt Serra and someone striking coach Ray Longo says has the ability to be a pro boxer. Iaquinta's boxing in his last three victories, against Rodrigo Damm, Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon, has been crisp and technical. Most of all, he has been patient, landing with volume rather than going for broke with one big punch.

What has surprised Iaquinta most about what Masvidal has been saying is that he wants Iaquinta to "fight like a man." Iaquinta has spent his last three fights standing up exclusively.

"Dude, I've got three knockouts in a row," Iaquinta said. "He's the one that gets hit and makes it a wrestling match. I'm working my takedown defense and I'll be ready for that, for sure."

Masvidal (28-8) is hardly a slouch. Not only does he bring the grit and toughness he developed fighting on the streets of Miami, the 30-year-old is incredibly well-rounded and extremely technical. There aren't many holes in his game.

At least not in the cage. Iaquinta isn't a big fan of his trash talk, especially when Masvidal speaks about Iaquinta being a little boy and not ranked high enough.

"He's not too good with numbers," Iaquinta said. "He's [ranked] 14, I'm 15. He's like two years older than me.

"Everyone I talked to says he's not real intelligent. He sounds pretty dumb. I'm not really taking it too serious."

The actual fight, though, he is. Of course he is. It's the biggest fight of Iaquinta's career thus far and one that could propel him in the lightweight division.

"I always gotta be ready for that call," Iaquinta said. "You see what happened with T.J. Dillashaw. You see what happened with Joe Soto. This guy didn't even have a fight in the UFC. A win over [Masvidal] shoots me right up and I'll be ready for that call when it comes. It could be the next fight. It could be two or three fights from now. I'm gonna be ready and I'm gonna be asking for it, for sure."

The trash talk will cease Saturday afternoon. That's when two of the most intriguing fighters in the UFC's best division will battle it out for bragging rights and much more. By the end, Iaquinta said he plans on being civil.

"I'll be a gentleman and I'll help him up off the canvas, for sure," he said.

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