Al Iaquinta makes his long awaited octagon return against one of the UFC’s most grizzled veterans in Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 108 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on April 22nd.
Iaquinta was one of the UFC’s up and coming stars when he suddenly disappeared from the radar. Prior to that, the man known as ‘Raging’ won four straight bouts including three against highly touted foes in Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon and Jorge Masvidal. But the rage stopped as injury and a contract dispute forced Iaquinta out of the octagon during the last two years.
Iaquinta’s MMA stock dropped with the layoff and he is now just #14 in the UFC’s crowded lightweight division. Needing to make up for lost time, Iaquinta prepares to fight for the first time in Tennessee and his opponent is will be one of the most recognizable faces in the promotion.
The Ultimate Fighter
While Raging Al was in the freezer, Diego Sanchez fought four times, going 2-2 during that period. In his most recent bout, Sanchez beat Marcin Held by unanimous decision at the TUF Latin America 3 finale last November.
Sanchez’s reputation has always preceded him. Since winning the inaugural season of the Ultimate Fighter, we’ve seen Sanchez in some of the most gruesome performances ever inside the UFC octagon. His toughness isn’t to be denied and his penchant to dive deep into wars is what makes him ever dangerous.
Experience vs Consistency
Diego has been hit and miss lately, though, splitting his last 14 outings. Although he’s coming off a victory over Marcin Held, he’s not won back to back fights since 2011. At 36, he is obviously past his prime and on the way down. But having a decorated veteran with plus money always makes an interesting bout to bet on and this one is no exception. Most UFC betting sites have Sanchez as a +285 underdog here, while the favored Iaquinta is at -350.
Sanchez has the experience advantage here and Iaquinta is coming off of a layoff. Diego’s takedowns are a threat and you can’t discount his submission skills. He’s going to take this deep in the trenches and hope that Iaquinta’s inexperience and ring rust will be exposed.
This is Iaquinta’s first bout in two years and that is another cause of concern. But ring rust aside, Iaquinta may be nearing his prime. He’s got pop in his strikes and has shown he can win an ugly grinder, too. Diego Sanchez is a tantalizing pick, really. But given Al Iaquinta’s consistency, we don’t think ring rust will matter here. We’re picking him to beat Sanchez here.