Wantagh's Al Iaquinta hangs TUF with win

Wantagh's Al Iaquinta, right, gets his hand raised

Wantagh's Al Iaquinta, right, gets his hand raised to win a split decision over Myles Jury in the first round of "The Ultimate Fighter Live" tournament in Las Vegas. (March 30, 2012) (Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Life inside the "TUF" house can be, well, tough.

Sure, the rent is free, but fighters are denied access to much of the outside world. No newspapers, no radios, no cellphones, no televisions. Add to that the fact that half the people in the house want to punch you in the face until someone makes them stop and that might not be everyone's ideal living arrangement.

This is the trade-off for young mixed martial artists who agree to compete for a six-figure contract, increased exposure and complimentary fight gear on UFC's long-running reality series "The Ultimate Fighter."

"We can tweet, but we can't see what people tweet to us," Al Iaquinta of Wantagh told Newsday on Friday night. "As much as it [stinks], it would [stink] a lot more to not be here."

That is a change from past seasons, all of which were taped and aired months later. Iaquinta is a part of Season 15, known simply as "TUF Live" because the fights air live every Friday night on FX.

Iaquinta needed a sudden-victory third round Friday night to beat Myles Jury by split decision and remain a featured fighter on the show.

A 24-year-old fighter who trains in Garden City under Ray Longo and in East Meadow with former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, Iaquinta (5-1-1) rallied after losing the first round.

Early in the second round, Jury (9-0) connected with the back of his right hand and sent Iaquinta staggering back several feet. As Jury rushed in, Iaquinta landed an overhand right that stopped his forward motion.

"He hit me hard with that shot, and I regrouped just in time and clipped him with that right," Iaquinta said. "That's kind of how I do things. You get into the second round with me, that's when I come alive."

But in a two-round fight, anything can happen with judging.

Iaquinta won the second round, which created a draw and forced a winner-take-all third round. Iaquinta said he looked across the cage during the extended time between rounds and saw Jury resting his arms and head on the cage and facing away from him.

"I see that across the cage from me and I'm instantly re-amped and ready to go," Iaquinta said.

It worked.

"This is Al's dream, and he fought his heart out," said Urijah Faber, his coach on the show. "Jury is a guy with a great mentality, and to beat a guy like that is awesome for Al's resume."

And he did all that with an open wound on his right hand. Ten days earlier, Iaquinta sliced open his right hand while washing dishes in the "TUF" house. He stuck his hand into the sink for a dish and found a knife instead.

"There's a bunch of dudes who don't do their own dishes, so I thought I'd be a nice guy," Iaquinta said.

"Nice guy" landed him in a hospital for stitches that morning. The wound reopened during the fight, and Iaquinta said afterward that he expected to get more stitches immediately.

Medical attention aside, Iaquinta allowed himself Friday night to savor the victory and enjoy advancing to the quarterfinals. He won't fight again for at least another five weeks as the remaining first-round bouts take place, but with what's at stake for Iaquinta, this is not the time to relax.

"Wake up [Saturday], back to the gym," Iaquinta said. "Get ready because I know there's another war coming up."

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