Ray Longo's advice to Al Iaquinta before the fifth round was clear and concise. If the Wantagh-raised Iaquinta wanted to get the win against Donald Cerrone at UFC Ottawa on Saturday, at this point, he needed to end the fight before the bell did.
"That was the advice, that we need a knockout and let's just start pressing it," Longo said on his MMA & Beyond podcast with Steve Maraboli.
Iaquinta started the round strong, but it was Cerrone's night.
“Cerrone did a great job at interrupting him just enough to keep that fight where he wanted," Longo said.
Cerrone controlled the distance for most of the fight, effectively utilizing his kicks and a good jab to do so. Iaquinta earned much praise for his toughness and desire in being able to withstand much of the onslaught, as he did when he went five rounds with Khabib Nurmagomedov on one day's notice last year. Even UFC president Dana White tweeted his admiration for Iaquinta, giving "MUCH respect" to the "incredibly TOUGH" Long Islander.
At one point early in the fight, Cerrone landed a knee to Iaquinta's face that would have ended most fighters' nights. Iaquinta rolled with it and kept going forward.
“At the end of the day, it’s really not about winning or losing," Longo said of Iaquinta, who lost by unanimous decision, 49-45, 49-45, 49-46. "It's really about evolving as a person. Everybody's perspective is different. But him growing as a person is more important than anything, I believe, to me. That's what I'm saying, who’s going to experience what he’s experienced so far in life at his age?"
On his podcast, he also talked about Serra-Longo fighter Merab Dvalishvili's victory over Brad Katona and dealing with the emotional highs and lows of having a fighter who won and a fighter who lost on the same night.
Longo, a longtime trainer who guided both Matt Serra and Chris Weidman to UFC titles, praised Cerrone for his performance on Saturday.
"Cerrone's chin held up and he was able to hold that range better than I thought he would," Longo said. "I thought, 'Look he’s getting on in years.' Cerrone fought a great fight. When Al had him in trouble and would try to press it a little more, he did just enough to back Al out of that. That’s experience.
"He hung tough and he fought a great fight and he deserves the win."