When Al Iaquinta visualized how his fight with Donald Cerrone might go, he saw just about every possibility. In some of those visions dancing around the brain as he prepared for the fight, Iaquinta would get hit with some big shots and find a way to dig deep into his heart and soul and work his way back.
He did all that on Saturday night in the main event at UFC Ottawa, but the end result was not something Iaquinta had imagined. No fighter ever walks into a fight and plans on losing. But it was Cerrone who controlled much of the fight and ate everything Iaquinta served him, winning the lightweight main event by unanimous decision, 49-45, 49-45, 49-46.
It was selected as fight of the night for UFC Ottawa, earning Iaquinta and Cerrone a $50,000 bonus each. It was the 17th career post-fight bonus for Cerrone, adding to his UFC record. It also was the 23rd UFC win for Cerrone (36-11, 1 no contest), adding to his promotional record.
“I’m coming man,” Cerrone said after the bout while holding his 10-month-old son, Dacson Danger. “I guess the dad Cerrone is 3-0 now. I’m on a new mission.”
Cerrone dropped the Wantagh-raised Iaquinta twice in the fight, the first two knockdowns of Iaquinta’s UFC career. Iaquinta (14-5-1) got back to his feet quickly each time, showing the desire and lack of quit he’s become known for since his last-minute title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov a year ago.
In the third round, Iaquinta was knocked down by a jab as he was moving in to attack Cerrone. Iaquinta quickly recovered. In the fourth round, Cerrone landed a pair of front kicks, the second of which got under Iaquinta’s chin and dropped him. He quickly rallied to his feet.
His face bloodied for much of the last three rounds, Iaquinta never slowed. He continued to land clean shots, but Cerrone was able to absorb them.
“He’s tough as nails,” Cerrone said of Iaquinta on the ESPN+ post-fight show. “He was not coming in for the knees or elbow. He played a smart fight. I was kind of a scared little girl in there a couple rounds.”
Cerrone mixed up his strikes as the veteran of 78 professional MMA and kickboxing fights so often does. His jab was effective, as were his leg kicks. Cerrone is known for his combinations and those helped Cerrone control the overall bout. It was the third round where Cerrone began to assert himself, landing 32 significant strikes to Iaquinta’s 16. In the fourth, it was 27-7 for Cerrone, and 43-14 in the fifth.
“I want the title,” Cerrone said, “unless Conor McGregor wants to fight me in July.”
'The Machine' dominates
Merab Dvalishvili, a Serra-Longo teammate of Iaquinta's, dominated Brad Katona on the ground to win by unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27.
"He was undefeated, he won 'The Ultimate Fighter' and beat good guys on there," Dvalishvili said after the bout. "I was ready for whatever he was going to do. I wanted to take him down and control him because my grappling is very good, so I controlled the fight and limited risk."
It was the second straight win for Dvalishvili.
"One time when I tried to take him down, we hit heads and that hurt, so I had to control things and make sure I won," he said. "Winning is the best feeling, I want to keep fighting, I don’t care who my next opponent is, I just want to keep fighting in the UFC and not go back to smaller organizations. I love fighting the best guys, this is my dream and I love making my team and my country proud. This is a big deal for my country and I want to show the young people that if you work hard, you can be a tough fighter and people will respect you. You can do a lot of good things if you train and work hard and do the right things. My country has some problems with the war with Russia, so we need something to inspire the kids. I don’t want them to touch drugs or alcohol, but they don’t know any better, so I want to show them a different way, the right way. Training, working, helping your family and hug who you can."