Al Iaquinta closed the UFC on Fox era with a unanimous-decision win over Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC on Fox 31 in Milwaukee on Saturday.
The fight started with a striking-heavy first round. Lee—known for his grappling but trying to prove he could strike with Iaquinta—wasn't looking for the takedown, and both fighters had small moments in the exchanges.
The round was tough to call, but it led to plenty of questions about Lee's tactics early on:
The second round told a much different story, though. Lee went for the takedown and transitioned a single leg to a body-lock takedown to wrestle Iaquinta to the mat. The Motown Phenom took his opponent's back and was close to working in a rear-naked choke, but Iaquinta fought to his feet.
Iaquinta finished the second round strongly, but Lee went to the body lock again in the third frame as the two moved between Iaquinta's boxing at range and Lee's attempts to get the fight to the floor to look for the submission.
One thing was apparent: It wouldn't be a fun fight to score.
Jordan Breen @jordanbreen
At this point, got it 29-28 Lee, but looking across Twitter and knowing how some judges may see things, can see 29-28 Iaquinta scorecards too. Lee needs to get serious here and actually use his boxing to set up the takedowns, not just do one or the other and hope for the best.
The winner of the fourth frame was much clearer, as Iaquinta controlled it throughout. Lee didn't attempt a takedown despite previous success with them, and Ragin' Al made him pay with strong boxing that gave fans the most lopsided round to that point.
Lee spent the first half of the final frame working for a takedown that never materialized. Iaquinta then stalked Lee and landed heavy blows to wobble him.
Iaquinta's strong finish locked down the nod from the judges and pulled the upset.
It was an exciting way to end the night before the organization moves to ESPN in 2019. Here's a look at all the other action that went down.
- Al Iaquinta def. Edson Barboza via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47x2)
- Edson Barboza def. Dan Hooker via third-round KO (2:19)
- Rob Font def. Sergio Pettis via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Charles Oliveira def. Jim Miller via submission (RNC) (R1, 1:15)
- Zak Ottow def. Dwight Grant via split decision (28-29, 29-28 x2)
- Drakkar Klose def. Bobby Green via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Joaquim Silva def. Jared Gordon via third-round KO (2:39)
- Jack Hermansson def. Gerald Meerschaert via sub (guillotine) (R1, 4:25)
- Zak Cummings def. Trevor Smith via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Dan Ige def. Jordan Griffin via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Mike Rodriguez def. Adam Milstead via KO (knee to the body) at 2:59 of R1
- Juan Adams def. Chris de la Rocha via TKO (strikes) at :58 of R3
Dan Hooker vs. Edson Barboza
The lightweight bout between Dan Hooker and Edson Barboza was one of the night's most anticipated matchups, and it didn't disappoint.
Hooker was the aggressor, moving forward and engaging Barboza in a striking match. It wasn't the wisest decision, but the fight was entertaining. The Brazilian chopped down the New Zealander's legs and stopped all of his opponent's momentum with his crisp boxing:
In the early going, Hooker was absorbing damage and giving it back. By the second round, the damage disparity got wider, and Barboza opened a bigger lead.
By the third frame, it became a question of fighter safety. Barboza landed a beautiful spinning back kick on Hooker's body with devastating effect. The referee let Hooker absorb more blows, but the 28-year-old eventually fell to the floor to seal the knockout for Barboza.
His win broke a two-fight losing streak after losses to Khabib Nurmagomedov and main eventer Kevin Lee.
Rob Font vs. Sergio Pettis
The jab is often an underutilized weapon in MMA. But Rob Font tried to make up for all the other fighters on the UFC roster in his unanimous-decision win over Sergio Pettis.
Pettis had the hometown advantage in Milwaukee, but Font's consistent left hand threw off the former flyweight's rhythm and segued nicely into other combinations for Font. Pettis tried to get some flashy striking to work but didn't have enough power to faze Font.
It was an interesting bout as the UFC phases out the flyweight division. Pettis was a title contender there. But his lack of power against 135-pounders will make it difficult for him to beat ranked bantamweights.
Font—a former featherweight—bounced back nicely from a loss to Raphael Assuncao his last time out in July.
Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
In 2010, Jim Miller schooled a young Charles Oliveira on the mat with a first-round kneebar win.
Eight years later, the tables turned in a major way. Oliveira imposed his will on his former foe from the outset. He took Miller down and applied a rear-naked choke to force the first-round tap from the veteran and secure his 12th UFC submission.
The performance was a reminder of how explosive Oliveira can be as a submission artist. As Jordan Breen of Sherdog noted, he's one of the sport's most unpredictable fighters:
Jordan Breen @jordanbreen
Sweet Jesus. Do Bronx is never going to be a UFC champion and, Jim Miller is faded, but do Bronx is easily among most thrilling, offensively gifted and impregnable grapplers in MMA history. He's arguably the most dangerous glass cannon in MMA history other than Anthony Johnson.
Miller has a 1-5 record over his last six bouts. The 35-year-old has been a consistent presence in the lightweight division for a decade, but much like the Fox era, his time as a UFC mainstay might be ending.