Iaquinta A Top Pick, Muay Thai At Mecca Mega-Success, Fertitta’s Big Apple Ambition

James Vick (Credit: UFC)

Al Iaquinta was Urijah Faber's No. 1 pick on The Ultimate Fighter Live, Muay Thai at the Mecca was a big hit and Lorenzo Fertitta has major plans for New York City.

It was an eventual Friday night for New York MMA during which hopes for the future were further raised. It started when Al Iaquinta (6-1-1) of Wantagh, became Urijah Faber’s first pick (second overall) in team selections for The Ultimate Fighter Live.

"Staying away from this reality show nonsense," Iaquinta Tweeted. "Keeping focus to win that UFC contract no matter what the cost."

The pre-recorded portion of the program also featured Team Faber fighter Michael Chiesa coming to grips with the passing of his father and emotional decision to remain on the show after leaving for a day to pay his respects. The live fight saw Dominick Cruz-coached James Vick knock out Daron Cruickshank with a knee to the head at 2:16 of the first round.

"I’m just so happy and feel so satisfied," said Vick in a statement released by the UFC. "Team Cruz had a great game plan for me. It was the exact combination that we worked on all week and I landed it. To all my friends and family I love you all so much and thanks for all your support since the beginning of my fighting career."

After the fight, Cruz chose his top pick, Justin Lawrence to compete against Cristiano Marcello. Surprised by Cruz’s decision to go with his best so early and defer to Faber to select Lawrence’s opponent, Faber asked for volunteers to take the fight. When nobody raised his hand, Cruz tabbed Marcello for the next live bout on March 23.

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Also on Friday night, the Theater at Madison Square Garden hosted "Muay Thai at the Mecca," the first Muay Thai event to be held at the facility. Unlike MMA, currently illegal in the state of New York, individual combat arts can be showcased. The event drew 3,203 fans, believed to be the largest ever for any Muai Thai event in the Empire State, more evidence of the void left by Albany still locking its doors to the UFC and MMA.

"From the first fight to the end, every single seat was full," Take-On president Eddie Cuello told Newsday.com. "It was fantastic. I'm ready to jump out of my skin right now."

Fighting at the tender age of 19, PinPoint Muay Thai (Lynbrook, N.Y.) protégé Steven Hernandez dropped a majority-decision victory to Ariel Abreu for his first defeat in eight fights.

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The UFC continues its crusade to get MMA sanctioned in New York before Albany's legislative session ends in June. To further sweeten the pot, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta plans on bringing a show on par with some of Madison Square Garden’s greatest events.

"When we come [to New York], we're going to blow it out. We're going to put on a ridiculous UFC 100-style card, stacked, big, open to the public weigh-ins, press conferences, after-parties, the whole deal," Fertitta told MMAFighting.com. "Everybody will be there. This is going to be an event that will remind you of 1971 when Ali fought Frazier for the first time and every celebrity in New York had to be there.

"The biggest problem that I'm going to have is going to be where to sit everybody and who gets seats and who doesn't. It's going to be crazy."

Even if legislation finally passes, logistical hurdles will have to be overcome for the UFC to secure a date at the Garden as soon as possible.

"If it passed (by June), we would move mountains to get something done by fall."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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