Knowing it was desperate times for Team Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, owner of a 2-0 lead, decided to go for the proverbial jugular. Seeing his rival down, Cruz was going for the kill. To take a commanding lead in The Ultimate Fighter Live competition, Cruz was going to take out Faber’s ace, choosing 9-0 Myles Jury to challenge Al Iaquinta.
He’s been challenged before, many times, except this was different. Iaquinta would have the next week to prepare for his redemption moment. He was set to enter the TUF house once before as a cast member of Season 12 before breaking his hand. When he fought his way into to first live season, it was the initial stage of a comeback from his first professional defeat.
The hopes of his entire team on his shoulders, Iaquinta prepared for combat believing he had an X-factor on his side.
"Got called out tonight," Iaquinta tweeted, "not the first time, probably won't be the last ... got my ass kicked then won the fight, he's never been in a war."
Determined to be a man of few words and all business, Iaquinta first made his intentions known when he tweeted about "staying away from this reality show nonsense." A six-figure UFC contract was to be his "no matter what the cost." He pulled Faber aside and insisted that the primary focus in training would be offense. Iaquinta’s greatest asset is turning up the pressure while standing up. And when he stood toe-to-toe with Jury on live, national television, his premonition proved prophetic.
"Refer to my last tweet," Iaquinta shared about three hours after besting Jury in a three-round war, a split decision that returned much-needed momentum to Team Faber.
"I knew it wasn’t going straight to a decision and I had a feeling we were going to the sudden-victory round," Iaquinta said. "To get the win is great! It’s crazy. It’s a whole new game now. It was definitely a different routine getting ready for this fight. I’ve had the same guys helping me for every one of my pro fights. This team was great and they did a good job getting me ready."
The game plan took full effect in the second round when Iaquinta pushed the pace after falling behind early. While the action slowed during sudden death – Dana White said in a statement he believed each man "wanted it enough to win and just enough not to lose" -- the Matt Serra-Ray Longo student pulled out a close fight to advance in the lightweight tournament.
"I feel great, especially for Al," Faber said. "These wins are really for the guys. This is Al’s dream and he fought his heart out. Jury is a guy with a great mentality and to beat a guy like that is awesome for Al’s resume. Hoping to keep the (Team Faber) streak alive. And it took a little pep out of Cruz’s step which is great!"
Back in control, Faber selected Michael Chiesa to face Jeremy Larsen next Friday live on FX at 10 p.m. ET.
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