During the buildup to Al Iaquinta’s quarterfinal match against teammate Andy Ogle, coach Urijah Faber was unable to put his finger on the pulse of his personality. From the time when Faber made Iaquinta his No. 1 pick, the Wantagh, N.Y., product’s face was like stone. Isolated from the real world, but before Zuffa cameras with a chance to ham up his TV time, Iaquinta had none of it. Think Mike Tyson on his journey to heavyweight champion. No fuss, no pizzazz, little talk, all business.
"Al is, like, you don’t know if he’s thinking if he wants to punch you in the face, shake your hand or buy you a meal," Faber said during Friday night’s telecast. "You don’t know what he’s thinking … it’s dead to the world."
Iaquinta must have been angry at needing a sudden-death round to escape into the quarterfinals with a split-decision win over Myles Jury in the season’s third fight. He didn’t just defeat Ogle to move to next week’s semifinals, he destroyed him. A straight jab floored Ogle with 50 seconds left and Iaquinta looked for a choke. Just as both fighters got back to their feet, Iaquinta tagged Ogle with a devastating right elbow to the jaw. Two hammer fists later and fight was halted at 4:44 of Round 1.
UFC president Dana White was blown away, calling Iaquinta’s latest work "phenomenal."
“I didn’t know what to expect of Iaquinta vs Ogle," White said. "There’s no doubt Ogle came to fight, he’s got a great chin and a big heart. But Iaquinta looked good. He looked as good as anyone has ever looked on the Ultimate Fighter.
“So now, we’re going into the semifinals and it’s dead-even. I have to tell you, I think Pichel’s a tough guy but we just saw what Iaquinta can do.
Inside the cage with TUF Live host Jon Anik, Iaquinta’s expression remained unchanged. He has a date with Vinc Pichel next Friday night on FX in the second of the required three fights in three weeks to win the coveted six-figure contract. Step 1 was figuring out how to stop a teammate turned adversary with whom he sparred.
"It’s just weird," Iaquinta said before high-fiving the fallen Ogle. "I fought smart, I knew if I fought smart I could beat just about anybody.” I’m ready to go. Let’s do it."
James Vick and Michael Chiesa is the other semifinal match. Following his announcement of the semifinal pairings, White announced Brazilian superstar Renan Barao as Faber’s new opponent for the injured Dominick Cruz. While Cruz, the bantamweight champion, recovers from a torn ACL, the winner of Faber-Barao at UFC 148 July 7 will be crowned interim champion
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