UFC 229: Al Iaquinta explains how his fight with Nurmagomedov holds the key to victory for Conor McGregor

Khabib Nurmagomedov-Al Iaquinta
(Getty Images)

Al Iaquinta was able to stand toe-to-toe and slug it out with Khabib Nurmagomedov through several generous pockets of time during their fight this past April at UFC 223.

And he thinks it’s something that Conor McGregor could learn from heading into his highly-anticipated clash with Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

“Strike-wise, we were standing up for a while — probably longer than Khabib’s stood up with anybody so far,” Iaquinta told Sporting News. “I landed some things that I think Conor [McGregor] could take away from.”

If McGregor is going to make good on his promise to knock Nurmagomedov out, Iaquinta thinks he’s going to have to strike quicker than he ever has before.

“It would definitely be in his best interests [to use quick strikes],” Iaquinta said. “If Conor gets pushed against the cage or taken down, it will definitely be a long round for him.”

Iaquinta learned the latter the hard way in his own bout against Nurmagomedov, who won by unanimous decision.

“I think I was a little slow on my feet because I was on the ground grappling so long first. It got my arms tired and wore me out a little bit,” Iaquinta said. “So, maybe that will also play into [McGregor’s] preparation in case he’s on the ground for a first round or two — being in shape to switch over to the standup in case Khabib starts to feel comfortable there.”

But that latter part comes with a caveat, as Iaquinta firmly believes that “whatever strikes [Nurmagomedov] throws will be to set up the takedown.”

And if Nurmagomedov fulfills his vow to maul McGregor, Iaquinta believes there are sequences during his April bout with Khabib that the Irish fighter can learn from as well.

“There are a lot of things [McGregor] can break down as far as takedowns that I stopped, how I stopped them and how I got back up to my feet, got up against the cage, got back up,” Iaquinta offered.

That being said, the Long Island, New York native believes that McGregor is capable of hurting Nurmagomedov in a stand-up stance perhaps in a way that we’ve never seen the “Dagestani Eagle” hurt.

“It’s definitely possible. If anybody could do it, it’s Conor,” Iaquinta said. “I think he’s proven time and time again that he’s accurate. He hits hard. It’s going to be something that Khabib’s never experienced — the crowd that Conor brings, the mind games he plays.”

When asked for a fight prediction, Iaquinta gave the nod to Nurmagomedov, but for selfish reasons.

“I want Khabib to make it look easy because it will make me look good,” Iaquinta said. “We fought for 25 minutes.”

Iaquinta told Sporting News that he’s looking to fight Dec. 15 in Milwaukee and that he’s still searching for an opponent to pencil in for that date.