Al Iaquinta’s return to the cage ends in loss

After more than two years away from the cage, and with prolonged injuries that had finally subsided, Al Iaquinta believed that UFC 268 in Madison Square Garden would be the perfect place at the perfect time for his long-awaited return.

But on Saturday, it was his opponent Bobby Green who delivered a perfect performance.

Iaquinta (14-7-1) was dropped by a right hook midway through the first round, fell to the canvas and never recovered as Green (28-12-1) swarmed to the TKO finish 2:25 inside the match. It was the first TKO loss in Iaquinta’s career.

“He did some of what I expected, I just expected to get out of the way, and I did not.” Iaquinta told Newsday.

Iaquinta held his hands high and seemed to close the distance early and press Green, who let his hands hang low. Green landed a couple of clean jabs early in the fight when Iaquinta moved in, but the LIer kept going. Soon enough, Green caught the Iaquinta clean with a one-two combination, of which the back half sent the Iaquinta face first to the mat.

Green had no trouble following to the ground and ending the fight.

“Flawless victory,” Green said. “No respect for Al, he’s a great guy.”

The fight was long underway, with Iaquinta and Green having to meet in 2017 before Green was pulled with an injury. This was Iaquinta’s first professional fight in his home state. He was expected to compete at UFC 205 in November 2016, the first UFC event in New York after the sport’s legalization in the state, but did not fight that night due to a contract dispute.

Before the match, Iaquinta, 34, received the MSG crowd’s highest applause at the time of night when he walked to the cage. A fine experience, Iaquinta said, but one that was hard to enjoy given the result.

“Yeah, he’s a tough guy, it feels like it was all for nothing because I did not win,” Iaquinta said. “It’s all good, but I would have liked to have put on a show for them. Even though I lost, I did not want it to be like that.”

Big dollars in the big apple

Ticket sales for UFC 268 are expected to be close to $ 8 million, making it the fourth highest live gate in Madison Square Garden’s history, according to Joel Fisher, MSG’s executive vice president of marquee events and operations.

“The UFC is as big an event as you can get,” Fisher said.

Nr. 1 on the list is UFC 205 with a live gate of $ 17.7 million, a card with three titles headed by Conor McGregor in 2016. It was the first UFC event at MSG after New York State legalized mixed martial arts previously same year, and remains the campaign’s largest live gate ever. The previous record for a sporting event at MSG was the $ 13.5 million gate from Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield in March 1999. An MSG spokesman said The Concert for New York City, a benefit concert to raise money for victims and first aiders on September 11, 2001, is the highest non-sporting event sport.

With Mark La Monica

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