What a year it has been for UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta.
The Long Island native picked up a huge victory against Kevin Lee on Saturday, defeating the former title challenger in a five-round unanimous decision. The 155-pound contest headlined UFC Fight Night in Milwaukee -- the final event of the UFC's expiring broadcast deal with Fox.
It was a competitive bout, but all three judges had it for Iaquinta: 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47. ESPN also scored the fight 48-47 for Iaquinta.
The result caps off an interesting 2018 for Iaquinta. He accepted a lightweight title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov on 24 hour's notice in April after multiple opponents withdrew leading up to UFC 223. Despite losing every round, Iaquinta took solace in going the distance and has promised things would be different with a full camp aimed at Nurmagomedov.
"I knew [Lee] was going to be tough, and I knew I had to show what I was made of," Iaquinta said. "Ah, what a fight. That was sick.
"With the right preparation, the right fight, I can beat anyone in the lightweight division."
Iaquinta then called out Conor McGregor, who challenged for Nurmagomedov's lightweight title in October but was submitted in the fourth round.
"If Conor thinks he's going to get a rematch [with Nurmagomedov], that's nonsense," Iaquinta said. "I'm the guy he's got to get through if he wants a rematch. He tapped out. I took it like a man."
In addition to his willingness to face McGregor, Iaquinta told reporters after the bout he is interested in a matchup with former interim champion Tony Ferguson.
Lee, who landed 130 total strikes to Iaquinta's 110, according to Fightmetric, said he thought he won the fight but congratulated Iaquinta on the victory.
"I thought I put up a good fight," Lee said. "There's not many times I'm left speechless. I don't know. I thought I had the first three rounds, for sure."
After a competitive opening round, Lee took control of the second and third rounds with takedowns and ground control. He took Iaquinta's back in both rounds, and landed some hard hammerfists and elbows to the side of the head.
Lee's effort in those rounds appeared to come back to haunt him in the later ones, however. As Lee tired late, Iaquinta came on stronger. He battered Lee with right hands in the fourth round and nearly knocked him out with a head kick in the fifth.
In the final seconds of the fight, Iaquinta emphatically walked Lee down with his hands at his hips, slipping punches and yelling in his direction as he did it.
For Iaquinta, it is his sixth win in seven fights -- and his second victory against Lee. The two met back in 2014. Iaquinta also won that fight by decision.