Perennial Lightweight contender and two-time division title challenger Kenny Florian has been in numerous wars over his eight-year plus mixed martial arts career. From stoppage victories over Takanori Gomi, Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, and Din Thomas, to battles that were waged well into the Championship rounds against B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk. He’s the only fighter in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to ever compete at four different weight-classes, taking on some of the best competitors in the world along the way.
It is only with this in mind that Florian’s thoughts on Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo can be put into perspective. Speaking to BostonHerald.com, “KenFlo” reflected on the first time he saw the dominant Brazilian perform inside the cage.
“I just remember that he was extremely explosive,” Florian recalled. “He finishes guys very quickly. I just remember being very impressed. I didn’t know much about him, but I just liked the way that he fought. He was exciting. Anyone who’s willing to try flying knees, acrobatic kicks and finish the fight the way he did — I’m always a fan of those kind of fighters, and Aldo is that guy. I think he’s going to be one of my toughest fights or the toughest fight of my career.”
Florian made his official 145-pound debut in June, going head to head with the once-beaten Diego Nunes. As expected, the Nova Uniao product came out at an explosive pace, threatening to end Florian’s run at Featherweight before it would ever get started. Like so many times before, however, the Massachusetts native persevered, taking charge of his noticeably slowing opponent to win a unanimous decision, while earning a shot at Aldo along the way.
At 35-years-old with two failed attempts at obtaining UFC gold already on his resume, Florian is undoubtedly aware of the implications such a bout carries. Though driven to succeed, dethroning the 19-1 Champion will be no easy task for the TUF 1 runner-up.
With 12 victories coming by way of some form of knockout, Aldo is a precision striker with an under-utilized black-belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Manny Gamburyan, Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, and Cub Swanson are just some of the names that have tested Aldo’s stand-up and, as a result, were defeated in devastating fashion for their efforts. While this may serve as a forewarning to future opponents who dare exchange with the champ, this is not the case with Florian, who says he plans to do exactly that when the two meet at UFC 136.
“I think the key is being able to compete with Jose Aldo on the stand-up,” Florian said. “If you can do that, you can start to take away his confidence. That’s what I plan to do: Really challenge him with his stand-up and give him hell there.”
Whether or not the approach turns out to be a prosperous one, only time will tell. And although, win or lose, Florian’s legacy will remain intact, capturing that final trophy, one that has eluded him for the better half of a decade, would be the crowing achievement among the many throughout his professional career.
UFC 136 is set to take place October 8th from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. In addition to the Featherweight title clash, the stacked card will be headlined by Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard III.
Photo: Kenny Florian speaks at the UFC 91press conference at the MGM Grand Hotel on November 13, 2008 in Las Vegas, NV. Francis Specker