Kenny Florian has fought for the UFC title for the third time and has failed to take the gold once again. At this point even Kenflo has to admit that was his last chance to get it done. Most fighters go their entire careers without one chance at the belt. Less have a second. Jon Fitch is still fighting to get another crack at Georges St-Pierre. Throughout the history of the UFC I can’t think of any one fighter who has had 3 title shots and lost all three whether in the same weight class or spread out. While that might look like a negative, the truth is it speaks volumes about his character, discipline, and work ethic.
What needs to be taken into account is that Florian has maximized his potential more than any other fighter in the UFC, past or present. He doesn’t have any natural gifts like a BJ Penn or a Jose Aldo. He doesn’t have one-punch knockout power, he isn’t blessed with explosiveness or athleticism, and he was never dubbed a jiu-jitsu virtuoso. The thing that separated Florian from every other contender was his strategy and killer instinct. He had an uncanny ability, when he put his opponent on their heels he would almost immediately find the finish. In twelve UFC wins, only two went the distance. Kenny also would always improve upon his previous performance. Unlike some fighters who keep the same strategy regardless of opponent, Florian was willing to change and adapt to whatever made him a better fighter. He had no ego and allowed his intelligence to push him well beyond his physical limitations.
Looking back I don’t feel that Kenny ever had a lack of high points in his career. The first fight I ever saw him in was when he fought at the TUF 3 finale against Sam Stout. Stout, who was considered a serious threat in the newly rebooted lightweight division, talked a huge game going into the fight and on paper it looked like an interesting match-up. Then the bell rang and the fight was over before it began. Kenny took Stout out of his game early and choked him out before the first round even ended. I still remember when he called out Roger Huerta when he was seen as unstoppable. Kenny got his wish, and while seen as the underdog going in, he showed the world perhaps his most masterful fight of his career. He used his technique flawlessly, and won a dominant decision. For those who recall at the time it was felt the winner of the Huerta/Florian fight would be given the next crack at the title. Instead it was announced that BJ would fight Sherk for the belt instead. Florian definitely felt slighted as he was slated to fight Joe Stevenson instead. Again on paper it looked like a very difficult fight for Kenflo however he seemed to excel if only to disprove his critics that he wasn’t an elite contender. He not only beat Joe, but he made him look like he wasn’t even in the same league as he submitted him faster than even the champ BJ had just a few months before.
There are some who say that Kenny is clearly not a Hall-of-Famer, which I would argue. If you just look at his stats then it doesn’t look like much of a legacy. But let’s take a closer look at the numbers since we have looked at his best moments already. Florian fought for the UFC title three times. While he lost he still managed to prove multiple times that he was a legit contender and as I mentioned earlier, that’s three times more than most. 12-5 in the UFC, 7 submissions, 3 TKOs, and 2 unanimous decisions. And who has he lost to? Diego Sanchez who outweighed him by maybe 30 pounds that night. Sean Sherk, who was undefeated at lightweight at the time and has only lost to former/future champions. BJ Penn, maybe the greatest lightweight ever. Gray Maynard, who has split 3 with the current champion Frankie Edgar and is perfect outside of that. Finally Jose Aldo, who is a monstrosity who has yet to be tested by anyone at featherweight. So maybe the numbers don’t say it well enough, but it’s pretty clear that he has had a Hall of Fame type of career. Kenny has spent almost his entire UFC run being both elite and relevant. To me it seems like a raw deal because he was at his best – so were BJ and Aldo. Both may go down as the best ever in their respective weight classes. The truth is, with the exception of Jon Fitch, Kenny Florian is the best fighter to have never won a title. So has he really fallen short, or has he just overachieved so much that our expectations are too high?
I’ve always been a Kenflo type of guy because of who he was. He was an excellent representative of the sport. Humble in victory and classy in defeat. He never badmouthed other fighters and he never made excuses. He didn’t turn down fights and he always made weight. On top of that, Florian always seemed to go out of his way to ask for the toughest guys in the division. That’s one thing that made him different, he didn’t want easy wins instead he preferred to take on those monsters in the division and test himself. Featherweight, in many ways, was his last chance to reinvent his career and push on. It’s more or less expected that we will hear of his retirement in the next few months. He’s not the type of guy to keep fighting for money, and it’s not like he doesn’t have other options to fall back upon anyways. He is an excellent commentator. He knows fighters very well and he translates it back to the common fan in an intelligent manner. On top of that it wouldn’t shock me if he got into coaching, as he is one of the more masterful strategists in MMA. Or hell, maybe Dana already sees his potential outside of the cage and already has plans to bring him in as an executive. I’m sure there is something Dana can relate to in Kenny. Boston kid who knows how to fight. Now why does that sound familiar?
Chael Sonnen is back. Expect his mouth to follow. Despite having perhaps his most impressive fight of his career no one is talking about it.I can’t imagine anyone actually surprised that he called out Anderson Silva in his post-fight interview. I was a little caught off-gaurd that he gave the pro-wrestling ultimatum of loser leaves town but hey I’ll roll with it. No one should be appalled or surprised with what comes next. Either Dana gives him the fight and Chael runs his mouth until fight time about how Anderson got lucky and how he will grind him into powder. Or he isn’t given the fight and Chael continues on his tirade of Anderson being a coward. In all honesty I don’t blame Sonnen for repeating this formula either. While he may say things I dislike at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. That’s because, whether if fired him up or it took Silva out of his game, Chael went on to have more success against the spider than anyone else has in five years. You can say he didn’t hurt Anderson or put him in any danger all day, the fact is he would have won the decision regardless if he hadn’t gotten caught. So before this whole circus of fight gets put into play I am putting the warning out now. Chael will say crazy stuff, more than likely you will not like the majority of it. Get over it. He isn’t going to change and the sooner we all accept that the better off we are going to be. I can bang my head against the TV every time I see Bill O’Reilly on but he isn’t going to change so I might as well just hit mute or change the channel.