Remember when UFC 133 in Philadelphia was supposed to have a main event featuring Jon Jones against Rashad Evans, with a co-main event of Jose Aldo against Chad Mendes? Sorry Philadelphia UFC fans.
Instead, Houston will be the beneficiary of two championship fights, and will get to watch Jose Aldo defend his title. But instead of being challenged by the undefeated Mendes, Aldo will be defending his title against the much more known Kenny Florian. This will be Florian’s third championship opportunity, losing to Sean Sherk as one the least qualified title challengers in UFC history at UFC 64, then losing to B.J. Penn at UFC 101. Dana White has asserted that Florian fights differently in big fights, implying that Florian over-analyzes his opponents and ends up employing bizarre game plans.
This may be true, but I think there’s something about facing extremely tough opponents that causes fighters to look bad. I’m of the opinion that Florian loses big fights (to Sherk, Penn, and Gray Maynard) because his opponents are just plain better than he is. It doesn’t help that Florian looks awesome when facing good/solid opponents like Clay Guida, Roger Huerta, and Joe Stevenson. Unfortunately, Florian is likely to go down as one of those fighters who was very good, but never good enough to be the champion.
If it sounds like I don’t love Florian’s chances in this fight, you would be correct. One reason is Florian’s weight cut down to 145 pounds. I think there are some fighters who benefit from changing weight classes, but there’s a reasonable limit to this. Florian started at middleweight (on The Ultimate Fighter), then went to welterweight, then to lightweight. Lightweight seemed like a very reasonable weight class for Florian, but now he’s gone down to featherweight, presumably because he knew that he would have a much better chance of getting another title shot there. Given how he looked against Diego Nunes in his last fight, I think Florian may be pushing things a little too much.
But the bigger reason I don’t like Florian to win this fight is that I simply think Aldo is better. Aldo is a very dynamic striker, with good punches and excellent leg kicks. Florian is a good striker, but it’s hard to see him being as good as Aldo. And while Florian’s best chance may be to take Aldo to the ground, it’s very much worth noting that, in fights tracked by Fight Metric, Aldo has been taken down a grand total of one time. Let me emphasize that: ONE TIME. Those asserting that Mark Hominick revealed some secret way to beat Aldo do not have the data on their side.
The real reason Hominick got credit after that fight was because of a lopsided fifth round in his UFC 129 fight against Aldo, which seemed to be caused by Aldo’s exhaustion more than anything. But if Aldo was exhausted because of a grueling weight cut, then how does that benefit Florian, who seems to have to endure a weight cut that’s equally grueling? It’s hard for me to see Florian capitalizing on anything that helped make Hominick successful against Aldo.
SILVA PREDICTION: JOSE ALDO (48.14) OVER KENNY FLORIAN (36.54)
To tell the truth, Kenny Florian hasn’t really earned this title shot. He lost to Gray Maynard in his last fight at lightweight, and then beat one featherweight opponent in Diego Nunes, and was then given a title shot. The simple reason is that Florian is a name most MMA fans know and recognize, and with the new featherweight and bantamweight divisions in the UFC, they need as much publicity as they can get. Good for Florian; he was in a position to earn himself an opportunity, and he took advantage of it. But I fully expect him to lose, and possibly lose badly, at UFC 136.