Kenny Florian: Chronicling the Achievements of "KenFlo"
While MMA fans are getting excited for the triumphant return of BJ Penn, another fighter has begun his walk into the sunset. Kenny Florian announced his retirement from MMA recently, and although "KenFlo" didn't hold a UFC title during his tenure, there's no doubt that he will be remembered as one of the great competitors in the sport.
Florian's UFC run began with a stint on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter at 185 pounds and ended with a UFC Featherweight title shot. That sentence in itself should tell you the kind of career Florian had.
His career certainly had its ups and downs, but there's no denying "KenFlo" had some memorable moments that played out before our very eyes.
Making It to the Finals of The Ultimate Fighter Season I
Sure Kenny Florian didn't win the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter, but the fact he was able to make it to the finals is a remarkable feat in itself.
Florian competed at 185 pounds while on the show and defeated one of the most durable middleweights in UFC history: Chris Leben.
"KenFlo" was clearly too small to deal with Diego Sanchez's wrestling pedigree, but Florian's run to the finale is part of what helped him become one of the most recognizable faces in the promotion.
The Start of the Legend of Kenny Florian's Elbows
Kenny Florian bounced back in a big way after his defeat at the hands of Diego Sanchez. He faced another Ultimate Fighter alum in Alex Karalexis.
The fight was billed as a striking showdown between the heavy-handed brawling Karalexis against the efficient Muay Thai of Florian. It was here that the prowess of Florian's elbows became a well known fact in the MMA community.
Florian utilized the Muay Thai plum to perfection and opened a huge cut on Karalexis with a grazing elbow. The fight was stopped due to the cut, and thus, Florian was granted a trait that would follow his MMA career forever: "dangerous elbows."
Making the Drop to Lightweight
Although Kenny Florian showed promise at both 185 pounds and at welterweight, it would be the lightweight division "KenFlo" would call home for most of his UFC career.
His 155-pound run began on a high note when he emerged victorious over the talented Canadian, Sam Stout at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 3 event.
Florian utilized his jiu-jitsu skills to secure a rear naked choke inside the opening frame, and he was rewarded with a lightweight title shot against Sean Sherk at UFC 64. It would be the first of three title shots Florian would earn throughout his career.
The Resurrection at Lightweight
Kenny Florian was badly outworked in his first title shot against Sean Sherk. It was clear Florian had potential, but he simply wasn't ready for the kind of fighter Sherk was.
Florian secured a handful of wins that got him back on the right track, but it was his bout against Massachusetts native Joe Lauzon that firmly etched Florian into the lightweight elite. "KenFlo" was able to end the fight via TKO after raining down some punches from the mount position.
It was also Florian's first post-fight award bonus as the bout earned both men Fight of the Night honors.
Derailing the Roger Huerta Hype Train
When Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta met each other at UFC 87, both men were among the best in the lightweight division. Florian had won four-straight while Huerta was riding a 17-fight winning streak and was quickly becoming one of the biggest superstars in MMA.
Florian controlled all three rounds and won the bout via unanimous decision. It was Florian's most high profile win to date, and it set him up to be considered "in the mix."
I'm certainly not going to credit Florian for dismantling Huerta's MMA career, but something has to be said of Huerta going a combined 1-5 since the Florian bout after starting his MMA career with a 20-1-1 record.
Who's Your "Daddy"?
After the Roger Huerta fight, Kenny Florian found himself in a familiar position. He was ranked near the top of the lightweight division and needed to secure a win in order to receive a second title shot at 155 pounds.
Florian's opponent would be the always popular Joe "Daddy" Stevenson who was coming off an impressive victory over the massive lightweight, Gleison Tibau.
"KenFlo" was able to use a trip to take down Stevenson which would eventually secure him another submission victory. The win effectively placed Florian atop the lightweight rankings, and set him up for a showdown with MMA legend, BJ Penn.
Stopping the Unstoppable Force of Clay Guida
Espn.go.com via Sherdog.com
Say what you want about Clay Guida's place in the lightweight rankings, but the guy is incredibly durable and doesn't stop.
That didn't seem to phase Kenny Florian as the former title challenger dismantled Guida with some devastating striking before latching on a rear naked choke. "KenFlo" left Guida a bloody mess before finishing the bout; a feat that eluded Florian's prior nemesis Diego Sanchez in his bout with Guida.
The fight was immensely important for Florian as he was once again outclassed in a title match by BJ Penn in his prior bout, but it looked very impressive in the rout of Guida.
Putting out the Fire in "The Fireball Kid"
Kenny Florian wasn't successful when attempting to defeat one legend in BJ Penn, but he would find success against another legend in Takanori Gomi in 2010.
Although Gomi was well past his prime by this point, he still presented some dangers to opponents (just ask Tyson Griffin). Instead of letting Gomi get off his powerful shots, Florian dominated his opponent before finishing the bout via rear naked choke in the final round.
The win was arguably Florian's most complete showing as he showcased his striking skills along with his grappling. It also earned Florian Submission of the Night honors.
Becoming as Light as a Feather
After failing to secure another lightweight title shot against Gray Maynard, Kenny Florian decided he was going to take his talents to the featherweight division. The fact that Florian traveled from 185 pounds all the way down to 145 pounds is a testament to his conditioning as that's an incredible amount of transformation for one's body to go through.
Florian wouldn't receive a "gimme fight" in his featherweight debut as he faced off against Diego Nunes. The Brazilian was a formidable opponent, but in the end, "KenFlo" just had too much for Nunes to overcome.
Florian would later admit that the weight cut to featherweight was one of the toughest things he's had to do in his MMA career, but we would never guess that from the impressive showing he displayed at UFC 131.
Finding a True Calling with the Microphone
A successful fighter in his times inside the Octagon, Kenny Florian may have found his true calling outside the cage. Florian had become a mainstay on the ESPN MMA Live television show which recapped recent MMA happenings.
He's also filled in for a number of color announcing spots before becoming part of the "B-Team" along with Jon Anik for UFC broadcasts.
Florian is able to deliver a wealth of knowledge while still being articulate enough to translate that knowledge for all kinds of fans to understand.
Fans can't deny "KenFlo" was one of the most influential fighters during the rise of the UFC, and it seems he will help continue to grow the UFC brand and the sport of MMA as being one of the best fighters turned analyst in the sport's history.