Dropping Knowledge: Kenny Florian Breaks Down UFC 165

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Dropping Knowledge: Kenny Florian Breaks Down UFC 165
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The team of analysts for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 and Fox broadcasts have been providing the most in-depth coverage mixed martial has seen in its 20 years of existence.

With a collection of seasoned fight veterans and a handful of well-versed hosts at the helm, the people working the pre- and post-fight shows for the UFC have consistently raised the bar.

For the next installment of "Dropping Knowledge," former multi-divisional contender Kenny Florian sits in to give his thoughts on the upcoming card for UFC 165.

"Ken Flo" has traded leather with some of the best fighters to have ever stepped inside the Octagon, and while he is recently retired from scrapping it out on the sport's biggest stage, Florian brings a unique angle to his fight analysis.

The Massachusetts native competed in four divisions throughout his UFC career, making title runs in two of them before hanging up the gloves for good in 2012. While Florian may not be competing inside the cage, he certainly stays busy outside of the action as he co-hosts UFC Tonight with Chael Sonnen and works the commentator table for Fight Night events alongside Jon Anik.

This is what Florian told Bleacher Report about Saturday night's UFC 165 event in Toronto.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

 

Let's start with the main event. Jon Jones is facing Alexander Gustafsson for the light heavyweight title and so much has been made about the reach each fighter brings into this fight. How much stock are you putting into that particular aspect of this tilt?

It becomes extremely pertinent if the person knows how to control the range, and Jon Jones certainly knows how to do that. As does Alexander Gustafsson to a certain extent. However, having the kind of strength Jon Jones has with his wrestling as well makes things even more interesting. That range is going to be a difficult thing for anyone that faces Jon Jones. Not only is he a master of range, he has the range advantage and can keep you on the outside, but when either they or Jones decides to close that gap, it brings it into his realm. He really creates a dilemma for a lot of fighters.

 

It's so strange to say these days with a fighter we've seen compete so many times, but I still don't think we've seen the best Jon Jones. Is that something you would agree or disagree with?

I absolutely agree. He's a guy who is still very young and still has time to fill in those tiny little holes and improve. Take his power for example. He's not a knockout power guy. He's a fighter who throws beautiful combinations and is very dynamic. He's very diverse with his attacks but certainly has things in his game he can improve.

Another example is his ground game. He's submitted great guys already, but I think what makes Jon Jones so great right now is his mind. He believes in his technique, but I think when he gets those other skills to that place, he's going to be even scarier. It's unbelievable when you think about what kind of potential he has. 

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

So many people are writing off Gustafsson before he ever steps into the Octagon and that could be a big mistake if Jones is of that collective. In your opinion, what does Gustafsson have to do to beat Jones on Saturday?

First and foremost, I think he needs to have a good first round. I think it's very important that he take away any momentum from Jon Jones early. If Jon Jones has momentum, he's going to run away with it. Gustafsson isn't going to have a prayer. Gustafsson has to find a way to hurt Jones or make him respect his striking early.

Whether it is stopping a few of his takedown attempts early and get into Jones' head that way, he needs to get off to a great start early. He also has to stop the wrestling. If he can stop the wrestling of Jon Jones, he gives himself a chance. He's still not safe, because Jones is such a great striker, but it gives him a chance. Gustafsson hits harder than Jones, and I'm not sure if he's faster, but he's right there with him as far as speed goes. I also think Gustafsson has a tiny advantage in the footwork department.

 

If Jones wins at UFC 165, he will break Tito Ortiz's long-standing record for title defenses in the light heavyweight division. Other than the history books, how does this fight with Gustafsson affect Jones' legacy?

It's an interesting question to the point where some people are questioning whether or not Jon Jones is motivated going into this fight. I know some people who are close to him that are kind of a little nervous about whether or not he's actually motivated for this fight. Then of course there is the UFC record on the line in this fight. 

Jon Jones has the opportunity to take this sport to the next level with as great as he is. He is the full package. Here is a guy who good looking, charismatic and exciting to watch. These are the guys as former fighters, we have to root for because they can take the UFC and mixed martial arts to that next level. Much like GSP has done, Jon Jones could take it even further.

He can bring a whole new legion of fans into this sport. He can bring the same kind of attention Muhammad Ali brought to boxing. He has all that potential. For me, that's truly what's on the line. It goes beyond Jon Jones. It matters for the sport. I'm not sure that's fair to put on a guy like Jon Jones who is only 26 years old, but that's the reality.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

 

Moving on to the co-main event where interim champion Renan Barao puts his title on the line against Eddie Wineland. What are the keys to victory for both fighters in this matchup?

The more Eddie Wineland can fight at a boxing range, the better off he will be. I think he puts together some of the most beautiful combinations we've seen in mixed martial arts. He has good head movement and the kid can counter-wrestle. He also has a lot of experience, and he needs to fight Barao in that boxing range and hurt Barao. 

On the other hand, Barao doesn't have any real weaknesses anywhere. Barao is going to have a big advantage if he's able to get on top of Wineland and if he can make it a kickboxing match. If he can keep Wineland on the outside, that is really going to work to his benefit. Barao is going to have to mix things up, his takedowns and his strikes, and really show a mixed bag of MMA in there. Wineland is going to have to make it a scrappy fight because the more technical the fight is, the more it favors Barao.

 

Renan Barao is a product of the Nova Uniao camp in Rio de Janiero where he trains alongside featherweight phenom Jose Aldo. You have personal experience from being in the cage with Aldo, and in your opinion, what makes these guys so dangerous?

They are so well-rounded. Brazilian fighters used to get a lot of slack for not having the best wrestling pedigree, and that's true when you compare them to the Americans and Russians. But they have done such a great job of using their athleticism and strategy to avoid the takedowns of very good wrestlers. Whether it's using the cage, or their speed and footwork, it's really making them such complete fighters. They don't have any glaring weaknesses anywhere.

Of course, they come from Brazilian jiu-jitsu backgrounds and are always going to be strong there, but we are seeing some of the best Muay Thai in mixed martial arts come from that camp now. Andre Pederneiras is doing such a great job, they almost all look the same when you are talking about the guys under 155 pounds. They are all so similar and so good. They have a solid game and don't make a lot of mistakes. That is what makes them so difficult to face.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 

The heavyweight matchup between Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub presents some interesting story lines. Both had momentum to begin their UFC runs, but after suffering losses, their profiles cooled off considerably. Do you believe the winner of this bout goes up to the next tier while the loser takes a step toward irrelevancy?

It's tough because the heavyweight division has become so competitive, and this is an extremely important fight for both. They have the opportunity to break out of that middle of the pack section of the division, and it's definitely an important fight. Especially in the way the fight is won. If the winner does so impressively, it can turn some heads and draw some attention their way. 

 

In the middleweight division, Costa Philippou has been quietly climbing the ladder. I know it's cliche to say that every fight is important, but when a fighter lacks a certain amount of name recognition, does that make every outing that much more crucial?

It absolutely does. It comes down to the fighter being exciting, getting those exciting wins and getting the fans behind them. By that I mean, you can't do it only with your performances. You have to be able to market yourself. You have to be able to make a name for yourself and get attention. It's frustrating for me when I watch it from the commentator's booth and these guys have the opportunity when they get the mic in their hands and they do nothing with it.

They have the opportunity to reach out to millions of people and say what they want to say. Chael Sonnen is a perfect example of this. Get some attention, call out somebody and get people talking. When they ask you what you want next, don't say it's up to the UFC. We already know that. Of course it's up to the UFC. Call out the fighter you want next. If you want a shot at the title, then make it known. That's what is going to get people behind you. Whether they want to see you win or lose, that is what is going to draw attention to yourself as a fighter.

 

There is a great lightweight matchup at UFC 165 between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Pat Healy. In the four outings he's had thus far under the UFC banner, Nurmagomedov has been able to manhandle the opposition. Healy, on the other hand, is a huge fighter for the 155-pound weight class. Does "The Eagle" have his way with Healy or does the gritty veteran find a way to win this fight?

This is an exciting fight. Khabib Nurmagomedov has been extremely impressive with his performances thus far. He's showing that he may have some of the best wrestling in the 155-pound division, period. Not only that, but he also has tremendous knockout power, as well, which has been a nice wrinkle to his game. But we haven't really seen him tested.

Pat Healy looked great in his return to the UFC against Jim Miller, and he's a tough guy. Whoever wins this fight, and if they do so in impressive fashion, they could be contending for the belt in the near future. I don't think this win will do it, but I could definitely see the winner of this fight being two fights away and knocking on the door.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

 

Outside of the main card, are there any other fights that you are excited to see and think fans need to keep an eye on?

I really like the Myles Jury versus Mike Ricci fight. I think these are two guys with a tremendous amount of potential. I've trained with Mike Ricci in Montreal, and this kid is a specimen. Physically, he's very impressive with a lot of athletic potential. I think he's starting to mature as a human being as well and starting to take his training more seriously.

Myles Jury is someone I've been looking at since day one. I've been talking about him for a long time and a lot of people thought I was crazy saying this kid hasn't done anything and whatnot. For me, it's just the way that he fights. He's very technical, smart and takes his training very seriously. He's been nothing but impressive. Also, his wins have come in a variety of fashions. He's not just winning by one thing. He's winning with his ground game. He's winning with his wrestling. In his last fight, he won by knockout. He's been very impressive, and one of these kids are going to make a big name for themselves. I think they are going to do big things.

Actually, I think both of them have bright futures. I don't think this is a one and done kind of fight, but I think the winner of this fight moves up significantly, and we are going to see great things from them. 

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.

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