Dropping Knowledge: Kenny Florian Gives His Breakdown of UFC 166

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Dropping Knowledge: Kenny Florian Gives His Breakdown of UFC 166
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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 arts 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 166.

"Ken Flo's" resume speaks for itself, as the fighting pride of Massachusetts created his fair share of memorable performances inside the Octagon. The 33-year-old faced a collection of pound-for-pound greats throughout his career and traded leather with everyone from then-reigning lightweight king BJ Penn to featherweight phenom Jose Aldo.

As the co-host of UFC Tonight on Fox Sports 1, Florian brings his analysis to the masses on a weekly basis. That said, he's also a veteran of this particular series where he's been known to kick the interview Kung Fu like nobody's business.

This is what Florian told Bleacher Report about Saturday night's UFC 166 in Houston.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty has been made of the rivalry between current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and former title holder Junior dos Santos and what each needs to do in order to win their trilogy bout at UFC 166. Do you believe this fight is crucial for both because it has the potential to somewhat invalidate one of their title reigns?

It's always better to get the two wins over just the one in a trilogy. I think both of these guys understand their vulnerabilities and what the other man can do to them now. With that comes a very healthy respect and a very serious training camp to prepare. Both of them fear the other, and both have the capability to win this fight. I believe we are going to get a good fight because of it.

We saw what the last fight did to Junior dos Santos. That was his first loss inside the Octagon, and in all of his interviews and on the Primetime specials that ran, it is obvious that fight has motivated him a tremendous amount.

 

Dos Santos has talked a lot about the spacing in this fight in the leadup to Saturday night. Cain is going to come forward with non-stop pressure. We know this, and JDS absolutely knows this as well. Do you believe dos Santos can still generate his knockout power moving backward, and if not, how does he change that tide?

Without a doubt it is something he can do. I think if he is able to land something big, it will probably be the left hook going backward. Those are devastating punches. The shots you don't see are always the most dangerous ones. He's going to have to get a funny angle—step off with a left hook—to land that power shot as Cain is coming in. But anytime you hit a guy who is coming forward with the kind of pressure Cain Velasquez brings has to be timed just right. 

Velasquez moves his head a ton, and it's going to be important that dos Santos finds the right range. If he does catch Velasquez coming in, it will be a devastating punch. With that forward momentum, it becomes almost like a head-on collision when two cars collide. That will probably be the case if dos Santos can connect as Cain comes forward. So, it is possible, it just takes a hell of a lot of timing.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The co-main event between Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson is serious business, as these two men have a score to settle. Yet, there is somewhat of a strange feel surrounding the bout. While a victory could launch the winner into potential title contention, both fighters seem to be heading into different waters. Cormier is looking to drop down to light heavyweight after this fight, and "Big Country" has also suggested he will do the same. What do you make of the unusual spin that seems to be surrounding this fight?

It is a little bit different, but it's still an important fight nonetheless. Daniel Cormier wants to stay undefeated. This is a guy who has not lost a single round in his mixed martial arts career. That is tremendously impressive. He wants to continue with that momentum and go into the 205-pound division undefeated. He wants to put everyone in that division on notice...especially Jon Jones. It is always interesting when a guy is undefeated and drops down into a division he probably should have been fighting in all along. I think it makes him that much more dangerous.

This is also a very important fight for Nelson. He can't afford setback here against Cormier, and if there is any pressure in this fight, it has to be on Roy Nelson. He is kind of in a lose/lose situation here in some ways. If he beat Cormier, he beats a guy who was on his way down to 205-pounds and was focused on that drop. If he loses, it clearly puts him in a bad spot in the heavyweight division. He would really have to work his way back up in a bigger way than he's ever done before.

 

Cormier's wrestling is an undeniable strength, but Nelson is a different type of animal. When he doesn't have to worry about being submitted, or even in cases like his fight against Frank Mir where that threat was certainly possible, he's been able to get up when taken down. Do you believe Cormier can keep Nelson on the ground, and if not, what does he have to do on his feet to get the victory?

I think he does have the ability to keep him down. It is going to be a difficult thing because Nelson is way more athletic than people give him credit for. I always compare him to the Kung Fu Panda because he's flexible, very strong and deceptively fast. Cormier is going to have to work for it, but what I think is more important will be his ability to just take him down and get some respect in that department.

If Cormier can score some points with his takedowns, it is going to open up his hands and vice versa. He'll have to play off of that in a similar way as to what Cain Velasquez had to do against Junior dos Santos in their rematch. It's definitely going to be important that Cormier gets in and gets out without taking too many shots because Nelson can obviously end the fight with just one.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The lightweight bout between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez is building a strong amount of buzz and is almost certain to be a "knockdown dragout" brand of scrap. How crucial is this fight where their title hopes are concerned?

Diego Sanchez has been very vocal about wanting to get a shot against Anthony Pettis, and beating a guy like Melendez would certainly make that much more of a possibility. I still think he's probably one or two fights away from that, but a win would definitely provide a push.

For Melendez, he's still trying to get his first win inside the Octagon. He understands that Diego Sanchez is a big name and to have a name like that on his resume will look very good. He wants another shot at the title, and it starts with Sanchez. It's a great way for Melendez to get a lot more fans in the UFC, and for Sanchez, it could be a real turning point in his career.

It seems like a lot of people have forgotten about him and written him off. Especially in his last fight against [Takanori] Gomi. It wasn't the most impressive fight for Diego. A lot of people, myself included, believe Gomi won that fight, but a win over Melendez erases all doubt.

 

It's never an easy thing to cast a fighter who has competed at championship levels of the sport into limbo or irrelevancy, but do you believe Sanchez absolutely has to win this fight to keep any title hops he has alive?

I would agree with that. A loss here really hurts Diego, even more than it would hurt Melendez because he is still ranked highly in the division, whereas Diego is not. I think there is a lot more on the line in this fight for Diego Sanchez.

 

When a fighter goes through what dos Santos experienced against Velasquez at UFC 155 and what happened to "The Dream" against BJ Penn at UFC 107, it seems as if a beating of that severity can change a fighter for the rest of their careers. In the aftermath of the Penn fight, Sanchez went on a downward spiral, losing fights and switching divisions—and it's arguable if he's ever returned to the form he was in before his bout with "The Prodigy." What is your take on how a fighter bounces back from those circumstances?

It can have a big impact, especially when you have a guy who hasn't experienced that before. When you are on top of the world and everyone is telling you that you are the best, then you go in there against a former champion who you've defeated pretty quickly and get dominated for five rounds; that can have an impact on you. In the rematch, Cain Velasquez had an answer for everything Junior dos Santos was trying to do. That can really be demoralizing for a fighter. It's humbling. 

You look at the way dos Santos responded in that beating and never gave up, those are the kind of fighters who are really going to be motivated and driven to new levels in their game, win or lose. He learned there were things he needed to change and that he wasn't the best in the world on that night. And that is what it comes down to a lot of times. It's not who the best fighter is. It's who is the best fighter on that night. It made dos Santos take a hard look at his game and analyze where he went wrong. That can be a difficult thing for a fighter. It can be both negative and positive.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Another interesting fight on the card is set to go down between former heavyweight No.1 contender Gabriel Gonzaga and prospect looking to make good Shawn Jordan. In the past few years, we've seen a group of ex-football players look to make an impact at the highest level of MMA. Is it possible the former LSU standout could be the best of the bunch?

Jordan is a tremendously athletic guy. He's shown heart where he's been rocked and came back to win. I think a knockout win over an excellent striker like Pat Barry had to do wonder for his confidence. He's with a great camp, and I think he's leading the pack right now in that regard. A win over Gonzaga would probably cement that.

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