Dropping Knowledge: Kenny Florian Breaks Down Card for Fight Night 35

Duane Finley@duanefinleymmaContributor IJanuary 15, 2014

Kenny Florian on the set of "UFC Tonight".
Kenny Florian on the set of "UFC Tonight".Photo courtesy of Fox Sports 1

The team of analysts for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 and Fox broadcasts has been providing the most in-depth coverage that 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," the man with the best hair in the fight business made time in his hectic schedule of saving models and senior citizens as Kenny Florian jumped in the passenger's seat. The retired Boston native built a storied career during his time in the UFC. He notched memorable wins and became a title contender in several weight classes.

In the time since I hung up the gloves for good, "Ken Flo" has been rocking the mic at UFC on Fox broadcast in addition to his hosting duties on UFC Tonight. The man is a humanist, a crusader for natural food products and has a wicked awesome shoe game.

Here is what he had to say about the action set to go down at Fight Night 35.

July 14, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Luke Rockhold celebrates his win over Tim Kennedy in the middleweight championship fight at MMA Strikeforce at the Rose Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports


Bleacher Report: As always, let's start with the main event, where this time around, Luke Rockhold and Costas Philippou will throw down in middleweight action. It's a big fight where both are coming off losses and looking to climb back into the 185-pound title hunt. I want to start with the stylistic aspects of this fight. Rockhold has a rangy kickboxing style and Philippou comes with power. How do you see things unfolding?

Kenny Florian: When I look at this fight, I have to put attention on where the weaknesses are. The glaring weakness[es] in this matchup are the shortcomings in Philippou's ground game and defensive wrestling. He hasn't been able to put it together, and when he's not on his wrestling game, he hasn't been able to let his hands go.

I think it's going to be very important for Rockhold to really mix things up and look to take the fight to the ground repeatedly against Philippou.

Costas, of course, needs to get on his footwork. When that aspect is going, he's able to avoid the takedowns much better. He's going to have to get in and out, and be able to keep himself at the proper range to avoid Rockhold's takedown on a consistent basis. But Rockhold is a versatile striker. He's rangy and has some effective tricks in the stand up department. Philippou is going to have to be on top of his game.


B/R: With Chris Weidman standing alone at the top of the mountain and Silva's future uncertain, it's a brand-new game in the middleweight division. What do you think this fight means for the bigger divisional picture, and how crucial is this bout in the title hunt for both men?

KF: This fight is very important. Philippou is still trying to hold on to his top-10 ranking, and Rockhold is doing the same. I think Rockhold is a bit further up the ladder, but both need this fight to solidify themselves as major players in this division. Philippou is itching for bigger fights and to get to the top of the ladder, and Rockhold is looking to prove he belongs in the title hunt.

Most people saw Rockhold for the first time when he made his UFC debut against Vitor Belfort. The way that fight ended has been eating at him, and he's eager to go out there and show people what he really has. He has a big opportunity against Philippou to move up in the rankings and establish himself as a potential star in this division.

Aug 27, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Brad Tavares fights Bubba McDaniel (not pictured) during a UFC match at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports


B/R: I don't know about you, but the fight that has me stoked beyond belief on this card is the tilt between Brad Tavares and Lorenz Larkin. I think it will be an awesome fight from a stylistic perspective, but there are so many other factors lingering around this bout. Both men are on the cusp of breaking through into the next tier of the division. You've been in the spot Tavares and Larkin are in at the current time, and what's the mindset these fighters are coming into their co-main event showcase with?

KF: This is another important fight at middleweight. Both of these guys are trying to break out of the middle of the pack in the 185-pound division. You look at the consistency of Tavares, and he's been awesome. But he needs that fight where he really shines and gets that great knockout moment that will put him on the map. I believe he'll be looking for that—and against a guy who comes forward like Larkin, this fight is going to deliver.

I think both men are going to bring out the best in one another, and we are going to get a great fight for as long as it lasts. Larkin definitely has a finishing style and is very explosive in his attack. But Tavares has a lot of weapons and a ton of potential. I always feel like he's looking good and winning, but he's still on the brink of breaking through and getting noticed for the potential and talent he possesses.


B/R: Before we move on to another great fight on this card between Derek Brunson and Yoel Romero, can we take a moment to appreciate how stacked up this card really is?

KF: This card is absolutely stacked with great fights. There is the bout between Brunson and Romero you just mentioned, but there are so many others to get excited about. I think the fight between T.J. Dillashaw and Mike Easton is going to be a battle, and Cole Miller versus Sam Sicilia is going to be great as well.

There are also some solid bouts on the prelims, and this is card is really something to look forward to.

Oct 9, 2013; Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil;  TJ Dillashaw reacts during his match against Raphael Assuncao (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night 29 at Jose Correa Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports


B/R: You mentioned Dillashaw vs. Easton, so let's jump on that next. Easton kind of popped onto the scene two years back with some solid performances, but he's seemed to hit a bit of a wall as of late. T.J. is a guy who is certainly on the up-and-up but came out on the losing end of a split-decision loss against Raphael Assuncao in his last outing. What are the key factors for victory for each fighter in this tilt?

KF: Easton needs to let his hands go. Sometimes he overthinks things a little bit. He needs to pressure because when he's coming forward, putting together combinations and not looking for that one-punch knockout, he's truly at his best.

On the other hand, T.J. Dillashaw is just a monster. Like I mentioned with Rockhold, Dillashaw's loss in his last fight has just been eating at him. He's a top-level competitor, man. He's also one of the brightest young talents in the UFC period in my opinion. I really think highly of Dillashaw, and this fight shows how stacked the bantamweight division is.

Both of these guys need to attack and go forward, but Dillashaw can counter. That's one of the big differences in this fight. Easton has a power game when he's on the attack, but Dillashaw can fight going backward as well. He also has a high-level wrestling background he can rely on to mix things up against Easton.


B/R: You mentioned it earlier, but let's put some focus on the fight between Brunson and Romero. The Cuban is pure power and Brunson has this straightforward athletic game going. Both guys like to get in and get out of there in quick fashion. The former Olympian carries a lot of muscle, and we've heard analysts knock on that over the years for how difficult that size is to carry into the second half of a fight. Is Romero's size an example of the gift/curse effect? He has the power to put anyone out with one shot, but if Brunson can take him into deep waters that muscle is going to be a problem. Do you think there is any substance to this?

KF: I think it certainly could be a factor. But we've seen him pace himself properly for the most part in his past fights. From what I've seen in the UFC, he's been pacing himself and fighting a little bit more like a veteran. He was also taken down in his last fight and he's going to have to be careful of this against Brunson, who obviously comes from a wrestling background as well.

That said, Romero is just a different class of wrestler.

This is a guy who won a silver medal in the Olympics and has won the World Championships on a few occasions. He's a guy with knockout power and great wrestling ability.

It's a tough matchup for Brunson, but he's a very intelligent fighter. He mixes things up very well. We've seen how explosive he can be, and if he catches Romero with something, he can end the fight as well. Brunson has shown he has the ability to finish the fight with one shot as well.

June 8, 2012; Sunrise, FL, USA; Erick SIlva (left) hits Charlie Brenneman during their UFC bout at BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


B/R: One of the storylines heading into this card has featured the wild-haired enthusiasm of Charlie Brenneman. "The Spaniard" is making his return to the UFC after being cut from the promotion, and he's making his official Octagon debut at 155 pounds. He's proven to have the ability to capitalize on big moments in the past when he upset Rick Story on less than 24 hours' notice, but what is it like for Brenneman coming into this fight under these circumstances?

KF: I think this is [a] great opportunity for Brenneman to reestablish himself in the UFC in a new division. I think he's finally in the division he belongs. He was not a big welterweight and had mixed success there. He will be much better suited fighting at 155 pounds.

Where he has struggled in the past was in the striking department. He always seemed unsure on his feet and appeared to rush things when he was forced to stand up. I think he's matured a little bit, and if he's able to control his striking and settle down a little bit in there, I think we will see great things from Brenneman. 


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


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