Time and time again we see fighters peak, win titles, lose the belt, and then drift among the mid card. It's rare we see one fighter start out as a prelim fighter on some non-televised show rise to a UFC title shot, get dominated, come back and earn another shot at the belt, and lose yet again.
The Peruvian-American Kenny Florian, with only 17 proffesional fights, is easily one of the top three lightweights in the world. Florian gained notoriety from the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, the show he wasn't even suppose to be on.
During his fight with Drew Fickett, Dana White was ringside observing Drew, and Kenny was so impressive even in defeat, that Dana chose him instead of Fickett to appear on the show. Florian jumped at the oppurtunity, fighting at 185 pounds a whole two weight classes above his own.
He made it to the semi-finals fighting the huge favorite Chris Leben. Leben was controlling the action until Kenflo landed one of his fight ending elbows that opened up a nasty gash above Chris's eye. He would then meet Diego Sanchez at the season's finale. Kenny simply got overwhelmed, getting beat in the opening round. He made it all the way to the finals only to fall short.
Even though he didn't get the six figure contract Dana brought him back for a fight against fellow ultimate fighter, Alex Karalexis. Another fight that Kenny won with a vicious elbow. A win over Kit Cope, followed by a rear-naked choke win over Sam Stout would put him at the number one contender ship.
He made it to the top of the mountain, a lightweight matchup against Sean Sherk for the vacant belt. This fight may go down as one of the bloodiest battles to ever happen inside the octagon. Despite having a wound on his forehead Sean displayed amazing wrestling, winning a unanimous decision along with the lightweight belt.
That loss was the greatest thing to happen to Kenny Florian. He became rededicated, improved every facet of his game. Once known as a jiu-jitsu fighter with good elbows now excelled in muay thai, while continually improving his wrestling. His cardio became on par with most top level MMA athletes. He had lost the two biggest fights he had fought. He was done losing. His rebound fight was against Dokonjonsuke Mishima. Florian pulled off a rear naked choke and won the fight, followed by stoppage wins over Alvin Robinson, Din Thomas, and Joe Lauzon.
UFC 87, Kenny Florian was set to fight Roger Huerta, a fighter who was on a 17 fight win streak. But Kenny came prepared and won a unanimous decision. He was coming close to his second shot at the belt, but there was one fight left.
Joe Stevenson had also lost his shot at the lightweight crown, and was looking to get back into contention, a fight with Kenny was perfect. It didn't turn out to well for Joe, because Kenny was set to make a statement, strangling "Daddy" in the opening frame.
He was once again the #1 contender, there was no doubt. It was the perfect story for a fight. Kenny comes back from defeat and fought his way to the top, BJ was a monster at 155 and coming off a crushing loss to St-Pierre. Both fighters did not want to lose. The stage was set as Kenny made his way down to the octagon followed by brother Keith and trainer Mark Deligrotte. He was ready, well prepared, hungry, but was that enough. He walked to the center of the octagon and looked straight into BJ Penn's eyes.
It was time for Kenny to win his lightweight title. First round came, it was close but BJ won. Second and third rounds, Kenny tried to force BJ against the cage and tire him out. Big mistake. Penn didn't gas and in the fourth, took Kenny down, synched in the rear naked choke, and forced the tap.
A third devastating loss for Kenny Florian. He deserved that belt, the fame, and everything that comes along with it, but fell short yet again.
After every loss it seems that Kenny gets undeniably better. Will he come back better again? We will soon find out because on December 12th he takes on Clay Guida. Good Luck Florian.
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