At UFC 118 on Saturday, a lightweight bout will take place between Gray Maynard and Kenny Florian. Gray Maynard is undefeated and has been wanting a title shot, which led many to wonder what the UFC was doing when they gave Frankie Edgar a title shot off of a win over Matt Veach (who?) in December.
Kenny Florian has been on a tear since losing to BJ Penn last August, and his skills have been looking better and better in each fight. His stake to a title shot isn't complete yet, though. His fight with Gray Maynard is to determine number one contendership to the 155-pound champ's belt, and there couldn't be a better fight to determine it than this one.
Kenny Florian is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC, and quite simply, Gray Maynard isn't. A win over Maynard is quite achievable for Kenny Florian, and I have five reasons why I think he'll pull it off.
1. Kenny Florian is a very effective striker.
One of the biggest improvements we've seen out of Kenny Florian has been in his striking. His head movement and footwork have been showcased in both the Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi fights, and he used them to devastating effect. In his fight with Gomi, Florian was able to place his punches very well. By the third round, he was up 2-0, and Gomi hadn't landed a meaningful punch the whole fight.
Florian also uses kicks to a degree. While they aren't used to an effect like his punches, KenFlo can legkick like Pedro Rizzo when needed. As far as his clinch game goes, KenFlo has some of the best Muay-Thai in the lightweight division, and he uses it to batter opponents with elbows and knees.
Gray Maynard hasn't faced a striker like Kenny Florian in his UFC career, and I think he will be overwhelmed by the armada of weapons Florian will have used against him.
2. Kenny Florian is a good grappler.
Should Gray Maynard get Kenny Florian to the ground, which is a big possibility, I think Kenny Florian will be able to open him up with his vicious elbows. Florian also has enough experience to stay composed in that situation, and he should be able to work his way out of the position.
Should he have to work for a submission, Florian will be able to get into a position in which he can work for one, preferrably an open guard where he can work for a triangle choke. Based on the past, Florian winning by triangle choke is a laughable claim, but then again, so was Lesnar winning by arm triangle.
3. Kenny Florian has much more experience.
Eight fights separate Gray Maynard from matching Kenny Florian. In those eight extra fights, Florian has gathered valuable experience. Gray Maynard may not be prepared for some of the situations Florian can put him in, and he may do the wrong thing to defend himself, which could result in Florian's arm getting raised.
Kenny Florian has also been around long enough to know how to deal with one-dimensional wrestlers such as Gray Maynard, and I'd be willing to bet money Kenny Florian has multiple strategies for different scenarios, which brings us to my next reason.
4. Kenny Florian can change his game plan instantly.
During his fight with Takanori Gomi in March, Kenny Florian was able to pick him apart with quick jabs and the occasional leg kick. But in the third round, Gomi connected with a flush right hook that momentarily staggered Florian.
Instead of trying to weather the storm, he shot in for a takedown when Gomi was moving in, and in doing so, he was able to clear his head and eventually advance his position far enough to where he was able to sink in a RNC.
The experience factor played a big part in this, but as soon as the hit connected, Florian was looking to take him down and look for the submission.
5. Kenny Florian is ridiculously well-rounded.
As far as being well rounded goes, Kenny Florian is as well-rounded as they come. His striking is dangerous, his clinch game is deadly, and his ground game is exceptionally solid. Gray Maynard has the ability to dictate where the fight takes place, and that will likely be on the canvas.
However, knowing what we do about Kenny Florian, that may not be such a good idea. If Gray Maynard takes Florian down once and is given a rough time, will he risk standing and trading with a more experienced and technical striker, or will he go to the ground and risk getting submitted by the BJJ black belt?
This fight has the potential to be great. It features the storyline, the contrasting styles, and the real hero vs. bully feel to it. I think that this is Kenny's fight to lose, and if he can make Gray fight his fight, then we may be seeing Kenny Florian challenge for the title very soon.