At UFC 131 this Saturday in Vancouver, perennial lightweight contender Kenny “Kenflo” Florian will fight in his first ever match at 145 pounds, a featherweight tilt vs. former WEC fighter Diego Nunes.
It will be Florian’s UFC-record fourth weight class, after previously competing at 185, 170 and 155 pounds.
Florian decided to drop down in weight for a number of reasons. First, the UFC’s lightweight division was becoming crowded with the WEC merger, especially with the addition of contenders like Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis.
With the division getting clogged up in talent, Florian’s place in it was becoming unclear.
Second, after losing to Gray Maynard at UFC 118 in a No. 1 contender’s bout, Florian was all but assured a career as a 155-pound gatekeeper, especially after Dana White said he “choked” in big fights.
Florian, after all, had two cracks at the lightweight title previously, losing to Sean Sherk at UFC 64 and B.J. Penn at UFC 101.
And third, Florian dropped down for the challenge to satisfy his inner desire to become a champion.
Although he remains adamant he wants to be the lightweight champion one day, chances are that opportunity has passed him by. So he has set his eyes on the Jose Aldo’s 145-pound belt instead.
Although it isn’t set in stone, Florian may very well be next in line to Aldo’s strap. On a fairly recent episode of “MMA Live,” Florian (an analyst on the show) asked White if he would get a title shot were he to dispatch Nunes, to which White replied, “probably.”
It does make sense.
The featherweight division is shallow, as Florian is already the most recognizable fighter in it, even though he hasn’t fought at the weight yet. With Florian’s name value, the UFC could potentially promote Florian and Aldo as the main event on a pay-per-view.
The other thing is, there aren’t many contenders at 145 pounds right now. With the unbeaten Chad Mendes hooking up with Rani Yahya, the No. 1 contender’s spot is up for grabs.
If Florian can defeat the 16-1 Nunes—who, by the way, is Aldo’s teammate—he would be more than deserving. But that’s a big if.
Nunes is no walk in the park. Down on the scorecards to former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown in his UFC debut back in January, Nunes battled back with a busted-up eye to win a split decision.
His excellent kickboxing skills and stellar Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu make him one of the top dogs in the world at 145 pounds.
Florian is walking into dangerous territory this weekend. Should he defeat Nunes, he will likely get the next title shot. But if he loses, his career will be sent into limbo.
Not good enough to contend at 145 or 155 pounds, and already 35 years old, Florian would need to seriously rethink his MMA career should he fall to Nunes.
This is his last shot.
Florian’s career will be made or broken with his weight cut at UFC 131.