UFC 91: Kenny "Asterisk Man" Florian's Proving Ground

Michael ComeauCorrespondent INovember 7, 2008

After reading Brian Oswald's latest piece "Kenny Florian Will Never Get a Title Shot," I decided to give my own thoughts on Kenny Florian as we head into his bout with Joe Stevenson at UFC 91 on November 15th.

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I like Kenny Florian. He's a game opponent always striving to fight better competition, and more importantly, he's good for the sport. While The Ultimate Fighter has devolved into a circus of vomit-inducing food tampering, Kenny's friendly personality and professional appearance give the public a different picture of what an MMA fighter can be.

But has he proven himself as a top lightweight? I don't think so.

I call Kenny the "Asterisk Man" because I feel compelled to add an asterisk to just about every one of his victories in the UFC:

Roger Huerta* - With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Roger is an average fighter who couldn't handle quality competition after being fed a string of easier opponents.

Joe Lauzon* - Joe gassed in the second round, essentially handing victory over to Kenny. Prior to that, the match was fairly close and Joe could have grinded out a win.

Din Thomas* - Din blew out his knee against Kenny, leaving Ken-Flo's submission victory looking better on paper than it did in reality.

Kit Cope* and Sam Stout* - Both these guys are one dimensional strikers who obviously weren't ready for anyone with a decent ground game.

Alex Karalexis* - This is a cut stoppage victory over a guy who subsequently moved down to the WEC - not very impressive in my opinion.

So while the UFC is clearly positioning Kenny for a title shot, I'm not sold on the story just yet. From a technical standpoint, Kenny is up there with the best in the UFC's lightweight division, but he needs an impressive win over a top-quality opponent to get me on board.

And at UFC 91, he'll have one to tangle with in Joe Stevenson. Joe will be a huge test for Kenny, mostly because Joe presents a rough approximation of Sean Sherk—a guy who beat Kenny via sheer brute physicality at UFC 64.

Joe Daddy will not go quietly. He has a great ground game and brutal strength, and is coming off a submission victory over Gleison Tibau, the biggest lightweight fighter in MMA. Tibau is so big that Kenny Florian will feel like a little kid in comparison.

Has Kenny's technical skill-set evolved to the point where he can overcome a physically imposing top-10 lightweight? The betting odds say yes, but for now I'm saying no.

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