UFC 136 will mark the third attempt at UFC gold for Kenny “KenFlo” Florian as he meets dynamic Brazilian José Aldo. The former finalist on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter is now competing in his fourth weight class within the promotion.
Florian failed in both of his attempts at the lightweight belt, first to Sean Sherk at UFC 64 and then to BJ Penn at UFC 101. Additionally, he dropped a title eliminator to Gray Maynard at UFC 118, which would have earned him a third try at the 155-pound strap. With a strong grappling base and dangerous Muay Thai striking, Florian had managed to finish eight of his nine other foes within the division, but in each of the aforementioned bouts, Florian’s largest deficiency, wrestling, was exploited by his opponents.
As a result, Florian made the decision to drop down to featherweight. With a victory over Diego Nunes in his 145-pound debut at UFC 131, Florian was rewarded the title shot against Aldo. Since Aldo is not known for his wrestling, the casual observer might believe this is Florian’s best chance to finally gain his long-desired championship.
The problem for Florian is that Aldo’s strengths are not only identical to his own, but he's better at them.
Florian is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Roberto Maia in his native Boston, while Aldo is a black belt under the Nova União camp in Rio de Janeiro. Black belts are not created equal, and Aldo’s camp is one of the best in the world. The biggest difference between the two fighters in regards to their ground game is that Florian has relied on his submission skills in 10 of his 15 wins, while Aldo has only utilized his in one of his 20 bouts.
So, does Florian have the advantage? Not likely. The reason that Aldo has not relied on his ground skills is due to his lethal striking. Florian’s striking game has evolved tremendously throughout his UFC career, training with the likes of Mark Dellagrotte at Sityodtong and Firas Zahabi at TriStar, but he’s nowhere near the level of the Brazilian. Aldo has finished 12 of his 20 fights by way of knockout, while Florian has managed only three.
It's not only in power that Florian will face a problem. Aldo's speed is remarkable and he uses it to fire off brutal combinations. In his arsenal is something that was made famous by Ernesto Hoost in the kickboxing world—a jab, cross, hook to the body, leg kick assault—that he used to batter wrestling stalwart Urijah Faber and striking specialist Mark Hominick for five rounds each. Luckily for Florian, he is a southpaw, which will prevent some of the combination's effectiveness.
All in all, Florian is going to be overmatched when he enters the Octagon on Oct. 8 in Houston. He's battling one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet, and unfortunately for the Boston native, he does not possess the tools to defeat the Brazilian. Aldo is riding a 12-fight win streak going into the bout, and against Florian he'll keep his belt by finishing the fight before the championship rounds.