UFC 131 Fight Card: Kenny Florian's Top 7 Career-Defining Moments

Matt Saccaro@@mattsaccaroContributor IIIJune 9, 2011

UFC 131 Fight Card: Kenny Florian's Top 7 Career-Defining Moments

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    Kenny "Kenflo" Florian is one of the most well-known fighters in the UFC as well as one of the most versatile (come Saturday, the man will have fought in four weight classes).

    This Saturday at UFC 131 Florian is set to make his debut at featherweight against Brazilian Diego Nunes.

    This fight will be one of the most important of Florian's career. If he wins, it will be proven that featherweight is his weight class and domain—Jose Aldo beware. But should he lose, he will likely be cast off as a bum by the hordes of insensitive pundits and keyboard warriors.

    Nevertheless, Florian's career is an interesting one and he was (and still is) an influential figure in the UFC; not even a defeat Saturday night can rob him of this fact.

    So, to celebrate Kenny Florian's time in the cage, here are his top seven career-defining moments.

7. His 1st MMA Victory

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    A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Just so, an MMA journey the likes of which Florian has been through begins with a single fight.

    That single fight was against experienced competitor Nuri Shakir in 2002.

    Shakir is an impressive win for a first-ever MMA victory since Shakir had been in the cage with the likes of Thiago Alves, Jorge Masvidal, Tamdan McRory and Jim Miller. He even has victories over Marcus Davis and Nick Serra.

    Florian made Shakir tap to strikes in the very first round. A great start to a career, no?

6. Split-Decision Loss to Drew Fickett

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    When Kenny Florian met Drew Fickett, he was vastly overmatched in terms of experience; it was only Florian's fourth fight while it was Fickett's 25th!

    Despite the grave variance in fight experience, Florian managed to take Fickett to a close split decision in which the Massachusetts native lost but won something more important: the respect of UFC president Dana White.

    Dana White was in the audience that night and was so impressed with Florian's toughness that he offered Florian a spot on the show. The rest, as they say, is history.

5. Lightweight Debut Against Sam Stout

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    Kenny Florian started his run in the UFC as a middleweight; he was undersized and then dropped to welterweight; he was still undersized and then went down to lightweight, where he has since fought most of his career.

    But had Florian lost this fight at such a crucial junction in his career, who knows what could have happened? Thankfully, Florian dominated Stout submitting him with a rear naked choke (a specialty of Florian's; half of his 14 victories are by means of rear naked choke) in the very first round.

    In doing so, Florian established himself as a force at lightweight and earned a title shot for the vacant lightweight championship against Sean Sherk at UFC 64.

4. Victory over Clay Guida

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    Kenny Florian's victory over Clay Guida was one of the most dominant in Florian's career and came at a much-needed time.

    Florian had just been submitted by then-UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn and sorely needed a victory over a recognizable name to restore his worth in the division. This recognizable name was Clay Guida.

    Guida had long been a fan favorite (and still is despite the fact that many criticized his performance at the Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale) and when he couldn't even last two full rounds with Florian, Florian's popularity benefited and he was back on the fast track towards the title (before being unfortunately derailed by Gray Maynard at UFC 118).

3. Victory over Joe Stevenson

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    At UFC 91 Kenny Florian crushed Joe "Daddy" Stevenson; Stevenson didn't even make it out of the first round before being forced to tap out due to a Kenny Florian rear naked choke.

    This victory further solidified Florian as a dominant lightweight and earned him a second shot at the lightweight belt.

    Many expected Florian to lose leading up to the fight because of Stevenson's strength and wrestling advantage. Florian showed them the error of their ways.

    One could even make an argument that Florian "broke" Stevenson; the latter fighter is 2-4 after their meeting at UFC 91 and his career with the UFC is in doubt.

2. Loss to Sean Sherk

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    You're probably asking "What is a loss doing so high on the list!?" But think about it!

    Kenny Florian was thoroughly dominated by Sean Sherk in their title fight at UFC 64. After the fight, Florian went on a six-fight win streak—the longest of his career!

    Thus, a parallel can be made to UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre's loss to Matt Serra in the sense that the loss to Sherk made Florian a better fighter like St-Pierre's loss to Serra made St-Pierre a better fighter.

    To put it bluntly, the loss to Sherk made Florian hit the gym harder and was therefore the indispensable condition responsible for his victories afterwards.

1. Victory over Roger Huerta

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    Roger Huerta is swift becoming a forgotten figure in MMA but he was once considered one of the best lightweight fighters in the world. This notion was still widely believed when Huerta met Kenny Florian at UFC 87.

    Many were espousing the fighting abilities of Huerta but Florian managed to silence them in what was perhaps his most technical performance in the Octagon. He brought a perfect game plan into the fight and looked absolutely flawless; he earned a unanimous-decision victory and snapped Huerta's 17-fight winning streak.

    The fight sent Huerta into a slump from which he still hasn't emerged from.

    This was Florian's finest hour.