When Kenny Florian announced he was dropping to featherweight, he was hoping run roughshod over the top contenders in the division and be handed a title shot immediately.
"Ken-Flo" was constantly on the defensive from Nunes' whirlwind of flashy attacks, especially in the first round. But he weathered the Brazilian's storm and eventually wore "The Gun" down to secure a unanimous decision victory.
We'll discuss how the Tristar fighter was able to offset Nunes' diverse striking and potentially earn a title shot against Jose Aldo after the jump:
Both men traded wild head kicks early, but the first significant attack came from Florian as he ducked a hook, pushed Nunes into the fence and worked for a takedown, which was ultimately denied.
What was Nunes' secret weapon to avoid the takedown?
It was blatantly clutching the fence with a death grip and pulling himself back to his feet. Obvious infractions like this can completely turn the tide of a fight and shame on John McCarthy for not immediately deducting a point from the Brazilian.
This set the stage for repeat infractions later in the fight and also allowed Nunes to turn the tides in the first round and put Florian on his back (who didn't grab the fence to defend his takedown).
That being said, Nunes held his own with Kenny standing and even dropped the Bostonian with a huge lunging left hook at the end of the first round.
In the second round, Nunes again grabbed the fence twice to prevent takedowns from Florian and was able to score one of his own. Kenny would get his revenge, though, ramming his jagged elbows into the top of the Nova União fighter's skull and opening up a huge gash that would gush blood for the remainder of the night.
From this point on in the fight, Nunes started fading and Florian took full advantage with takedowns and ground and pound, as well as utilizing his jab on his feet. "Ken-Flo" showed no signs of endurance issues as the fight wore on late into the third round, while Nunes was clearly several steps slower. The Ultimate Fighter season one veteran unwisely stood and traded with the Brazilian in the final minute of the fight, while Nunes was in desperation mode and even got staggered with a right hand before the final horn, but it was not enough to prevent a unanimous decision victory for Florian.
Despite the fence-grabbing, Nunes showed that he does belong in the top of the featherweight division last night. He was able to hurt Florian with his punches, something that no one -- not even B.J. Penn, Gray Maynard or Roger Huerta -- could do in three-plus rounds. Expect him to get another tough fight against someone coming off a loss, perhaps recent title challenger Mark Hominick, former number one contender Josh Grispi or the upcoming loser of the Chad Mendes vs. Rani Yahya fight at UFC 133.
If he wants to contend for the title, he'll have to step up his cardio. Most featherweights don't fade like he did in the latter half of his fight with "Ken-Flo," and no amount of flashy strikes will save him if he tires against the elite of the division.
For Florian, he was listed as likely fighting for the title next against Jose Aldo by UFC President Dana White, but he definitely has some issues to address.
His defense of Nunes' kicks was excellent, but he repeatedly got clipped and hurt by Diego's lunging hooks. Jose Aldo hits a LOT harder than Diego Nunes, a fighter who's never finished a fight in his now seven-fight career under the Zuffa umbrella. If Aldo can connect with a similar strike on Kenny's chin, it could be a short night for the Boston Bruins fan.
That being said, perhaps Kenny's chin deterioration was a symptom of a tough weight cut to 145 and as he adapts to the new weight class, he'll be more durable next time out.
Do you think Florian can offer a credible threat to Aldo's featherweight belt? What did you think of Nunes' performance last night in a losing effort?
Sound off, Maniacs!