This upcoming Saturday night (June 11, 2011) at UFC 131, a former two-time title challenger will drop to 145 to take on one of the UFC's brightest featherweight fighters as Kenny Florian battles Diego Nunes on the main card of "Carwin vs. dos Santos."
Kenny Florian came up short twice for the UFC lightweight title and after losing a number one contender's match with Gray Maynard at UFC 118 last year, he felt he'd worn out his welcome in the division. He's looking to make featherweight his new home and potentially earn a title shot with a victory over Nunes in his 145 pound debut.
Diego Nunes has been an unheralded star of the featherweight division for the last few years. He held a 4-1 record in the WEC and made a statement in his UFC debut by defeating former champion Mike Brown at UFC 125. "The Gun" trains in one of Brazil's top fight camps Nova União alongside some of the best featherweights in the world and he's looking to make a major impact with his main card debut.
Will the cut to 145 sap Florian's strength and aggression? Can Nunes dazzle fans with his flashy striking? After being labeled a "choker" by UFC President Dana White, can Florian come up big with a potential title shot on the line?
Check out our complete fight preview after the jump to find out:
Record: 14-5 overall, 11-4 in the UFC
How he got here: It's been a long road for Kenny Florian. He got his start in the UFC as a cast member of the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) as a middleweight. The Bostonian even made it all the way to the finals before losing to Diego Sanchez in the show's finale.
Florian would then drop to welterweight where he scored consecutive second round stoppages. Not satisfied, "Ken-Flo" would cut even lower to lightweight where he would earn a title shot against Sean Sherk at UFC 64. Florian gashed Sherk with his razer-sharp elbows but he couldn't withstand the "Muscle Shark's" tremendous wrestling and core strength, losing a unanimous decision.
After stringing together five straight victories, he would again earn a shot at the title but would put on a perplexing show against the-champion B.J. Penn. Florian tried to work a clinch gameplan that left many confused before losing in the fourth round via rear naked choke to "The Prodigy."
After going 2-1 in his next three fights including losing a number one contender match to Gray Maynard at UFC 118, Florian decided it was time to drop to featherweight, his fourth weight class in the UFC.
How he gets it done: What makes Florian so lethal is how aggressive and well-rounded he is. He's only ever had three of his 15 UFC fights go to decision and that's because he's looking for the finish from start to stop.
Florian possesses an excellent jab, something he picked up from Firas Zihabi and he absolutely lit up Takanori Gomi with it at UFC Fight Night 21. When the fight is standing, look for "Ken-Flo" to look to work his jab and find an opening for his big right hand.
Just looking at him, it doesn't appear like Florian would have much power but he's blasted many an opponent with his right hand, most recently Clay Guida at UFC 107 where he set up a submission after dropping "The Carpenter."
Also something to be feared are the debuting featherweight's elbows. Kenny Florian's elbows are legendary for their sharpness and ability to bust open massive cuts. He's cracked several foreheads in his day if he can get inside and utilize them.
Also not to be underestimated is Kenny's submission skills. Florian is extremely aggressive on the ground and once his opponent gives up his back, the fight is over. Seven of his 15 UFC fights have ended by way of rear naked choke. This is all set up by the TUF veteran's tenacity on the ground.
Look for Florian to work his jab early but try to get this fight to the ground where he can really pressure Nunes into making a mistake. He absolutely does not want to sit back in range and allow the Brazilian to get off with his kicks.
Record: 16-1 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: L.C. Davis (WEC 44)
How he got here: After working the local Brazilian circuit and compiling an 11-0 record, Diego Nunes punched his ticket to the WEC in 2008. After winning two straight unanimous decisions, he was handed the first loss of his career against tough wrestler L.C. Davis at WEC 44 in a bout where he was controlled with takedowns and slams for a majority of the three rounds.
Nunes got back on track against extremely tough Brazilian submission specialist Raphael Assuncao at WEC 49 with a close split decision victory and eventually would make his UFC debut earlier this year at UFC 125 against former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown.
Despite being hurt with a punch to the eye at the end of the first round, Nunes would continue to aggressively push forward unleashing his full arsenal of wild kicks, knees and punches to impress the judges enough to award him a split decision victory.
When Kenny Florian announced he was dropping down to 145, the UFC came calling and Nunes didn't back down from the challenge.
How he gets it done: Don't let his record fool you, despite having his last six fights go to a decision, Diego Nunes is an incredibly exciting and flashy fighter.
The Brazilian has a wide assortment of diverse attacks that he loves to throw including spinning back kicks, heel kicks, flying knees and spinning backfists.
Nunes loves to brawl. He's got the speed and aggressiveness standing to hang with and potentially overwhelm Florian's technique on the feet but he has to be smart when he's wading in or he'll be taken down.
Diego's best method of victory is to keep his distance and work his kicks. If he can chop Florian down with leg kicks, he can slow the former title challenger down and open up some major opportunities for follow-up power shots. Nunes will want to do what he can to keep this fight standing and frustrate the TUF veteran, potentially getting him to lose his composure.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this fight is clearly Kenny Florian's weight cut. Dropping to 145 pounds for the first time in your career is not exactly something someone would recommend for a fighter who just turned 35 years old. At some point, there is a diminished return with weight cut as a fighter is just losing muscle and endurance, physically draining themselves just to make weight.
Things aren't off to a great start as Florian has already admitted that he didn't even attempt a "test cut" to see how easily he could make weight. If this cut saps too much out of him, this could be an entirely different Kenny Florian than fight fans are accustomed to. There's a very real possibility that he could pull a "James Irvin" and give up too much to drop a weight class.
Of course, we could all be proven wrong and Florian shows up in tip-top shape on Saturday night. That's what makes this question so interesting.
Bottom line: Assuming "Ken-Flo" has no issues making weight, this bout has serious "Fight of the Night" potential. Nunes is an extremely entertaining striker and he's not afraid to really let loose with diverse attacks from start to finish while Florian is a fight-finishing machine. This bout could be over in the first minute or it could be an all-out war for 15. You will not want to miss this one.
Who will come out on top at UFC 131? Let us know in the comments section below!
Which featherweight fighter will be thrust into title contention with a big win on the UFC 131 main card?
Kenny Florian (81 votes)
Diego Nunes (42 votes)
123 total votes