UFC lightweight fighter Kenny Florian has been forced back to the drawing board after posting a loss to Gray “The Bully” Maynard at UFC 118 in a number one contender’s bout. A win would have earned the Brookline, Massachusetts native his third shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship but instead he has dropped back down the ladder, sitting squarely in the center of the throng of lightweight contenders. UFC President Dana White told MMAFighting.com that he believes this latest loss to be evidence of Florian’s habitual inability to perform when it counts most.
“I hate to say this because I don’t want to take anything away from Gray Maynard, but I think Kenny is just one of those guys who chokes in big fights,” White said. “I’m not bad-mouthing him or trying to disrespect him; I’m just being honest. Every time it’s a big fight and there’s a lot of things on the line, Kenny just … Kenny’s hands are unbelievable. Kenny’s ground is unbelievable. Kenny usually kicks guys to the body and legs so hard that he busts guys up. You didn’t see any of that tonight. He stood there and stared at Gray Maynard for three rounds.”
Florian first challenged for the title in 2006 against former champ Sean Sherk and was thoroughly dominated en route to a five round, unanimous decision loss. He went on to post a six-fight win streak which included victories over the likes of Joe Lauzon, Roger Huerta and Joe Stevenson but would lose in the title fight that he earned against then-champion BJ Penn. White predicted a similar pattern would emerge when Florian returns to action.
“You’d think his corner would say, ‘Dude, you just lost the first two rounds.’ No sense of urgency in the third round,” White said. “Not saying, ‘I need a knockout or submission in this round.’ None of it. Nothing. And I guarantee you if Kenny comes back and fights one of the mid-level guys, he’ll probably run through them like a f—ing freight train. But the big fights? He crumbles, man.”
White told MMAFighting that he believes Florian to be among the best lightweights in the world but asserted that he suffers from a mental block in high-pressure fights and that he froze against Maynard on Saturday night for that reason.
“I love Kenny Florian, I’ve known him since season one of The Ultimate Fighter,” White said. “He’s one of the best fighters in the world, but in the big fights, he chokes in the big fights. He’s here in his hometown, another shot at the title and he sits in front of Gray Maynard for three rounds. He couldn’t let anything go. Gray Maynard fought his fight, did what he wanted to do, and dominated him tonight.”
Florian falls to 13-5 as a professional mixed martial artist with the defeat to Maynard and, while he is undoubtedly one of the best lightweight fighters in the world, it is hard to see where he goes from here as a 155 pound fighter.