Perennial contender Kenny Florian made his debut at featherweight a successful one, as he took out the hardscrabble Diego Nunes over a tough three round battle in the co-main event bout of UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Florian said of cutting to 145 pounds after the fight. “[It was] very, very difficult. I was above 180 pounds. I was coming back [after] knee surgery. I was on the couch doing nothing for two months. I felt all right. The last month was pretty tough with training. I had a phenomenal camp.”
“Ken-Flo” had his hands full with Nunes though, the 28-year-old Brazilian took it to the crowd non-favorite from the opening bell, looking to give Florian a rude welcome to the new weight class. “The Gun” kept Florian off balance with heavy, sometimes wild, shots in the first round and even put Florian on his back briefly in the first frame. To seal the first round, Nunes tagged Florian with a hard left that sent him to his back.
Showing the experience that kept him in contendership for years at 155lbs., Florian adjusted and came out hard in the second round. They went back and forth, trading takedowns and strikes, but Florian began to steal the momentum during the second frame, turning on his striking and finding more success than Nunes in the takedown department.
By the third round, Florian was clearly the fresher of the two fighters. He hit takedowns mostly at will and kept Nunes at bay with a stiff jab. Aside from a hard shot at the end of the round that dropped Florian to a knee, Nunes couldn’t match Florian’s offensive output and defensive prowess and ended up on the wrong side of a legitimate unanimous decision in Florian’s favor.
Florian likely earned himself a shot at the title with his win, though nothing has yet been confirmed. He improved his record to 14-5 with the victory and rebounded from a loss at lightweight to current number one contender Gray Maynard.
“I want to make a run for that belt,” Florian stated after the bout.
Nunes showed great heart as always in his losing effort and proved that he will still be a force at featherweight in years to come. His record now stands at 16-2.