Six years after making his UFC debut at 185 lbs., UFC veteran Kenny Florian made a successful featherweight debut by defeating Diego Nunes in a tough three round battle in the co-main event of UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin last night. While the weight cut was a tough one for the former top lightweight contender, Florian made it clear that he plans on sticking in his new division.
“I think, honestly, the whole weight cut was a true test in discipline,” Florian stated at last night’s post-fight press conference (video). “It took me to the next level mentally and [showed me] what I’m capable of doing. After that, I think anything [will be] easy.
“I’m staying at featherweight,” he added in regards to his immediate plans. “I want a shot at the belt. I think Jose Aldo’s one of the best fighters in the game. Lot of respect for him, big fan, but I think every UFC fighter’s dream is and should be to be a champion and to test yourself against the best. He’s one of the best, and that’s what I want. We’ll see after that.”
“I thought it was a great fight,” said UFC president President Dana White. “There’s no doubt Diego is a tough guy, and [Florian] looked great tonight. I was curious. You never know until you see a guy fight after doing that kind of a cut.”
“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. Despite the win, Florian was disappointed that the bout went the distance.
“I wanted to do more,” Florian admitted. “I’m never satisfied if I don’t get the finish. That’s just my style. I try to [finish] the fight with my own hands. But he’s top-five for a reason. He’s fast, but I felt he was getting tired, and I outlasted him. He showed his toughness.”
Florian likely earned himself a shot at the title with his win, as White stated at the post-fight press conference that Florian may be next for UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
“He deserves a shot at the title, no doubt about it,” White said of Ken-Flo. When asked again if he could confirm that Florian would get the next crack at Aldo, White quipped, “More than likely. How’s that for confirmation?”
With the win, Florian’s record improves to 15-5.
For news, videos and results of last night’s event, click here.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.