Kenny Florian’s legs will likely start to ache during the main event of Saturday’s UFC 156, even though he won’t set foot in the Octagon.
Florian knows from experience just how powerful Jose Aldo’s leg kicks can be, and he doesn’t envy Frankie Edgar, who will almost certainly absorb a few of them.
“I’ve never been hit harder in my life than when Jose Aldo kicked me,” Florian told FightLine, reflecting on his own 2011 showdown against Aldo at UFC 133.
“He kicks like a mule! I trained with a lot of people and I’ve never experienced a kick that heavy.”
The vivid, visceral memory of being pummeled by Aldo – and struggling to neutralize the attack with clinch attempts on the cage – resonates strongly with Florian. But so too does his admiration for Aldo’s incredible talents, especially now that Florian is retired and has the benefit of hindsight.
“Jose Aldo does so many things so well that it’s like preparing for a whole army of weapons,” says the chatty and articulate Florian, whose gift of gab has landed him a job as an MMA broadcast analyst.
“I was just so impressed with his athleticism and his speed. I thought it was a really good fight, and I thought Aldo deserved to win that fight. To fight with one of the greats and go tit-for-tat with him is something I’ll always cherish.”
The Florian-Aldo fight was by no means a completely one-sided affair, as it was a grueling grind that went a full five rounds before culminating in a unanimous decision in favor of Aldo.
Although Florian has nothing but praise for Frankie Edgar, he suspects Edgar will suffer a similar fate Saturday at the hands (and feet) of Aldo.
“I pick Jose Aldo to win,” Florian says without hesitation. “Those weapons Aldo possesses – the uppercut, the knee, those leg kicks – they could pose a lot of problems for Frankie if (Aldo) starts getting those in early.”
If, however, Edgar can survive the first few rounds and keep constant forward pressure on Aldo, Florian believes the advantage could shift later in the fight.
“The longer the fight goes, the more it favors Frankie,” says Florian. “If Frankie can take him down repeatedly, right off the bat, that going to get in Jose Aldo’s head and create some doubt. If Frankie can break him – if he can show Aldo that he can be taken down – that’s going to bode very well for Frankie. If he can do that, especially with his wrestling, we could see a new champion at 145 pounds.”
Regardless of whose hand is raised when it’s over, Florian expects a “real superfight” between Aldo and Edgar – one that both men will look back on with pride. He’s speaking, of course, from experience.
“Fighting Aldo was an unbelievable opportunity for me,” Florian says. “To say you’ve fought one of the greats like Jose Aldo – that’s a great point in my career, and something I’ll never forget.”