Note: This article contains no shenanigans or tomfoolery, as usually seen here at Fightlinker. It’s also a bit long, for those of you with the attention span of a toddler with Down’s syndrome. With that out of the way, read on for one man’s take on Kenny Florian’s upcoming bid for the lightweight championship.
The lightweight title fight between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian is still so far off that there hasn’t even been a date set yet. While there may be a host of compelling fights coming up in the MMA universe before then, perhaps none are as compelling as the showdown between the TUF1 runner-up and ‘The Prodigy.’
The feud between Penn and Georges St. Pierre is anything but over, despite the fact that the Canadian fighter is now officially 2-0 against the Hawaiian. The latest news is that Florian will be training with St. Pierre leading up to his lightweight championship bout. While this will no doubt fan the flames of the St. Pierre-Penn rivalry, the more important factor is what it does for the challenger. Florian has earned a reputation as one of the smartest fighters in all of mixed martial arts, while the man with the silly French-Canadian accent has earned a mythical stance in the world of fight preparation. This combination can only help Florian in his quest to reach the top of the ladder.
Training with St. Pierre is more evidence that Kenny Florian is a constantly evolving fighter. Every single time this man has stepped into the Octagon he has shown up as a better version of himself than we had previously seen. Anyone fighting at the UFC level strives to better themselves each and every time out but Florian seemingly takes it to a whole other level. That is what makes him a threat to Penn as it’s unknown what improvements he has made in his game to help him take out the champion.
Due to B.J. Penn’s accomplishments in the fight world, many have seemingly counted Florian out of this fight before it has even taken place. After Penn’s loss to St. Pierre, the vast majority of criticism aimed at him has been for him to simply stay at 155. The consensus has been that Penn can stay at lightweight and be dominant for as long as he wants and that being a dominant champion at lightweight will help cement his legacy, as opposed to failed bids to move up in weight. But the latter hinges on the former and the fact remains that Kenny Florian is a very real opponent.
Another factor is that B.J’s mental game has long been called into question. At this point in his career, he thrives on the big fight atmosphere. If B.J. isn’t mentally psyched for a fight, his preparation has been known to suffer and thus his performance in the cage has suffered. Penn better get himself psyched up for this because Florian is a more than capable fighter. Game fighters like Din Thomas, Joe Lauzon, Roger Huerta, and Joe Stevenson will all attest to that.
If Florian shocks the world, the argument that Penn under-trained because he wasn’t mentally psyched will fail. Fighters are remembered for their accomplishments inside the cage, not what they could have achieved if they lived up to their potential. Penn is already a legend in this sport but if he wants to further cement his legacy, he’s going to have to get past ‘KenFlo.’ Whether Florian is able to unseat the champ remains to be seen, but with his constantly improving game, mental fortitude, and unparalleled work ethic, one thing is for certain: Kenny Florian should not be overlooked.