After dismantling former PrideFC lightweight champ Takanori Gomi at “UFC Fight Night 21” on Wednesday evening, Kenny Florian once again emerged as the class of the division – less reigning Octagon king BJ Penn, of course.
Florian has now won eight of his last nine scraps, including last night’s vicious 3rdRound submission victory over the Japanese superstar. With a resume as decorated as his, most would think the Bostonian would be banging down UFC president Dana White’s door for another shot at the crown.
“I’ve been trying to not think about that for a long time,” Florian said of earning a third title fight. “Every single day I get that question, whether it’s from media or fans or family. I’ve been trying to just focus on this fight. Now that it’s over with, yeah, I can look forward to the future.”
Penn’s immediate destiny has him facing Frankie Edgar at “UFC 112: Invincible” on April 10th. The Hawaiian is a significant 8-to-1 favorite to make his fifth consecutive successful title defense.
Taking nothing away from Edgar and his vast accomplishments, most feel he backed into his golden opportunity after Gray Maynard posted an uneventful split decision win over Nate Diaz at “UFC Fight Night 20.”
What made the choice easier for the UFC was the fact Maynard’s coach and Hall of Famer, Randy Couture, admitted after the contest that a fight against Penn might not be in his protege’s best interest right now.
UFC brass quickly awarded Edgar the chance, even though Maynard owns a lopsided unanimous decision win over him and Florian’s skill set might be best suited to push the champ harder than any other 155-pounder.
However, Florian – like so many others – was thoroughly schooled by Penn not too many moons ago and fans aren’t quite ready to relive the thrashing that was just handed to him at UFC 101 last August.
In addition to his 4thRound submission loss to Peen, Florian dropped a convincing unanimous decision to Sean Sherk at UFC 64 in his first championship fight.
It’s a similar predicament the middleweight division experienced just a few years ago when Anderson Silva decided to take the Octagon stage. Former champ Rich Franklin had clearly distanced himself from the rest of the 185-pound field, however he was leaps and ‘bows away from matching “The Spider’s” game.
Given Edgar’s 5-to-1 underdog status and Maynard’s necessity for growth, Florian is once again the division’s best behind Penn. However, he’s more mature now and is willing to bide his time until his Batphone rings.
“I still want to be a champion,” Florian said. “The first time around, I was very young in my career, and I just see every fight like a building block. That’s all it is.
“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to be the best fighter I can be. The UFC is my outlet. It’s the best playing ground. I just feel blessed to be able to compete against the best guys in the best organization.”
Florian now holds a 14-4 professional mark, however what’s most impressive is that KenFlo has ended all but one of his victories before the final horn.
Only three of his fights have not taken place inside the Octagon, which houses the best of the best in the sport of MMA.
Or in Kenny Florian’s case, the best of the rest.