In the co-main event of the evening, the ultra talented UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo (19-1) will once again defend his title, against the ever dangerous and former Lightweight contender, Kenny Florian (15-5).
This match-up had been muted for quite some time, as it was reported that Aldo had previously been offered the chance to meet Florian at lightweight. However, he declined the opportunity, preferring to remain at featherweight, with Florian instead now making his way down in weight to seek out the champion and that elusive first title.
Aldo makes that second defense of his crown within the UFC after claiming the championship back at WEC 44 and has since confirmed his status as the world’s best 145 pounder, after dominating what is now the UFC Featherweight division. He holds notable victories over former champions and contenders alike- indiscriminately blazing his way past such venerable opponents as former WEC standard bearer Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and TUF finalist Manvel Gamburyan in his final WEC title defense prior to the merger with the UFC. It has been the manner of the performances within those victories which has raised his status to pound for pound one of the best in the world, destroying opponents with devastating aplomb and accuracy that few can match and no one has yet come close to overcoming.
The man charged with the unenviable task of ending the brilliant Brazilian’s reign, will be hoping that third time’s a charm, after falling short in his two previous lightweight title tilts, succumbing to both Sean Sherk and BJ Penn respectively. Although UFC gold has thus far eluded him, Florian has been a fantastic representative of the sport and has an extremely impressive resume. Beginning his career at middleweight, (eventually losing in the final of the first season of the Ultimate Fighter to Diego Sanchez) he is the only UFC fighter to have campaigned at four different weight classes, defeating many of the world’s best Lightweights, including former PRIDE Champion Takanori Gomi, and current and former contenders Clay Guida and Joe Stevenson.
Aldo has endured a frustrating time since the merger. Having only fought once thus far under the UFC banner, he makes his long awaited return to action, following intense rehab to repair an accumulation of injuries sustained both before and after his most recent title defense, in which he dominated elite striker Mark Hominick for the better part of five rounds, en route to a unanimous decision win. The team Black House member had looked incredible if not invincible throughout his stay in the WEC and though his latest scalp was hardly in question, he did excessively tire in the final five minutes, exposing a possible flaw that could be a cause for concern for him, particularly with the huge effort it takes for the heavily muscled Champion to cut down to the 145lb limit.
Florian has weight issues of his own to contend with after his move down from 155 lbs., where he was comprehensively grinded out by the current number one Lightweight contender Grey Maynard. Yet other than a dramatically reduced and increasingly sinewy physique, he has shown no signs of trouble making weight and looked comfortable in his Featherweight debut back in June at UFC 131, where he once again displayed his devastating elbows during the unanimous decision victory over Jose Aldo’s stable-mate, Diego Nunes. Though Florian’s career as an analyst and commentator is flourishing, the window of opportunity toward UFC gold is most certainly wilting and the pressure for him to emerge victorious come Saturday is more immense then ever.
Both fighters are highly evolved and technical strikers who carry a significant submission threat, yet I believe Aldo will have the advantage standing, with a superior ability to cover distance and move in and out of range. If Florian can take the bout into the Championship rounds and use his perceived strength advantage, he may be able to pull off the upset, but ultimately I believe the Champion’s superior power and dynamism will be too much for Florian to contend with and ensure Aldo the win via unanimous decision.
Tags: Jose Aldo, Kenny Florian, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, UFC 136