After cementing his status as the top contender in the UFC’s lightweight division by beating Joe Stevenson at UFC 91 last Saturday in Las Vegas, Kenny Florian has a similar mindset for the division’s kingpin B.J. Penn.
“Every fighter has holes,” Florian told Sherdog Radio’s “The Savage Dog Show” on Monday. “I think so and I think BJ knows that. Every fighter has a weakness. There are patterns in everyone’s game. Once you could figure out those patterns, there’s a way to win.”
Figuring out those patterns is what led Florian to his win over Stevenson by way of rear-naked choke in the first round. With the help of his brother Keith, who Florian calls the ultimate MMA nerd, everything went according to plan.
“The goal was just to pressure him and every strike we threw we wanted to hurt him and just keep the pressure on him,” said Florian. “We knew in the last fight against BJ that he’s kind of an emotional fighter and you could get him to make some mistakes if you put enough pressure on him. Once we got the right positions on the ground we wanted to overwhelm him with ground-and-pound until he made a mistake.”
The submission finish came as a surprise to some, who’d forgotten about Florian’s strong jiu-jitsu base. But Florian, now 9-2 in the UFC, has developed a functional muay Thai-based striking arsenal as well.
Florian, 32, also used this bout not only as a litmus test for where he stood in the division, but more specifically how he stacked up with Penn, who also took out Stevenson with a rear-naked choke in a bloody melee at UFC 80 last January.
“It was also an opportunity that I thought could be used as a measuring stick for where I was for a title shot,” said Florian. “BJ beat him in the second round and it was a decent fight up to that point. Obviously BJ overwhelmed him and dominated him. It was a good way for the fans to see this is where Kenny’s at and this is where BJ’s at.”
As for Penn, his next foray won’t be at 155 pounds at all. Serving as the main event for UFC 94, the lightweight titleholder will fight welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre for the 170-pound title on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.
Obviously, Florian has a rooting interest in the champ from Hawaii.
“Not only do I like the kid but if we’re going to fight in the future that would just make the fight that much bigger for me,” said Florian. “I mean to get motivated for a guy who beat Georges St. Pierre, that’s an awesome feeling. That might cement him as the best pound-for-pound fighter with what he’s done in his career. Not that I need more motivation. Just fighting B.J. Penn is enough. But cementing that with a win over Georges St. Pierre would just be insane.”