Lack of titles won't ruin Florian legacy

BY foxsports • October 8, 2011

After Jose Aldo dismantled Kenny Florian at UFC 136 as effectively as Sean Sherk and BJ Penn had done before him in title fights, Kenny Florian’s future seems to be up in the air. A run in the featherweight division, a weight admittedly difficult for Florian to make, seems unlikely at this point.

At 35, the stress of cutting weight to that level would be much more difficult if Florian kept going and doesn’t seem to be something he’ll continue to do after the loss to Aldo. The cut, in retrospect, will most likely be seen as a last-ditch effort by “Ken-Flo” to try to get UFC gold around his waist. And with the fight, Kenny Florian’s place in UFC history will be secure.

He’s the Jim Kelly of MMA.

Kelly, most famous for leading the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl losses, is a Hall of Fame quarterback who was one of the great talents in NFL history. But he was never a Super Bowl winner. And that’s Kenny Florian’s final legacy: the best talent to never win a title in the modern era of the UFC.

Florian’s resume is remarkable in whom he has faced and defeated in the Octagon. He has one of the highest finishing percentages in UFC history, as well as one of the highest amounts of victories by submission or KO/TKO. He was a talent in the lightweight division who stayed near the top in one of the most competitive eras in the division’s history.

A finalist on “The Ultimate Fighter” despite fighting a handful of weight classes above his natural weight, he holds an exhibition victory over a perennial middleweight contender in Chris Leben. Stacking it up against other members of the UFC Hall of Fame, Florian is an easy candidate for induction on both a historical basis for his role in growing the sport, plus purely based on his resume of fights.

His failure to win a title will always be something held against him, but he lost a tough decision to Sherk, was dismantled by one of the greatest lightweights in the sport’s short history in Penn and was outclassed by Aldo. Losing to that trio isn’t something to sneeze at — those three fighters have left a wake of defeated fighters in their wake. His other losses have been against top-notch fighters, as well; Gray Maynard and Diego Sanchez had strong careers and were among the best of their division for some time.

His victories have been numerous and against plenty of top-flight talent and in the end that’s what his career is going to be about: the fact that he was among the best in one of the toughest shark tanks for an extended period of time is remarkable. He was the guy people had to go through to get to the champion and most times they couldn’t. Florian may never have held a title belt, but he was the doorman to get into that picture.

In an era when many fighters were forgettable despite runs near the top, Florian was memorable for being one of the most talented fighters in the sport over multiple classes. He went from being a fighter with pedestrian stand-up and amazing ground skills to one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC. His transformation has been remarkable as he’s continually improved upon the skills that have made him one of the best fighters in the lightweight class for an extended period of time.

Ultimately, his post-fight career will most likely be just memorable, if not moreso for being one of the premier analysts in the game. Inside the cage he may never have been a champion, and lost every time he fought for a title, but you can’t deny his place as one of the best fighters in his weight class of his era for a handful of losses to some of the premier fighters of his era.

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