FanPost

The Career of Kenny Florian

The best fighter to never hold a belt.

This has been a popular sentiment around the recent retirement of fan-favorite Kenny Florian, and one that I have no interest in disputing. Despite his lazy, terrible nickname, I have always been a Florian fan. From his role on season one of the The Ultimate Fighter, throughout his tutelage under Mark Dellagrotte and Peter Welch, Florian always impressed me as a fighter, and acquitted himself well as a true student of martial arts.

Learning of his retirement saddened me, as it meant not only the loss of a welcome presence in the cage, but also that a man who I've always thought of as young and in his prime is no longer so, which strongly suggests that neither am I. Fortunately we'll be the beneficiaries of Florian's experience and expertise for as long as he remains part of the UFC's live broadcast team. Less fortunately, I've taken Kenny's retirement as an opportunity to revisit an old project of mine, namely the examination of a fighter based on his records and the records of his recent opponents: Adjusted Strength of Record.

In a nutshell, ASR looks at a fighter's career in pieces of equal length (in this case, three years). When comparing two fighters, say as part of the lead-up to the two of them clashing, an optimal time frame would probably be three years before the date of their upcoming match. However, as in this piece I will be comparing several "Kenny Florians", by observing his scores throughout his career, I'll generate numbers for every year of his career, looking back three years from New Year's Eve of the year in question.

Adjusted Strength of Record is itself derived from another, simpler statistic of my design, Raw Strength of Record. RSR is merely my attempt to measure the value of a fighter's recent accomplishments by taking his win percentage over a period of time (three years) and adjusting it by way of how many bouts he participated in during that span. Essentially, the aim is to recognize that, all other things equal, a fighter with a 8-0 record from 2009-2011 has accomplished more than a fighter with a 2-0 record in the same frame, despite both of them owning a 100% win rate.

A fighter's ASR is calculated by taking his opponents' RSR values and combining it with his success rate against those opponents and how many of them he faced in the allotted time. I'll use 2004, Kenny's second year of professional competition, both as an illustrative example, and as the starting point of this analysis.

2004
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 2 1 0 3 0.667 1.000 1.000 0.667 0.822 0.548
LDEC Fickett 10 2 0 12 0.833 4.000 2.000 1.667
WSUB McAndrews 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
W(T)KO Giroux 0 1 0 1 0.000 0.333 0.577 0.000
Average Opponents' RSR: 0.556

As an unknown, Florian started his career against unknowns. In 2004, he had two fights, but since each table will examine the previous two years as well, we also see his first pro bout against Jason Giroux, from 2003. You can see Kenny's stats for this window (2002-2004) in the row next to his name: 2 wins, 1 loss. Three total fights. This of course translates to a win rate of 67%. Since we've established a three-year cross-section, his fights per year value rings up to 1. It doesn't matter that he wasn't even a pro fighter in 2002. The important takeaway is that from 2002-2004, he fought 3 times, or roughly once per year. X-mult (experience multiplier) is the square root of fights per year. Florian's last opponent in 2004, the inimitable Drew Fickett, logged 12 bouts in the three years before their appointment, or approximately 4 times per year, and thus scores an X-mult of 2. Kenny's experience multiplier (1) is applied to his win rate (67%) to produce his RSR, 0.667.

As mentioned previously, RSR is not the final statistic by which I will attempt to evaluate Florian's career. I am actually interested in the RSR values of his past opponents, which will inform Kenny's more dynamic ASR score. I briefly mentioned Drew Fickett, and we'll take a closer look at his numbers now, as he was the only of Florian's first three opponents to possess any values of note. His twelve fights before meeting Florian break down to 10 wins and 2 losses, for a win rate of 83%. His experience multiplier of 2 is applied to that win rate for a Raw Strength of Record of 1.667. At the bottom of the table, you will see the average RSR of Kenny's recent opponents. As his other two foes were winless at the times of their respective fights, Fickett's RSR alone is divided by 3 in order to yield the average. Average RSR is then combined with Kenny's fights per year to produce his D-mult, or difficulty multiplier. This expresses difficulty as an aggregate of his opponents' toughness and the pace of his fight schedule. As with the X-mult and RSR, the D-mult is then applied to win rate to finally arrive at Adjusted Strength of Record.

Florian's 2004 ASR of 0.548 doesn't sound very impressive (unless you're a baseball fan), and it's not. Let's see how far he takes it in the following years. As I've now more or less explained the compound stats and their equations, the following paragraphs will focus more on the simpler pieces of contributing data and their effect on the final score.

2005
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 4 2 0 6 0.667 2.000 1.414 0.943 1.238 0.825
WSUB Cope 2 0 0 2 1.000 0.667 0.816 0.816
W(T)KO Karalexis 5 0 0 5 1.000 1.667 1.291 1.291
L(T)KO Sanchez 11 0 0 11 1.000 3.667 1.915 1.915
LDEC Fickett 10 2 0 12 0.833 4.000 2.000 1.667
WSUB McAndrews 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
W(T)KO Giroux 0 1 0 1 0.000 0.333 0.577 0.000
Average Opponents' RSR: 0.948

Kenny's third year of fighting included his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, where he made it to the final round as a flabby middleweight. Unfortunately for Kenny, a prime and much more experienced Diego Sanchez defeated him swiftly for the season title. Even though the fight tacked another loss onto Florian's record, having Sanchez (11-0) in the three years previous) as an opponent gave a much-needed boost to his difficulty multiplier. More significant contributions to his score come in the form of subsequent victories over fellow TUF runner-up Alex Karalexis and Kit Cope. These were the first statistically consequential wins of Florian's career, and gave us an early glimpse at what the Bostonian could accomplish against foes that couldn't outwrestle him.

2006
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 4 3 0 7 0.571 2.333 1.528 0.873 1.460 0.835
LDEC Sherk 12 1 0 13 0.923 4.333 2.082 1.922
WSUB Stout 9 0 1 10 0.950 3.333 1.826 1.734
WSUB Cope 2 0 0 2 1.000 0.667 0.816 0.816
W(T)KO Karalexis 5 0 0 5 1.000 1.667 1.291 1.291
L(T)KO Sanchez 11 0 0 11 1.000 3.667 1.915 1.915
LDEC Fickett 10 2 0 12 0.833 4.000 2.000 1.667
WSUB McAndrews 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Average Opponents' RSR: 1.335

A third consecutive victory by finish in 2006 earned Kenny a shot at the vacant UFC lightweight title, but as luck would have it, the opportunity placed him across the cage from Sean Sherk back when he utilized his wrestling. To his credit, Florian turned the tide of the fight late and made it to the final bell, but the fight must have solidified to him the fact that he was going to have to shore up his wrestling defense in order to climb the ranks.

Notice that, as we are now in his fourth year as a pro, Florian's first fight, from 2003, falls off the chart. The exit of that win was negated by his more recent submission win over Sam Stout, but the extra addition of the loss to Sherk actually causes his win rate to drop from the previous year. However, his increasingly busy itinerary (now 7 fights over 3 years) and rising toughness of competition prevent his ASR from dipping with win rate; on the contrary it manages to rise very slightly.

2007
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 6 2 0 8 0.750 2.667 1.633 1.225 1.554 1.165
WSUB Thomas 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091
W(T)KO Robinson 8 1 0 9 0.889 3.000 1.732 1.540
WSUB Mishima 4 2 0 6 0.667 2.000 1.414 0.943
LDEC Sherk 12 1 0 13 0.923 4.333 2.082 1.922
WSUB Stout 9 0 1 10 0.950 3.333 1.826 1.734
WSUB Cope 2 0 0 2 1.000 0.667 0.816 0.816
W(T)KO Karalexis 5 0 0 5 1.000 1.667 1.291 1.291
L(T)KO Sanchez 11 0 0 11 1.000 3.667 1.915 1.915
Average Opponents' RSR: 1.406

2007 was a big year for our trilingual pugilist. Florian was able to go an impressive 3-0 with all finishes, including wins over then-hot prospect Alvin Robinson and a crafty vet in Din Thomas. The victories went a long way toward burying his championship loss to Sherk, and kept him in the title picture of a developing weight class. Kenny logged personal bests in all of his ASR-related stats, including ASR itself, which increased by about 30%, after having flatlined in the previous year.

2008
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 7 1 0 8 0.875 2.667 1.633 1.429 1.567 1.371
WSUB Stevenson 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091
WDEC Huerta 10 0 0 10 1.000 3.333 1.826 1.826
W(T)KO Lauzon 8 3 0 11 0.727 3.667 1.915 1.393
WSUB Thomas 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091
W(T)KO Robinson 8 1 0 9 0.889 3.000 1.732 1.540
WSUB Mishima 4 2 0 6 0.667 2.000 1.414 0.943
LDEC Sherk 12 1 0 13 0.923 4.333 2.082 1.922
WSUB Stout 9 0 1 10 0.950 3.333 1.826 1.734
Average Opponents' RSR: 1.442

As good as 2007 was, 2008 was truly Florian's golden year. Anyone could come to that conclusion without the assistance of equations and charts. Not only did he go another perfect three for three, extending his winning streak to six, but all of three of those opponents were solid contenders at the time, and two of them were talented wrestlers. Florian proved in 2008 that he was still adding to his considerable skill set and able to make adjustments for the holes in his game. With all of his losses except to Sherk far behind him, Florian posted all of his career-high numbers in this year: 8 fights in 3 years, 7 wins for a win rate of 88%, and a great average opponents' RSR of 1.442, resulting in his own ASR of 1.371.

2009
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 7 1 0 8 0.875 2.667 1.633 1.429 1.467 1.284
WSUB Guida 4 4 0 8 0.500 2.667 1.633 0.816
LSUB Penn 3 2 0 5 0.600 1.667 1.291 0.775
WSUB Stevenson 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091
WDEC Huerta 10 0 0 10 1.000 3.333 1.826 1.826
W(T)KO Lauzon 8 3 0 11 0.727 3.667 1.915 1.393
WSUB Thomas 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091
W(T)KO Robinson 8 1 0 9 0.889 3.000 1.732 1.540
WSUB Mishima 4 2 0 6 0.667 2.000 1.414 0.943
Average Opponents' RSR: 1.184

After rocketing over his competition in the two years previous, Kenny was granted another chance to win a title in 2009, against a resurgent BJ Penn. Unfortunately, he fell prey to the Marv Marinovich-trained killing machine version of BJ, as well as quite possibly his own confidence in his newly-acquired wrestling abilities. For round after round, Kenny, a smaller man than Penn, tried to execute a gameplan that worked for a much larger man than both: welterweight boss Georges St. Pierre. Not Florian's smartest outing, and a sad end to an exciting title run.

To get back on track, Kenny was matched up against Clay Guida. In years past, Guida would have represented his prototypical nightmare opponent, but a motivated Florian was able to zap him with a perfect hook and followed it up with his signature RNC.

2009 gives us an interesting opportunity to look at how the Raw Strength of Record values of a fighter's opponents informs his own Adjusted Strength of Record. In both 2008 and 2009, Kenny posted 7 wins and 1 loss in the three-year window. This means that his win rate and experience multiplier (the square root of 8 fights divided by 3 years) did not change over that time. What did change was the average RSR of his opponents, and consequently his overall ASR score. Moving forward from 2008, Kenny's fights against Sean Sherk and Sam Stout are dropped. This is quite a blow to his overall score, as both of those opponents boasted RSRs higher than his 2008 average. The numbers don't lie in this case, either: both men were certainly in their primes when they faced Kenny in 2006. They are replaced at the top of the 2009 table by a comparatively less-active Penn and a 50/50 Guida.This is not to say necessarily that 2006 Stout could beat or even hang with 2008 Penn or Guida, but that he certainly carried more momentum (undefeated in a busy three year stretch) into his Florian match than either of them. That general decline causes Kenny's ASR to dip from 2008 to 2009, although his active agenda and impressive win rate still make it his second highest rating to date.

2010
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091 1.408 1.006
LDEC Maynard 7 0 0 7 1.000 2.333 1.528 1.528
WSUB Gomi 4 2 0 6 0.667 2.000 1.414 0.943
WSUB Guida 4 4 0 8 0.500 2.667 1.633 0.816
LSUB Penn 3 2 0 5 0.600 1.667 1.291 0.775
WSUB Stevenson 5 2 0 7 0.714 2.333 1.528 1.091
WDEC Huerta 10 0 0 10 1.000 3.333 1.826 1.826
W(T)KO Lauzon 8 3 0 11 0.727 3.667 1.915 1.393
Average Opponents' RSR: 1.196

2010 saw Kenny just barely miss a third chance at winning the lightweight title. After making it two wins in a row with a beautiful submission of Takanori Gomi, he needed to pull off the hat trick against Gray Maynard, but fell short. His score for this year takes a much bigger hit than last year's decrease, due to a worsening of two contributing factors: fights per year and win rate. Three wins fell outside of the three-year window this time, and they were replaced by the aforementioned single win and single loss. The Maynard fight made a strong opponent RSR contribution, but it wasn't nearly enough to offset the slide.

2011
W L D All Win% FPY X-mult RSR D-mult ASR
Florian 3 3 0 6 0.500 2.000 1.414 0.707 1.327 0.663
LDEC Aldo 8 0 0 8 1.000 2.667 1.633 1.633
WDEC Nunes 6 1 0 7 0.857 2.333 1.528 1.309
LDEC Maynard 7 0 0 7 1.000 2.333 1.528 1.528
WSUB Gomi 4 2 0 6 0.667 2.000 1.414 0.943
WSUB Guida 4 4 0 8 0.500 2.667 1.633 0.816
LSUB Penn 3 2 0 5 0.600 1.667 1.291 0.775
Average Opponents' RSR: 1.167

Post-Maynard loss, there exists a peculiar epilogue to Florian's career, a brief stint in the UFC's featherweight division. Many, including myself, were excited at the news, and read it as a chance for a resurgence of Kenny's career. Unfortunately, rushing him into yet another title shot after an indecisive win over a young prospect served more to extinguish the new flame than to kindle it, and brought his impressive and entertaining career to a close.

It was probably a bit mind-numbing to comb through all of those tables for the information that I was trying to express, so here's a graph that boils down Florian's career a little more succinctly. What we have is ASR (blue) graphed alongside its three most direct contributors. You may experience a bit of dissonance when first trying to read this table, as win rate, a percentage-based stat, is represented here in the same plane as non-restricted quantities such as fights per year. But RSR and ASR, being derived from values with non-linked units, have no formal units themselves, and thus it actually proves quite illuminating to graph the factors simultaneously.

We can see that Kenny's career was really quite symmetrical. With minor exceptions, all four of the stats tracked on the graph climbed gradually to their peaks in the 2007-2009 range, and then fell off a bit quicker. For all three of those years, Kenny fought eight times in the corresponding three-year cross sections. In both 2008 and 2009, he touted a 7-1 three-year record (as opposed to 6-2 in 2007). In 2008, thanks in large part to a big win over Roger Huerta, Kenny's Adjusted Strength of Record maxed out at 1.371. As this is not a recognized measure of career quality, I will add that this is all but identical to a three-year stretch in which a fighter were to go undefeated against six opponents, all of whom were 5-0 in the time leading up to their respective bouts with said fighter. Not necessarily legendary material, but an impressive and rare accomplishment nonetheless. Though I would have been very happy to see him continue his fighting career, a steady numerical decline since 2009 perhaps indicates that his exit is rather timely. Best of luck to Kenny Florian in all his future endeavors; I'll always remember him as a guy who finished fights.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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