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UFC 131 Fight Card: Kenny Florian's Journey to Featherweight

Saturday at UFC 131, Kenny Florian will accomplish a rare feat in MMA: He'll compete in his fourth weight class.

When Florian steps into the cage Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, it'll continue a journey that has spanned six years, four weight classes, 40 pounds and 16 fights. Florian started as a middleweight competing on "The Ultimate Fighter" and will fight at UFC 131 as a featherweight when he faces 16-1 Diego Nunes in a bout that will have big implications on the division.

Let's take a look at the 35-year old Florian's journey through the UFC's middleweight, welterweight and lightweight divisions:


Record: 0-1

Florian moved to middleweight exclusively for a chance to compete on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter." At the time, the fight schedule and format were very disjointed and Florian had to fight only once to make it to the live finale. In that bout on the show, Florian was a big underdog to Chris Leben but cut Leben with an elbow, forcing a doctor's stoppage due to the laceration.

Florian moved on to the finale against Diego Sanchez. Florian was overwhelmed and stopped with punches from mount at 2:49 of the first round.


Record: 2-0

Everyone knew Florian was blown up at middleweight, so he dropped to the lowest active weight class in the UFC at the time: Welterweight.

In limited action, Florian saw success at 170 pounds, racking up two stoppage wins in two fights. At the first ever Ultimate Fight Night in August 2005, Florian stopped fellow TUF contestant Alex Karalexis with another elbow and he followed that up with a dominant submission win over noted muay Thai striker Kit Cope. In that fight, Florian nearly finished the fight with an armbar at the end of the first round. Cope was saved by the bell but had a damaged wing coming into the second round and was quickly submitted.


Record: 9-3

When Florian entered the UFC, it was a four weight class promotion. After UFC 49 in August 2004, the UFC did not promote another lightweight bout until UFC 58 in March 2006. On that show, Florian was scheduled to face Sam Stout on the show's preliminary card to mark the company's first lightweight bout since UFC 49. Unfortunately for Florian, he had to pull out of the bout and went on to face Stout in the main event of "The Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale." Florian quickly dispatched of Stout with a rear-naked choke in under two minutes and earned a shot to fight Sean Sherk for the vacant UFC lightweight title in the promotion's first lightweight title bout since B.J. Penn and Caol Uno drew at UFC 42.

In the biggest fight of his career, Florian couldn't stop Sherk's takedowns. He cut Sherk with an elbow that bled all over the place, but lost a unanimous decision (49-46x2, 50-45).

Despite losing that fight, Florian would get on a roll, winning his next six fights, five by stoppage. After the second win of that stretch, a first-round stoppage of Alvin Robinson at UFC 73, Florian delivered his famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask), post-fight interview when he declared "I finish fights!" To his credit, he has mostly delivered on that, finishing eight of his nine wins at lightweight. The only decision in that span came in a clean sweep of Roger Huerta at UFC 87.

Florian earned his second shot at the lightweight crown when he dismantled Joe Stevenson at UFC 91, shocking most by the way he dissected Stevenson, winning by rear-naked choke in 4:01. Florian earned his shot at champion B.J. Penn in the main event of UFC 101. Again, Florian had trouble getting off the blocks and was submitted by Penn with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round.

After posting back-to-back rear-naked choke wins over Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi, Florian lost a title eliminator to Gray Maynard at UFC 118. He was supposed to fight Evan Dunham at UFC Fight for the Troops 2 but had to pull out due to a knee injury. With the UFC adding the featherweight division after swallowing World Extreme Cagefighting, Florian decided his new home would be at 145 pounds.


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