File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Kenny Florian views himself as the more complete fighter as he heads into his UFC Fight Night 21 main event with former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Takanori Gomi on Wednesday at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C.
“I think Takanori Gomi is a very dangerous fighter,” Florian said. “I think I’m a bit more refined in all areas. I train very hard so that I have the advantage in all aspects.”
Florian has lost only twice -- to former champion Sean Sherk in a five-round decision and to current titleholder B.J. Penn in a fourth-round submission -- as a lightweight. A runner-up on Season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the multi-faceted 32-year-old last fought in December, when he submitted Clay Guida with a rear-naked choke at UFC 107. Florian, though a potential third run at the lightweight belt remains in his plans, has Gomi in his crosshairs.
“Right now, I’m just kind of concerned with just winning, and that’s going to be the most important thing,” he said. “I don’t make any of those decisions of who gets the next spot, as far as next shot at the belt or anything like that. That’s not even on my mind.
Florian prefers to zero in on the immediate challenge.
“I think any time you look too far ahead, you can get yourself into some trouble,” he said, “so I’ll just try to really stay focused on what I need to do, strategy wise and tactically, to beat Takanori Gomi.”
He figures to have his hands full with Gomi. Though he no longer resembles the man who once dominated Pride, the 31-year-old Japanese star has tasted defeat only five times -- his 2007 loss to Nick Diaz was overturned -- in his 12-year career. Gomi has enjoyed two double-digit winning streaks as a professional and has proven himself as one of the sport’s most durable competitors. In 37 career appearances, he has never been knocked out.
Florian has braced himself for the possibility of a drawn-out stand-up encounter.
“Gomi is very, very fast,” Florian said. “He has knockout power in both of his hands, and I think you always have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. That’s something I’ve been doing, and I’ve been able to train with some very experienced and dangerous strikers in my sparring. I feel I’ll be prepared for that if that’s where the fight goes. Obviously, the fight starts standing, so I’m prepared to go all 15 minutes standing if I need to.”
Though Gomi has lost some of his luster in recent years, Florian views him as no less of a threat. He will carry a two-fight winning streak into his UFC debut, along with a formidable resume that includes victories over Tatsuya Kawajiri, Mitsuhiro Ishida and Hayato "Mach" Sakurai.
“I mean, he’s been one the best fighters in the lightweight division for many years,” Florian said. “I’m a big fan of Pride, and Gomi has been at the top of food chain for a long time.”
Florian welcomes Gomi’s presence in the UFC’s lightweight ranks.
“As fighters, we all want to fight the best, but I never thought it would happen. I never thought that Gomi would come over to the UFC,” he said. “He’s looking for a big challenge in his career right now, and that’s exciting. I think it’s a huge treat for the hardcore fans who’ve been following this sport for a while.”