UFC 87 Breakdown: Huerta vs. Florian

Aug 5, 2008
With incumbent UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn (Pictures) already champing at the bit to reclaim his aspirations of multidivision domination, the task falls to the winner of Saturday’s UFC 87 dustup between Roger "El Matador" Huerta (Pictures) and Kenny Florian (Pictures) to provide the challenge that Penn so eagerly seeks.

Regardless of the long-term repercussions of the bout, however, fans get to see two of the division’s most exciting up-and-comers match wits and fists in a bout that has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. While the excitement factor is obvious, figuring out who has the edge is like trying to speed read James Joyce.

Roger Huerta (Pictures) Scouting Report

Ht/Wt: 5’9/155 lbs.
Age: 25
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Fighting out of: Minneapolis, Minn.
MMA Record: 20-1-1, 1 NC

Did You Know? Huerta’s MMA mentor is actually former UFC middleweight champion Dave Menne (Pictures), who became Huerta’s trainer after “El Matador” found himself unfulfilled by the grind of the collegiate wrestling season at Augsburg College.

Bio: Mirroring the hard-knock upbringing of your average boxer or hip-hop impresario, Huerta was left without a home, family and money for most of his formative years. But that relentless struggle kindled an unnatural tenacity in the native Californian that is apparent anytime he enters the cage.

Known for maintaining a relentless pace, Huerta has a knack for creating offense from virtually any position -- a skill best highlighted by his jumbo-tron-aided elbows against jiu-jitsu wunderkind Alberto Crane (Pictures).

Now coming off an epic comeback win against the always rugged Clay Guida (Pictures), Huerta shoulders the burden of burgeoning stardom with seeming ease after spending years dealing with circumstances that would wither the wills of most.

On his opponent: Huerta has been keeping a training blog on UFC.com. “Let’s just hope Kenny is training as hard as I have,” he said of Florian. “I’m taking this fight very, very seriously and I respect him as a fighter and an opponent, but he’s in my way right now.”

Why he’ll win: Huerta has the kind of all-out style that can disrupt the measured, cerebral approach that has become synonymous with Florian. We’ve seen in his bouts with Crane, Guida and Doug Evans (Pictures) that Huerta can handle adversity on the ground long enough to find a way to win. Don’t discount Huerta’s rangy and versatile striking either, which can turnaround any fight in the time it takes Ron Artest to blow a fuse.

Why he’ll lose: You have to wonder how much longer Huerta can get away with losing points on the ground and rallying late to pull wins out of nowhere. If Florian’s wrestling proves strong enough to control Huerta on the ground, we could see the luck of “El Matador” run out in a hurry.

Kenny Florian (Pictures) Scouting Report

Ht/Wt: 5’10/155 lbs.
Age: 32
Hometown: Westwood, Mass.
Fighting out of: Boston, Mass.
MMA Record: 9-3

Did You Know? Florian is an alumnus of Boston College who was working for a Harvard-based translation services company before switching to MMA. The sheepskin still comes in handy, however, as Florian has co-hosted multiple UFC events and was chosen by ESPN as a commentator for “MMA Live.”

Bio: One of the most successful products of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Florian competed on the show as a middleweight and managed to reach the final round before losing to Diego Sanchez (Pictures).

It was that loss that convinced Florian to move down to his customary weight of 155 pounds, where he refocused his training regime under the tutelage of Boston-based MMA guru Mark DellaGrotte. Despite a loss to Sean Sherk (Pictures) in a UFC title bout that perhaps came a bit too early for a still-developing Florian, the results have been tremendous as “KenFlo” has been flashing much-improved muay Thai and wrestling to complement his already highly regarded jiu-jitsu game.

In fact, Florian has reeled off four straight stoppage wins since that October 2006 loss to Sherk with the most recent being a ground-and-pound dismantling of fellow Bostonian Joe Lauzon (Pictures). Already on the verge of another title shot, getting bullish on “El Matador” would all but guarantee Florian a second chance at UFC gold.

On his opponent: Like Huerta, Florian is a contributor to UFC.com. “There’s no playing around, you’ve got to take him out, especially a guy like Roger,” Florian said recently, “because the longer you keep him in there, the more of a threat he is, and we saw that against Clay Guida (Pictures).”

Why he’ll win: Huerta has gotten himself into plenty of hairy situations on the canvas because of his almost reckless aggression, and Florian has the patience and skill to exploit that approach. A decorated grappler with the positioning and ground striking to match, Florian could prove to be Huerta’s kryptonite if he can consistently gain the top position.

Why he’ll lose: Florian has been flashing some excellent muay Thai of late, but he lacks knockout power. If he gets a bit too daring on the feet, Huerta has the gusto and artillery to rock Florian and capitalize. Indeed, while many have questioned Florian’s ability to decisively finish bouts, Huerta has the killer instinct of Jason Voorhees.

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The Bottom Line: While you can never count out the tried and true Mexican fighting spirit of Huerta, Florian is just too technical and cerebral a fighter to make the same kind of foolish mistake that cost Guida so dearly against Huerta.

Expect three rounds of rollicking action, but Florian will control most of it. His improved wrestling consistently lands Huerta on his back, where “El Matador” will struggle to stymie the jiu-jitsu of “KenFlo.” The scorecards will tell the story, as Florian notches a unanimous decision in his favor.
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