Former one-time UFC middleweight and career lightweight Kenny Florian announced on ESPN's MMA Live he finally had his first opponent for his drop to featherweight. The season-one participant and Boston-native will take on Diego Nunes, who is coming off the biggest win of his career by besting former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown. Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes is part of the UFC 131 fight card, which is headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Junior dos Santos.
Florian confirmed the news later on Twitter for those who missed the broadcast:
**Fight Announcement** I'm fighting a very tough Diego Nunes at featherweight June 11th in beautiful Vancouver at UFC 131.
When I learned about Florian's decision to drop to featherweight, here was my original take:
Is this actually a good idea? There's no such thing as an absolute cut. In other words, cutting a weight class is often precisely what ails a fighter struggling to reach their goals and is simultaneously an overused tactic that fails to provide competitive advantage. My hope is Florian's first fight is not against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, but against another top contender so we are able to see how the cut affect his cardio, strength, speed and other relevant fighting factors.
Florian is 34. He doesn't have much time left to be in the title hunt. Provided the cut doesn't tear him apart physically, his presence at 145lbs significantly enhances the strength of the top of the division. That's best case scenario. Until we actually see what toll the cut takes and how he is able to perform at that weight, I remain undecided on the move.
Nothing has changed since that time, although I can say Nunes is an excellent first test for Florian's featherweight gamble. He's very well-rounded, a natural featherweight and has sufficient cardio to be competitive for three full rounds. His only loss is a 2009 defeat to L.C. Davis and he's claimed victories over Cole Province, Rafael Dias, Raphael Assuncao and Tyler Toner.
I favor Florian early, provided the cut isn't too dramatic. Nunes isn't a speed demon. Florian is also a better technician standing and should be stronger. All other factors being equal, that's enough to get past his first test at featherweight. But this prediction relies on too many assumptions too early in the process to have any real veracity. This entire endeavor is a serious late-career gamble by Florian. The MMA world is very curious to see if he can pull it off.