EXCLUSIVE | Kenny Florian Breaks Down Henderson-Melendez and Diaz-Thomson | BJPENN.COM Radio
Former UFC title contender and current analyst & commentator Kenny “Ken-Flo” Florian joined BJPENN.COM Radio on Wednesday, April 17 to discuss a number of topics that the MMA world has been buzzing about.
This weekend, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization makes its return to FOX, with the main event pitting UFC Lightweight Champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson against the last remaining Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez. Florian gave his thought on the upcoming title fight, as well as the skills that both fighters will have to use in order to achieve victory.
“We saw what happened in the Frankie Edgar fight with Benson Henderson, and he had a tough time with Frankie. I don’t think Gilbert Melendez has the same kind of speed as Frankie Edgar, but he certainly has those-that skill set that’s going to be dangerous and it’s a very dangerous match-up for Benson because of that wrestling background, because of [Melendez’s] excellent boxing skills” Florian started, noting that Melendez possesses tools that Benson’s past opponents haven’t been able to mix together as well as “El Nino” might.
“When Gilbert Melendez gets on the inside man, he looks to crack you and he just doesn’t throw one or two punches; he throws very good combinations and all of them are meant to hurt you badly. So he has knockout power, we’ve seen that, he has the wrestling background to give Benson problems with, I think. We’ve seen Benson in trouble; when Benson isn’t able to get his wrestling going, we see him in trouble. His wrestling opens up his striking and his striking opens up his wrestling, and if Gilbert Melendez can really thwart those takedown attempts in the early rounds, who knows; we might see a new champ. But, Benson-with that said- Benson Henderson is fighting with such great confidence right now, and a certain “swag” I guess, if you will, that I see right now it’s going to be really difficult to take away that belt from him.”
Florian then made note of the fact that during his tenure as a top Lightweight contender, he enlisted Henderson to train with him during camp. Those training sessions provided a deeper look into the current UFC Champion, and certainly grabbed Ken-Flo’s attention.
“I always knew Benson was a hard worker, and I always knew he’d be one of the top guys. I guess to be perfectly honest I am a little surprised, but pleasantly surprised with what he’s done,” Florian said. “He’s always been an excellent athlete, but the way he’s putting things together and the amount of work that he’s putting in to improve his skills is evident. He’s really improved his striking; he knows exactly what he needs to do to become a better fighter as far as improving his boxing, improving his counter-boxing skills and getting even more comfortable on the ground, and he’s doing all those things.
“So, I think it’s his confidence, I think that is really carrying his game right now, and all the while he is working on those other sets of skills, and that’s a dangerous combination. Benson has always been one of the better athletes that I’ve trained with and one of the hardest working guys, and I guess I’m not surprised with him being a champion right now, I just think that, you know, it was one of those things where the division was so stacked and Benson was kind of coming up from the WEC at the time when I was training with him, and the leaps and bounds that he’s made in his game have been tremendous. I’m very, very happy for the guy because he’s such a hard working guy and a very, very humble guy.”
Not only did Florian give his thoughts on the main event, but also on another pivotal lightweight contest matching Nate Diaz against Josh Thomson, another Strikeforce veteran, who the current UFC analyst noted could pose a threat to the Stockton native.
“I think that for Nate Diaz, he’s always kind of struggled against guys who can wrestle, and I think that’s what Josh Thompson has to do. There’s two things that you have to do to beat any Diaz brother, Nick or Nate, and that is have tremendous wrestling-have very good wrestling base- and be very good with your footwork. You have to be able to avoid that straight ahead, forward pressure, beat up your body, high volume striking game, and a lot of guys who are flat-footed and maybe have good power, you know, they can hurt one of the Diaz brothers every one in a while, but more than anything else you have to get angles on them, you have to circle away from their pressure like Carlos Condit did, you have to be a good wrestler like we saw with GSP and Benson Henderson in their fight, so I think that’s going to be critical and I think Josh Thomson has those skills to be able to give Nate a tough time out there.”
The unofficial “UFC vs. Strikeforce” event also features Daniel Cormier vs. former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, and airs this Saturday, April 20 at 8:00 PM EST on FOX.
To listen to the full-length interview with Kenny Florian, listen to the player below or visit BJPENN.COM Radio’s blog talk channel and listen on demand.
To hear to the full-length interview with Kenny Florian, listen to the player below or visit the BJPENN.COM Radio channel and listen on demand.