By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly.com
When Kenny Florian won his fight with Chris Leben in the semi-finals of the “Ultimate Fighter” people started to notice the one time lightweight fighter from Boston. Florian was probably the most undersized fighter in the 185lb division, but took the opportunity because as everyone on the show knew, it was a once in a lifetime shot at an automatic chance to get into the UFC. Florian, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, got his shot to win the entire competition when he took on Diego Sanchez in the finale.
Diego Sanchez, who fought more than anyone else during the show, was also somewhat undersized for a 185lb fighter, but definitely had the strength advantage when he took on Florian in their fight. Although Florian looked ready and had enough time to prepare for his fight with Sanchez, he was simply overmatched. The New Mexico native didn’t take much time to put Florian on his back and pound away at him.
A vicious strike reminiscent of the one that Florian unleashed to end Chris Leben’s run at the championship, landed flush on the bridge of Kenny’s nose, leaving him bloody and gasping for air. A few more shots from the mount and the referee had no choice but to pull Diego off of Florian and with that the first winner of the “Ultimate Fighter” was crowned and the hopeful from Boston who originally wasn’t even slated to be on the show walked out defeated.
Kenny Florian was obviously disappointed in his performance, but he knew that with the right time and training he could step back into the octagon and be a winner. His opponent on the August 6th show doesn’t have very much experience in MMA, but he definitely has the right attitude to be a success.
Alex Karalexis, another Boston kid, stepped into the “Ultimate Fighter” as one of the most untested fighters on the show. Having only a handful of fights before the show started, most people didn’t give Karalexis much of a shot when he started. Despite the fact that he had much less experience, he seemed ready to take a shot at Diego Sanchez when he was picked as his opponent during one of the first fights on the show. Karalexis came out swinging for the fences but when the fight hit the ground it was very apparent that his game was still lacking some fundamentals.
Sanchez worked away at Karalexis from the top position and eventually Alex turned over giving the submission specialist an opening he was looking for. Diego sunk in a deep rear naked choke and Karalexis had no other choice but to tap out. When Alex Karalexis got his shot at redemption when he took on another of Diego’s victims from the show, he didn’t take long to dispatch of Cincinnati native, Josh Rafferty.
Rafferty, who trains with current UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin, tried to stand with Karalexis, but shortly into the first round he attempted to take the fight to the ground, instead Karalexis reigned down on him with punches. Stopping at one point to look at the referee as if to motion that Rafferty was dazed, Karalexis finished the fight with one more shot to the face. Karalexis was victorious in his second attempt into the octagon, and now he will try to make it two in a row against Kenny Florian.
This fight has the opportunity to be a classic grappler vs. striker match-up. Florian, the submission specialist has great ground skill but didn’t mind standing up with Chris Leben in their fight, managing to take several tough shots and not going down. Karalexis is very heavy handed and the biggest test that this fight has is which fighter has learned more in the last few months. Will Karalexis be able to keep the fight standing if Florian works for multiple takedowns, and if the fight does get to the ground, can he keep from being submitted by a Jiu-Jitsu black belt fighter? Will the fight against Diego Sanchez in the live finale leave Florian rattled for this match-up as well? Both fighters will be trying to make their mark when they meet in Las Vegas on August 6th.