September 19, 2007

by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The UFC’s lightweight division has recently become the most stacked weight class in the organization and now it has a new top contender, as Kenny Florian cemented himself as one of the best fighters at 155 pounds after submitting Din Thomas at UFC Fight Night on Wednesday evening.

Ever since his title fight loss to current champion Sean Sherk, Boston native Kenny Florian has been on a mission to tear through the competition in the lightweight division, stating on numerous occasions that he only wants to fight and beat the best fighters in the world.

Taking over for an injured Spencer Fisher, Florian faced American Top Team veteran Din Thomas in a fight that would almost guarantee the winner a top slot in the division’s title race.

As the fight opened, Florian worked hard with his improving Muay Thai game as he leg kicked Thomas to keep him at bay and stay away from his heavy hands.

After an accidental groin shot from Florian, it was Thomas who taunted his opponent and the former Ultimate Fighter competitor charged in and landed two solid takedowns.

Thomas tried to return the favor when he shot in on his opponent, but Florian sprawled and instead rolled out of the position and started to rain down punches as the Florida native could only turtle up and protect his head.

Commentators noticed that after shooting in, Thomas stopped much movement at all, but the fight continued with him defending as best he could against Florian’s onslaught.

Eventually, Florian sunk his hooks in on Thomas and landed a rear naked choke, a favorite move of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and finally the fight was finished.

Florian looked impressive again, while as it was revealed after the bout that Thomas suffered a blown out knee when he shot in.

In his post fight interview, Florian again sounded confident in his ability to defeat any of the top dogs in the lightweight division, telling fighters that if the UFC comes calling they better pray they aren’t fighting Kenny Florian.

Chris Leben returned in a big way on Wednesday night with a knockout victory over Terry Martin in a fight that fans named Fight of the Night on MMAWeekly Radio.

Leben, coming off of back-to-back losses, recently moved to Hawaii to lead the new Icon gym. His approach in the bout with Martin showed a much smarter and more mature Chris Leben than fans have ever seen before.

Martin talked a lot about this fight before it happened, sounding almost too confident in how he would dominate Leben. It seemed like his overconfidence affected him in the fight, as he seemed tired late in the first round and stayed largely inactive when the fight went to the ground.

Leben was penalized a point in the first round for grabbing the fence during an attempt by Martin to take the fight to the ground, which very well could have caused Leben to lose the bout had it gone to the judges for a decision.

Leben looked crisp and effective with his punches and almost finished the fight in the second round as he locked on a triangle choke, but the round ended, saving Terry Martin.

In the third round, Martin landed a huge right hook that put Leben on his heels and he fell backwards against the cage. Instead of charging in for the win, Martin instead postured and threw up his hands to taunt Leben and it very well may have cost him the win.

Leben reacted well and came out swinging, landing the knockout blow, a huge left hand that put Martin on the canvas.

Chris Leben may have won back fans after his two recent losses and probably gained a few new ones after such a hard fought victory.

Nate Diaz was impressive, as he took out Junior Assuncao in the first round of their match-up, submitting him by guillotine choke.

Diaz looked good in all facets of the fight, dominating the jiu-jitsu on the ground and offering up the only big punch of the bout, as it was the set-up for the guillotine choke that finished off Assuncao.

Nate Quarry returned to the UFC after an almost two-year absence dealing with a serious spinal injury that could have put him out of the sport for good.

Instead, Quarry came back with a fury and knocked out Pete Sell in their rematch, winning in the third round.

Quarry appeared emotional in his post fight interview with Joe Rogan and rightfully so after inspiring so many with his amazing return to the Octagon. The former contestant on The Ultimate Fighter also garnered Fighter of the Night honors, as the fans gave that honor to Nathan Quarry for his performance against Pete Sell.

This UFC Fight Night may go down as the best show yet with all fights being finished and all being extremely exciting contests.

Kenny Florian should be commended for his performance and no one should take anything from him because of Din Thomas’ injury. Chris Leben is back and looked great in his victory, while Nate Diaz proved his win on The Ultimate Fighter was no fluke. Nathan Quarry stepping into the Octagon was an inspiration in and of itself, but winning was just the icing on the cake for him.