Kenny Florian believes the wrong man’s hand was raised in the main event of UFC 195.
“Carlos Condit won the fight,” Florian says regarding the Lawler-Condit fight for the UFC welterweight championship. “Aside from the finish, Condit had an excellent game plan and he executed it very well. He gave Robbie Lawler fits out there, and I thought that Carlos won it.”
UFC 195 showcased some of the best fighters in mixed martial arts, and the highlight of the night was the five-round main event between Lawler and Condit.
“Condit threw a lot of volume and a lot of variety,” says Florian. “He was the guy who led the dance for the majority of the fight, and he was backing Lawler up. When you have a guy like Carlos Condit, who has so much offense, you can’t allow him to go forward.”
Florian is one of two UFC fighters to compete in four different weight classes, including welterweight, middleweight, bantamweight, and flyweight divisions, but admitted that he never fought an opponent quite like Condit.
“He doesn’t go away, and he’s got a chin to back it up,” says Florian. “Condit fought as perfect a fight as you can really fight. I thought Lawler was going to be the aggressor and back Condit up, but for the majority of the fight, that was not the case.
“Lawler had his moments, and he definitely landed the more memorable shots during the fight, but what was most impressive were the variety of strikes from Condit, the sheer volume of it, and his ability to continually move forward. He had Lawler hurt a couple times, and of course he was hurt, as well, but when you look at the way Condit is built compared to the way Lawler is built, he really maximized his potential as a fighter.”
Lawler (27–10) and Condit (30–9) were awarded the $50,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus award, but the battle between the two warriors was decided by a controversial split decision. Florian believed Condit controlled the first, third, and fourth rounds of the fight, and Condit also out-scored Lawler in the “significant strike” category—which is defined as all strikes at distance and power strikes in the clinch and the ground—by an outrageous 177–93.
“There is the overall number, and then there is how you scored those shots round by round,” explains Florian. “Lawler landed 51% of his significant strikes, so his percentage was better. Carlos only landed 35% of his strikes. But here’s the deal—Robbie landed 92 significant strikes out of the 177 that he threw, and then Carlos landed 176 out of 495. That’s ridiculous, but the whole thing about significant strikes is, if I went and asked a judge, ‘Tell me what a significant strike is, and then tell me the difference between two significant strikes,’ we could get into a debate for hours. Is it a kick? A shot that lands on the head? A shot that lands on the body? What makes it more significant than the other significant strike? There is no clear cut answer to what ‘significant strike’ means and how you score them. It’s a nightmare, and the judges do not have an easy job. But based on what I saw, Condit won the fight.”
Lawler is a knockout artist, but could not knock out Condit.
“I don’t know how Condit stayed on his feet,” says Florian. “His chin is like a Zamboni, and it’s unbelievable how he was able to take that kind of punishment. Tyron Woodley said that everyone who spars with Robbie Lawler says the experience is like getting hit with an iron skillet, and he was flabbergasted at how Condit was able to eat those shots and stay standing. To not even get knocked down, let alone knocked out, was an impressive accomplishment. Condit just looks like this tall, lanky guy, but he is as tough as they come.”
Florian was astonished to see the amount of punishment both Lawler and Condit withstood, particularly in the final round.
“Lawler has been fighting for so long, so you’re waiting for the fight where he finally shows his age or his miles,” says Florian. “He’s been in so many five-round wars that it is amazing to see how far he’s come and his will to fight. He still has that competitive edge. There are some people that are just great competitors, there are some people who are great martial artists, and there are other people who are born to fight—I really believe that Lawler is all three of those, and so is Condit, and that’s why we had such an amazing fight.
“Sometimes fights get over analyzed, become too tactical, or the fighters respect each other too much and not a lot happens, so it’s great when you have the kind of fights that actually deliver. There was that respect between Lawler and Condit, but the fighters fought the way they normally fight. Condit has been one of the most exciting fighters, and one of my favorite fighters, for close to a decade, and Lawler has always been exciting. Both these guys really brought it, and we had another classic.”
The sight of an exhausted Lawler and Condit, leaning up against the cage after going the distance, was the culmination of one of the greatest rounds in the history of the welterweight division.
“I was so amped up that I was up to 2:30 a.m. just coming off the adrenaline of that fight, and I wasn’t even involved,” says Florian. “When I was a fighter, I used to have trouble sleeping after fights because I was so hyped up from the event. I still get that same feeling, and it still fires me up.”
In heavyweight action, Stipe Miocic (14–2) earned himself the $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus by knocking out Andrei Arlovski (25–11) in just fifty-four seconds. Miocic pumped two short right hands above Arlovski’s ear and rattled his equilibrium, then knocked him out to prove he is next in line for a title shot.
“I didn’t expect it to be that quick, but these are heavyweights who hit extremely hard,” says Florian. “The margin of error for guys in that weight class is so small, but here couldn’t have been a louder statement made by Stipe Miocic. Arlovski had been on a six-fight win streak and he’d looked phenomenal, but Miocic had too many ways to win. He hit hard, as we witnessed, but he’s a tremendous wrestler, his conditioning is phenomenal, and he’s a guy who can push you hard for five rounds.”
Miocic screamed at UFC president Dana White after the victory, demanding a shot at the UFC world heavyweight championship.
“I’ve been a Stipe fan, but I thought he was too quiet after he smashed Mark Hunt in his last fight,” says Florian. “When you have the mic after a fight, that is your opportunity to cut your promo. That is your advertising space as a fighter, and Stipe was a little too quiet and reserved [after the fight with Hunt], so it was great to see him unleash those emotions and say, ‘I want that shot.’ If everything plays out the way it should, he should absolutely fight the winner of [Cain] Velasquez-[Fabricio] Werdum.”
In the opening bout of the card, Abel Trujillo (13–7) choked out Tony Sims (12–4) with a guillotine choke. The victory marked the first submission victory of Trujillo’s UFC career. The card’s lone featherweight fight took place next, as Brian Ortega (10–0) remained undefeated by forcing Diego Brandão (20–11) to tap in the third round. Ortega’s skilled technique allowed him to transition from two different chokeholds into a tight triangle choke that made Brandão immediately tap.
“I saw some vulnerabilities with Ortega’s striking,” says Florian. “I still think his striking has a ways to go, and he’s still finding his comfort level in the Octagon. He’s kind of a slower starter. Guys like myself and guys like Condit and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, who aren’t built so muscularly, tend to have a slower start, so it comes down to finding the right fit that works for him, as well as filling in the holes in his striking. His ability to stay calm in very bad situations, his ability to come back, and his ability to finish on the ground are phenomenal. If he fills in the holes with his wrestling and his striking, we could have a contender at 145 pounds.”
Albert Tumenov (17–2) also defeated Lorenz Larkin (16–5) by split decision on a welterweight fight that highlighted the undercard. Florian picked Tumenov to win, but was mesmerized by Larkin’s speed and was even surprised the fight went the distance.
“I didn’t think it would last more than five minutes,” says Florian. “Tumenov pressures you, and Larkin is so fast, so it was one of those fights that could have ended in an instant.”
The difference, Florian explains, was Larkin’s inability to take away Tumenov’s speed until too late in the contest.
“When you fight a guy who moves as well as Tumenov, you’ve got to take out his legs and take away his movement,” says Florian. “Larkin started too late and respected Tumenov a little too much early on, and he still caused so much damage on the leg of Tumenov. I don’t think he really started finding those leg kicks until the second round, and Tumenov could barely walk as he went into the third round, so Tumenov may have been in big trouble had Larkin started those earlier.”
Florian excelled in his ability to finish opponents, as twelve of his fourteen victories were won by knockout or submission, and was always known for his meticulous research against opponents in the cage. There is a very intricate art, Florian explains, to finishing an opponent.
“Finishing a guy in today’s mixed martial arts is a very difficult thing to do,” says Florian. “That’s why one of my pet peeves is hearing, ‘Don’t let it go to the judges.’ These guys are fighting on such an elite level against the best guys, and neither one of them wants to get finished.
“It comes down to really doing your homework and pressuring a fighter. You’ve got to get him to panic. You’ve got to take him to a place where he’s never been before. When you’re in that foreign place with the lights off, you’re going to bump into something, and that’s what you need to do to your opponent as a fighter. It comes down to pressuring your opponent, hoping that they crack, and being sharp with your finishing skills.”
The next time the Octagon will be on display is on January 17 in Boston for a “Fight Night” card highlighted by bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw defending his title against Dominick Cruz.
“The fascinating part about this fight is that you have a master of defense in Dominick Cruz against the master of offense in TJ Dillashaw,” explains Florian. “Has Cruz’s game kept up with modern times in mixed martial arts? Physically and mentally, is Cruz 100% coming off those brutal injuries? You pretty much know what you’re going to get with TJ Dillashaw, but we’ll find out if Cruz’s game has kept up with the times, and we are going to have a highly technical main event in Boston.”
Florian is not surprised that Cruz is attempting to get into Dillashaw’s head by delivering a non-stop verbal assault.
“We saw how well it worked for Conor McGregor, and that is now part of Dominick’s evolution as a competitor,” says Florian. “When you put a little more on the line, fighters start to get emotional. A lot of fighters, especially male fighters, do not fight well when they are emotional. Cruz is trying to get into the head of Dillashaw, and that could be a factor on ‘Fight Night.’”
Florian will be in Boston for the Dillashaw-Cruz fight, and can also be found providing insight and analysis as a co-host for “UFC Tonight” on Fox Sports 1, as well as heard every Monday on the “The Jon Anik and Kenny Florian Podcast.”
Even though Florian was impressed with UFC 195, the marred decision left a sour taste in his mouth. If Florian had his way, Condit would receive his rematch against Lawler this July at UFC 200.
“I would like to see a rematch, and I absolutely think Condit deserves it,” says Florian. “I know there are a lot of other challengers out there—Tyron Woodley was a little ticked off because he wants his shot, and there are a lot of other guys, like Demian Maia, waiting in the wings, but you have to do the rematch. It’s too good of a fight, and too controversial of a fight, to not do it again.
“Lawler would like to do it again, and he can make some adjustments—he did not fight a perfect fight, but Condit fought as perfect a fight as you could. To see how long Condit has been fighting and how long he has been near the top, I absolutely think he deserves another shot.”