A title shot is on the line when Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard lock horns at UFC 118. UFC president Dana White confirmed that yesterday. The winner will get the victor from the B.J. Penn-Frank Edgar. This is a heck of an opportunity for Maynard, who enters the cage for just the 10th time in his career. Maynard has added to game over the years but he's still a wrestler by trade. The last time we saw Kenny Florian face an elite former college wrestler, he basically spent the entire time on his back against Sean Sherk. But that was almost four years ago and Florian is a much more well-rounded fighter now.
Who's helped Florian shore up the holes in his wrestling game recently? UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre.
"I don't think you can get a better (training) partner at this point (to work on your wrestling). George really is at the top of his game. His wrestling is second to none," said Florian co-trainer Firas Zahabi, who is also the trainer for GSP (1:45 mark). "He's never competed as a wrestler, not very much (but) his wrestling, don't be mistaken, it's the best. Nobody's watched GSP train more than I have and I've seen him go with top level wrestlers and I'll tell you, he has taken everyone he's ever wrestled or sparred with down repeatedly."
While on ProMMARadio (1:02:30 mark), Florian raved about how much St. Pierre has helped him with his grappling.
"I consider him the best wrestler in mixed martial arts," said Florian (Audio clip). "He's about 200 pounds right now, very quick, very strong. I've been training with him for the last three fights. I know I'll be ready. Georges has helped me so much with my wrestling and overall game that I feel like this is the best point to meet a guy like Gray Maynard."
The transformation from solid jiu-jitsu and striking artist to a complete fighter hasn't happened overnight for Florian.
"Beating a guy like Gray or stopping his wrestling in one training camp is not going to happen. That's the reality of it. So I've been working on it for a long time now," said Florian (14-4, 11-3 UFC). "I've also been working a lot with John Cholish, who wrestled over at Cornell, he was an All-American there. I've been bringing a lot of guys in."
This fight could come down to Maynard's work with boxing coach Gil Martinez. If Maynard (9-0, 7-0 UFC) can't score the takedown then he'll need to outstrike Florian. That won't be easy. After working heavily over the last few years with boxing coach Peter Welch, Florian is a good volume puncher, who's broken down several opponents on the feet before getting them down and finishing fights via submission.