By all rights, Florian should have at least felt soothed by the embrace of his city. The 34-year-old lightweight graduated from Boston College and he owns an academy in neighboring Brookline. Instead, he heard a chorus of disappointment, led by his boss.
"I hate to say this because I don't want to take anything away from Gray Maynard, but I think Kenny is just one of those guys who chokes in big fights," UFC president Dana White said. "I'm not bad-mouthing him or trying to disrespect him; I'm just being honest. Every time it's a big fight and there's a lot of things on the line, Kenny just ... Kenny's hands are unbelievable. Kenny's ground is unbelievable. Kenny usually kicks guys to the body and legs so hard that he busts guys up. You didn't see any of that tonight. He stood there and stared at Gray Maynard for three rounds."
To be fair, Florian did once win a No. 1 contenders fight with Joe Stevenson, a fight he dominated en route to a first-round submission. He also handled the always-tough Roger Huerta and recently buzzed through Japanese legend Takanori Gomi. But he's also stumbled badly on big stages. On The Ultimate Fighter season 1 finale, he was TKO'd by Diego Sanchez. When he fought for the title against Sean Sherk, he was routed in a five-round decision.
But even if you made a case that Florian was fighting out of his weight class (in the TUF finale) and too green (in the Sherk fight), he also has his share of more recent issues.
When he faced Penn in his second title match last August, he got choked out in the fourth. And now, his most recent issue.
According to Compustrike, Maynard easily oustruck Florian, landing 60 strikes to Florian's 28 over the three-rounder. And things got worse each round. By the final round, despite the fact that Florian was behind, Maynard connected 27 times to Florian's 11.
"You'd think his corner would say, 'Dude, you just lost the first two rounds.' No sense of urgency in the third round," White said. "Not saying, 'I need a knockout or submission in this round.' None of it. Nothing. And I guarantee you if Kenny comes back and fights one of the mid-level guys, he'll probably run through them like a f---ing freight train. But the big fights? He crumbles, man."
So instead of a third crack at the lightweight title, Florian finds himself at a crossroads. He's got a boss who questions his mettle in the tough moments, he's knocked a few pegs down the lightweight ladder, and he's 34 years old.
"I love Kenny Florian, I've known him since season one of The Ultimate Fighter," White said. "He's one of the best fighters in the world, but in the big fights, he chokes in the big fights. He's here in his hometown, another shot at title and he sits in front of Gray Maynard for three rounds. He couldn't let anything go. Gray Maynard fought his fight, did what he wanted to do, and dominated him tonight."