We’ve called it “a Fight of the Year waiting to happen” — and luckily, it’s happening. Sources have confirmed that top UFC lightweight contenders Roger Huerta and Kenny Florian will face each other at UFC 87 (August 9th; Minneapolis, MN), with the winner all but guaranteed an immediate shot at the 155-pound belt.
Huerta is 16-0 with one no-contest in his last 17 fights (22-1-1 +1 NC overall), including six consecutive victories in the UFC; by UFC 87, he will have been inactive for eight months. Kenny Florian most recently dispatched Joe Lauzon at UFC Fight Night 13, and hasn’t suffered a defeat since his title fight against Sean Sherk in October 2006. As Florian told MMAWeekly:
“[Huerta is] a game opponent, and he’s never going to quit. It doesn’t matter how tired he gets, he’s gonna keep going, and those are the kind of guys that I want to fight. He’s on a roll, he’s very confident right now. And I like the kid. I know him personally. He’s a good kid, and we get along great. He has a bright future, regardless of what happens in the fight with me.”
See, when Florian talks trash, it’s so subtle that you barely notice it.
Huerta/Florian is such an outstanding matchup because it seems like both fighters’ career trajectories have been pushing them towards each other. It’s not a title fight, but it has all the importance of one, and will help to establish a clear ranking order in the UFC’s lightweight division. (For the same reasons, Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson is also one of those fights that needs to happen.) Let us know your early predictions in the comments section and in our new poll. For those of you who have bought into the “Roger Huerta is overhyped and hasn’t faced tough competition” line, here’s my rebuttal: Winning 16 straight fights is an amazing achievement no matter who you’ve fought, because 1) every opponent represents a different style challenge that may cause problems for you, even if they’re a lesser fighter on paper, and 2) everybody gets caught once in a while. An undefeated record or a monstrous win streak like Huerta’s shows that a fighter is well-rounded enough to handle whatever he encounters in the cage, and doesn’t make the minor errors in judgment that lead to eating an unexpected right hook.
I’m not saying he’ll win; I’m just sayin’.