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UFC 136 co-headliners Aldo and Florian have points to prove

Aldo is back after a perceived subpar performance at UFC 129

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Galen Nathanson, Denver Post

Jose Aldo makes his entrance to the cage at WEC 51 on Sept. 30, 2010, at 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo.

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Jose Aldo dominated challenger Mark Hominick for the opening 20 minutes of their UFC featherweight championship fight six months ago.

So excuse Aldo for a little frustration over the fact that the masses remember the bout more for its final five minutes, when Hominick fought off a baseball-sized hematoma on his head to pummel the champion from top position.

Aldo has heard people allege that he was exhausted and Hominick was close to finishing him. But Aldo says that’s false. He simply found himself in a bad spot, and knowing how far ahead he was in the fight, Aldo opted to ride out the barrage.

He still took a unanimous decision in his UFC debut and considers the victory the highlight of his career.

“The night was wonderful,” Aldo said through a translator. “It couldn’t have been much better.”

Perhaps the lopsided fifth round ended up as a positive for Aldo, too. Aldo (19-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) now has added motivation to show he’s level above the competition at featherweight headed into a UFC 136 title fight against Kenny Florian (15-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC).

Aldo wants to prove his conditioning is nothing but world class by not encountering any danger against Florian. It’s a tall order, as Florian provides a whole new challenge for the 25-year-old champion.

Aldo has wiped out all nine men standing in his way since coming to America from his native Brazil, but Florian projects to be his strongest opponent yet. Florian spent the bulk of his career at lightweight before dropping to featherweight earlier this year.

“I think that generally he hasn’t faced a guy who is as well-rounded and experienced as I am,” Florian said. “That’s what I’m going to bring in there.”

The question is how much that experience will translate against Aldo. A cynic would say not much based on Florian’s history.

Click to enlarge photo

Kenny Florian is shown moments after losing to UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn at UFC 101 on Aug. 8, 2009.

Florian doesn’t have the most impressive track record in high-profile bouts. He’s 0-2 in championship fights, 1-1 in bouts to determine the No. 1 contender and got knocked out in the finals of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” by Diego Sanchez.

UFC President Dana White has gone as far as to say Florian “chokes” in big fights. Florian doesn’t like to talk about the chatter and says it doesn’t bother him.

But he’d like to make it a non-issue. A win over Aldo would silence all the choking claims and make them a distant memory. Florian said all the previous experiences had prepared him for the UFC 136 co-main event.

“You’re always going to have a different mindset based on your training camp, based on your opponent,” Florian said. “I’ve always learned from each previous camp, win or lose. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve fixed those mistakes.”

If Florian remains winless in championship bouts after Saturday, it’s hard to imagine him receiving another title shot anytime soon. This one could even appear as premature, as Florian only has one career fight at featherweight.

And although he beat Diego Nunes at UFC 131 via unanimous decision, it was far from one-sided. Nunes won the first round and knocked Florian down in the third.

But Aldo had no thoughts on the timing of Florian’s chance to pry away his belt. Neither Aldo nor Florian have any barbs or negatives to throw in the other’s direction.

They’re dealing with their own battles.

“Kenny felt this was the right time for him to move to 145,” Aldo said. “I respect him. I’m focused on my own training. My opponent doesn’t matter as long as he’s in there well prepared.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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