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Sean Sherk vs. Kenny Florian - Enter the 'Mighty Mites'

By Cliff Montgomery,
One battle which will be at UFC 64: Unstoppable on October 14th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, may be remembered as a watershed moment in the young sport. Though the UFC has not had a lightweight (145-155 pounds) champion since 2003, UFC 64 will see the full return of the division, with the re-instated lightweight championship to be decided between these 'mighty mites' Sean Sherk--who is moving down from the welterweight division--and Kenny Florian.

Why the change? Thanks to the growing demand for UFC matches and activities, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) sport needs more high-profile matches to fill the cards--hence the reason for bringing back the old lightweight division.

So who are these two young men? Let's start with:

Kenny Florian

Florian is an American Mixed Martial Artist with a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). He is best known for his appearance on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 'reality' show, where he lost the middleweight final to Diego Sanchez.

He was born in Westwood, Massachusetts on May 26, 1976 to immigrant parents from South America. As a child, he excelled in many sports, including soccer, tennis, and the martial arts. In fact at one point, soccer became so important to Kenny that he began to practice and play the sport year round, putting any martial arts studies aside.

Florian attended Boston College, where his soccer playing earned him Big-East academic all-star status. But after graduating from the school with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications, Florian began taking jiu-jitsu more seriously. He started training under a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Roberto Maia, at BJJ/Gracie Barra in Watertown, MA.

Florian made his MMA debut in February 2004 at Mass Destruction 15, defeating Bobby McAndrews in under 2 minutes by kimura.

Kenny went on to compete on that famed first season of TUF as a middleweight, losing in the first round of the middleweight final due to strikes.

Following his loss to Sanchez, Florian rebounded at the first Ultimate Fight Night to defeat fellow TUF-1 competitor Alex Karalexis, creating a vicious cut across Alex's nose. Kenny then quickly went on to face Muay Thai competitor Kit Cope, beating Cope with a rear naked choke submission early in round 2. His most recent UFC fight saw him against Canadian TKO World Champion Sam Stout at The Ultimate Fighter 3 season finale; Florian won in the first round by rear naked choke.

Kenny currently has a MMA record of 4-2. But don't let that fool you; Florian has some real fight experience under his belt. Many of his bouts occurred among fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. Florian competed internationally and in numerous BJJ open weight class tournaments.

Sean Sherk

By comparison, much of Sean Sherk's experience is in MMA. Sean "The Muscle Shark" Sherk possesses an amazing professional MMA record of 30-2-1, as of September 4th, 2006. Sean has fought in both the UFC and PRIDE, and has understandably drawn comparisons in style and body-type to American wrestler and UFC Champion Matt Hughes. In fact at first glance, you almost believe you're looking at Hughes when Sherk walks into the octagon.

Born in St Francis MN, Sean began wrestling at the young age of 7. Over his 11 year wrestling career he racked up over 400 matches.

In the mid 90's Sherk began to get interested in martial arts. After discovering the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, he began to study Boxing, Shoot Wrestling, and Muay Thai. Finding that his wrestling background gave him a distinct advantage on the mat, Sean also began taking up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

He soon became a professional MMA fighter, but continued to work as a machinist, somehow fitting his full-time job into a very aggressive training schedule. He had improved his record to 15-0 and was ranked 10th in the world when he was laid off from his job. As luck would have it, this helped give him the time--and the incentive--to make his UFC debut in 2001.

Two years later, he was still undefeated (17-0-1) and the world's second-ranked welterweight (170 pounds). He penned a three-fight UFC contract and earned his first UFC title match. That was against Matt Hughes, the man widely considered to be MMA's greatest welterweight champion. Hughes won a five-round unanimous decision; it was Sherk's first career loss.

Moving to PRIDE, Sean continued to work as hard as ever and went on a 12-bout winning streak, beating most of his opponents by submission. One of the highlights of his career was fighting in Pride Bushido 2 against Ryuki Ueyama, where Sherk's Japanese fans gave him the nickname "Muscle Shark."

Sherk has fought in the Extreme Challenge, King of the Cage, Pancrase, TKO, Extreme Challenge, the UFC, and PRIDE.

"I don't really get a kick out of beating people up," says Sherk. "For me, fighting is about the competition."

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