Ultimate Fighting Championship brought an exciting five fight UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) main card to Houston, Texas and Toyota Center last night (Oct. 3, 2015) and it featured a light heavyweight title headliner pitting champion Daniel Cormier against No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson.
In the main event, "DC" and "The Mauler" left it all in the Octagon, battering each other with a plethora of uppercuts and hooks over 25 minutes until they were both busted up, with the former holding onto his strap via split decision.
Ryan Bader picked up the biggest win of his budding mixed martial arts (MMA) career when he cruised to a unanimous-decision victory over the returning former 205-pound champion Rashad Evans. In complete contrast of the evening's main event, "Vader" had his hands and legs going all night as he routinely picked apart "Suga" in the striking game over three rounds (highlights here).
With UFC 192 in the books, and the night's marquee bouts recapped, it's now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches to Make."
Winner: Daniel Cormier
Who he should fight next: Jon Jones
With "Bones" shadow seemingly looming over this past weekend's event, it's almost a forgone conclusion that these two will reconnect in the Octagon sometime in the near future. And if UFC president Dana White has any say in it, who was in attendance at Jones' plea agreement hearing last week (video), it could be sooner rather than later.
Let's face it, Bader is a fine candidate for the No. 1 contender spot, especially after blanking a dangerous foe like Evans in the co-main event. A winner of five straight fights now -- all decision victories -- Bader also has the selling point of a brewing rivalry with the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).
Other light heavyweights, such as Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira, don't possess the resumes just yet to warrant a shot at the crown after failing pretty abysmally in their first attempts.
In a mixed martial arts (MMA) world where wolf tickets are sold and feuds are manufactured, the bad blood between Cormier and Jones is very much real. A title rematch would be ideal.
Winner: Ryan Bader
Who he should fight next: Anthony Johnson
With his last win over Evans, Bader now boasts a superb 13-4 record competing in UFC's light heavyweight division and you have to give credit where credit is due.
First known as just a standout collegiate wrestler, the Power MMA stud has transformed his offensive repertoire right before our very eyes. Similarly to his fellow Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alum Josh Koscheck, the 32-year-old is now a versatile kickboxer, with solid footwork and a sleek frame.
He looked very fresh and light on his feet for the entire duration of time he spent in the Octagon with Evans.
"Rumble" recently vanished Jimi Manuwa in a first-round TKO stoppage at the UFC 191 PPV last month and is still very much a viable contender in the 205-pound division. With Johnson, who is now 4-1 in his second UFC stint, cementing his place atop the division, it makes sense he challenge one of the very best as well to determine the next contender in-line following a future Cormier vs. Jones scrap.
Here's another reason why Bader and Johnson need to face off.
Winner: Ruslan Magomedov
Who he should fight next: Stefan Struve
Magomedov utilized his range and technical boxing skills to take a unanimous-decision win (recap here) over former LSU fullback Shawn Jordan on UFC 192's main card.
With nine straight victories (3-0 UFC), the well-rounded Dagestani has proved he can defeat tough fighters and he deserves a crack at a veteran in the Top 15 of the heavyweight division. I can't think of a better name and matchup than Dutch kickboxer Stefan Struve.
"The Skyscraper" is a longtime veteran of the 265-pound division, who holds notable victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Stipe Miocic and Pat Barry. Struve has went toe-to-toe with perennial contenders like Travis Browne and Roy Nelson; he would provide a good barometer as to how far Magomedov's skills and training at AKA have come.
Stick him in there and see what he can do.
Winner: Joseph Benavidez
Who he should fight: John Dodson or Jussier Formiga/Henry Cejudo winner
There's 125-pound champion and pound-for-pound star Demetrious Johnson ... and then there's everyone else.
"Joe-Jitsu" claimed a hard-fought, unanimous-decision victory over former title challenger Ali Bagautinov last night in which he displayed slick movement and boxing skills. The Team Alpha Male fighter routinely landed a beautiful right hand/uppercut all night, while sticking and moving.
However, Benavidez was taken down multiple downs -- he'd spring back up moments later -- so it was not a spotless win. Still, he is clearly the No. 2 guy in this division outside of "Mighty Mouse."
He's sent the message and was even close to fighting "The Messenger" at UFC 192, before the latter decided he was not ready.
Instead, Cejudo now faces the Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Formiga at UFC Fight Night 78 in Monterrey, Mexico next month, while the two-time title challenger Dodson remains opponent-less following his unanimous-decision loss to Johnson at UFC 191.
Handing Benavidez, Dodson, or the winner of the Formiga-Cejudo contest makes sense on multiple fronts and would be a surefire title eliminator tussle.
Winner: Julianna Pena
Who she should fight next: Miesha Tate
This is a tricky one. You have a few names that are all potential opponents for "The Venezuelan Vixen," who bulldozed her way to a unanimous-decision win over perennial 135-pound contender Jessica Eye.
Amanda Nunes, who boasts a 4-1 UFC record, has finished all four of her victories in the first round and is coming off of a complete shellacking of former women's bantamweight title challenger Sara McMann in August.
Then, there's also the impending return of former No. 1 contender Cat Zingano, whose only career loss is to the champion Ronda Rousey. However, Tate is arguably the most durable woman of all in the 135-pound pecking order.
"Cupcake" is on a mission to face "Rowdy" for a third time (second in UFC) and is knocking off all who stand in her way. A winner of four straight over the last two years, Tate is nearing that possibility and a chance to take out another fighter with a bulldog type of mentality such as the one she holds would be another feather in her cap.
Not to mention it would lend itself to a cool teacher versus student collision as Tate and Pena played those respective roles in season 18 of TUF in 2013.
For more on the fallout behind UFC 192: "Cormier vs. Gustafsson," including post-fight recaps and analysis, click here.