Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closed out 2015 with a bang last Saturday night (Dec., 19, 2015) as UFC on FOX 17 delivered an enthralling evening of mixed martial arts (MMA) action at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
In the main event, UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos ran through the streaking Donald Cerrone, finishing "Cowboy" via strikes just 66 seconds into their title affair (highlights here). The win was Dos Anjos' fifth in a row, and cements him as the best 155-pound fighter on the planet today.
The co-main event featured a Heavyweight battle over three years in the making, as Alistair Overeem vanquished former UFC Heavyweight kingpin Junior Dos Santos, knocking him out with a vicious shovel hook in the second round.
Check out the highlights here.
With that quick recap of last night's marquee bouts, it's now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Rafael Dos Anjos
Who Should He Fight Next: Tony Ferguson
By easily dispatching of Donald Cerrone in Orlando, Rafael Dos Anjos proved his electric title victory over Anthony Pettis earlier this year was no fluke.
"RDA" is the best 155-pound fighter on the planet today.
After his first title defense, Dos Anjos warned 145-pound champ Conor McGregor to stay at Featherweight, or risk being victimized in similar fashion to "Cowboy."
Even though Dos Anjos just defended his title on FOX, it is unlikely he is a big enough name to warrant the super fight against McGregor, which likely means Frankie Edgar will get his shot at Featherweight gold in 2016.
As for the Lightweight division and Dos Anjos, there are a number of options for the Brazilian champ to consider. Former champ Anthony Pettis returns to action against former Bellator Lightweight kingpin Eddie Alvarez in January, which could potentially be a No. 1 contender bout.
While the consensus likely weighs heavily in favor of seeing "RDA" fight either Alvarez or Pettis next, I'd personally like to see Tony Ferguson get his crack at UFC gold.
"El Cucuy" has won seven straight fights in the Lightweight division, five of which have come via spectacular finish. Just last weekend, Ferguson submitted Edson Barboza with a beautiful d'arce choke in a thrilling affair.
With Dos Anjos making quick work of Cerrone, I don't see why he wouldn't be able to make a quick turnaround.
Book Dos Anjos vs. Ferguson, and then either Pettis or Alvarez will be next in line for a crack at the champ.
Winner: Alistair Overeem
Who Should He Fight Next: Fabricio Werdum or Cain Velasquez
It may have taken much longer than anyone could have anticipated, but it is finally time to give Alistair Overeem his rightful shot at UFC gold.
"The Reem" bet on himself in a major way in Orlando, opting to fight out his current UFC contract before signing a new deal with the world's leading MMA promotion in hopes of collecting a massive payday alongside a crucial victory.
By knocking out Dos Santos in Orlando, it is safe to say Overeem's gamble paid off in a huge way.
Expect the former Strikeforce champ to test free agency, but with the state of Heavyweight MMA essentially a barren wasteland outside of UFC, Overeem will likely end up back inside the Octagon.
If UFC brass does indeed re-sign the Dutch behemoth, expect him to vie for UFC gold sometime in 2016. With UFC Champion Fabricio Werdum set to rematch Cain Velasquez in February at UFC 196, Overeem could be fighting for the title before the Summer.
Winner: Nate Diaz
Who Should He Fight Next: Dustin Poirier or Joe Duffy
Nate Diaz's epicly profane post-fight call out of UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor won't soon be forgotten (see it here), but the Stockton bad boy won't be getting his hands on the Irishman any time soon.
Diaz looked sensational in his return to the Octagon last night, battering Michael Johnson throughout their riveting three round affair. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner utilized his reach to pick apart Johnson from the outside, which ultimately led to a unanimous decision victory.
Even with the impressive performance over the No. 5 ranked Lightweight in the world, it is safe to say Diaz wants absolutely no part of a rematch against UFC Champion Rafael Dos Anjos -- who completely dominated the Stockton bad boy just a year ago.
At the post-fight press conference (watch the replay here), Diaz made it seem that he is uninterested in continuing to cut weight to make 155 pounds if he is not getting major name fights, so the options at Lightweight could be dwindling.
In my opinion, Diaz has no business returning to the Welterweight division, and should square off against either Dustin Poirier or Joe Duffy following their highly anticipated affair on January 2nd.
Regardless of who he fights next, Diaz will always put on a show, and it is great to have him back at the forefront of MMA.
Winner: Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Who Should She Fight Next: Jessica Penne or Valerie Letourneau
Randa Markos is no slouch, so for Karolina Kowalkiewicz to put forth such a stellar effort in her Octagon debut on the biggest platform possible is quite the feat.
Kowalkiewicz was very impressive in Orlando, and you should expect to see her break into the top 10 in the Women's Strawweight division come Monday.
With that being said, there are plenty of options when it comes to the next opponent for the Polish stud.
Right now, I believe Tecia Torres, Carla Esparza, Rose Namajunas, and Claudia Gadelha are nipping at Joanna Jedrzejczyk's heels for a title shot, so none of those competitors will be a viable option for Kowalkiewicz.
That leaves former title challengers Jessica Penne and Valerie Letourneau as the most likely candidates for Kowalkiewicz's next Octagon bout.
For complete results from UFC on FOX 17: "Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone 2," including play-by-play updates click here.