Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) put on a hell of a show as the promotion returned to Newark, New Jersey last night (Sat., April 18, 2015) for an absolutely stacked evening of fights at the UFC on FOX 15 event.
In the main event, Luke Rockhold absolutely outclassed Lyoto Machida, utterly dominating the former light heavyweight champion en route to a second round rear-naked choke victory (highlights here). With his fourth straight Octagon victory, the former Strikeforce champ unquestionably stole the No. 1 contender spot from Ronaldo Souza with his performance in New Jersey.
Speaking of "Jacare," the Brazilian did his job once again on Saturday night, finishing Chris Camozzi via armbar in the very first round of their rematch. This time It took the No. 1 contender only two and a half minutes to finish Camozzi, as opposed to three minutes and change in their first contest nearly two years ago.
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: Paige VanZant
Who Should She Fight Next: Carla Esparza
Paige VanZant was absolutely sensational at UFC on FOX 15 in dismantling Felice Herrig, but let's get one thing straight right now: "12 Gauge" has absolutely no business stepping into the Octagon against 115-pound champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk just yet.
Remember that VanZant is just 21 years old, and training at Team Alpha Male all but assures that she will improve each and every time she fights.
With Dana White comparing her meteoric rise to stardom alongside Conor McGregor, some fight fans may get the idea that UFC brass wants to push VanZant directly into a title shot.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, recall that VanZant was dominated by Tecia Torres' striking arsenal back in early 2013. While VanZant has improved drastically since then, her quality of competition has not been near the level of Torres, let alone Jedrzejczyk.
Want to give "12 Gauge" a real test? Let's see how she does against the grappling aficionado and former UFC champ Carla Esparza her next time out.
If VanZant handily defeats Esparza, I think she would be more than ready for a title shot.
Winner: Max Holloway
Who Should He Fight Next: Chad Mendes
The featherweight division is absolutely stacked right now, and Max Holloway proved he is unquestionably a top-five contender with his submission win over Cub Swanson at UFC on FOX 15.
Holloway has won six straight fights, and he is absolutely deserving of a No. 1 contender's bout. Unfortunately for "Blessed," so are another two or three top contenders.
With No. 1 ranked Chad Mendes recently knocking out Ricardo Lamas in the first round, I first believed UFC brass would have to grant "Money" another crack at UFC gold.
However, with former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar taking on Urijah Faber at UFC Fight Night 65 in May, "The Answer" could be getting the title shot with a victory over "The California Kid."
If that is how the fight plays out, I would expect to see Holloway take on Mendes in a No. 1 contender bout later this year.
Winner: Ronaldo Souza
Who Should He Fight Next: Yoel Romero or Thales Leites
In one of the oddest circumstances in UFC history, "Jacare" Souza submitted his opponent in the first round, and yet the No. 1 contender likely still lost his spot as the next man in line for a shot at UFC gold.
If Souza had submitted his initially scheduled opponent in Yoel Romero, he would have had a much better chance at securing the next title shot, but with a deja vu performance over short-notice replacement Chris Camozzi, it simply won't cut it.
Even with his incredible five fight winning streak, the Brazilian is going to have to fight again before vying for UFC gold. I would like to see UFC matchmakers attempt to schedule Souza vs Romero once more, but if the Cuban's knee is not healed in time, I wouldn't mind watching "Jacare" slug it out with Thales Leites.
UFC brass could also opt for the "wait and see" approach, as injuries are so common in this sport that it may be useful to have "Jacare" waiting in the wings as a late replacement in any of the upcoming pivotal middleweight tilts.
Winner: Luke Rockhold
Who Should He Fight Next: Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort
The fight was just so close on paper, and seemingly nobody was certain whether Luke Rockhold or Lyoto Machida would leave Newark as the victor.
In fact, the relatively small legion of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans who were certain were heavily leaning the fight in the favor of "The Dragon."
In the end, the fight turned out to be a lopsided affair, with Luke Rockhold swinging the hammer.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion was in immaculate form, simply outclassing Machida on the mat en route to a second round rear-naked choke victory.
Rockhold became only the third man to finish the former light heavyweight champ alongside Shogun Rua and Jon Jones. While both of the aforementioned fighters' performances were impressive, I believe Rockhold's topped both.
It was a dominant victory, and the American Kickboxing Academy product did it in style.
To top off a sensational performance, Rockhold called out UFC champ Chris Weidman to "do his job" at UFC 187 so that the duo could duke it out in Madison Square Garden at UFC 194 in New York City.
Sounds good to me.
For complete results from UFC on FOX 15: "Machida vs. Rockhold," including play-by-play updates, click here.