Even though many Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and mixed martial arts (MMA) fans were weary about this past Saturday night's (April 25, 2015) UFC 186 pay-per-view (PPV) due to a weak card on paper, fight fans who did tune in were treated to a thrilling event from inside the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
In the main event of the evening, Demetrious Johnson put on an impeccable performance, outclassing Kyoji Horiguchi for five rounds before finishing the fight in literally the very last second via armbar for an unbreakable UFC record.
In the co-main event, Quinton Jackson returned to the Octagon, battering Fabio Maldonado with impressive combinations en route to a decision victory (watch it here). "Rampage" looked strong in Montreal, but he will need to be much better against the cream of the crop at 205 pounds.
With that quick recap of the night's marquee bouts, its now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Demetrious Johnson
Who Should He Fight Next: John Dodson or Zach Makovsky
I find it very unlikely that anyone in UFC's flyweight division can beat Demetrious Johnson, but the man best suited to dethrone "Mighty Mouse" is likely former title challenger John Dodson.
"The Magician" returns to the cage after nearly a year off due to injury at UFC 187 to take on Zach Makovsky. Without sugar coating it, the fight is definitely Dodson's to lose.
If he wins, UFC must set up the Johnson vs Dodson rematch.
Dodson loses? Might as well feed Makovsky to the wolves.
The tertiary option, of course, could be Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo. That all hinges on whether or not "The Messenger" can take out Chico Camus at UFC 188.
Winner: Rampage Jackson
Who Should He Fight Next: Jimi Manuwa or Rafael Cavalcante
This one is tough to pick, because it seems like "Rampage" wants to climb the light heavyweight ladder back to a title shot.
In similar vein to Michael Bisping, the former light heavyweight champ is 36-years old, and while he did look very good against Maldonado at UFC 186, it is hard to picture him succeeding against anyone else ranked in the top five or 10.
UFC brass can choose to match up Jackson with fighters willing to trade, because let's be honest, that is what the fans want to see. What they don't want to see is another fighter like Ryan Bader holding "Rampage" in the clinch for 15 minutes.
With that being said, give the MMA legend a shot at No. 9 ranked Jimi Manuwa. The fight will most likely be contested on the feet, and a win could prove "Rampage" has what it takes to fight against the cream of the crop on the UFC roster.
If not, you can always feed "Rampage" Rafael Cavalcante in hopes for a highlight-reel finish.
Winner: Michael Bisping
Who Should He Fight Next: Gegard Mousasi or Lyoto Machida
Michael Bisping has reserved the right to pick and choose his opponents after nearly a decade of service to UFC brass and fans, and yet "The Count" wants to march right back towards the top of the pecking order instead of fighting middling 185-pounders.
At 36-years old, the Brit is certainly not in his athletic prime anymore, but his tough victory over CB Dollaway at UFC 186 proved that he can do a lot more than just hang inside the cage.
The truth is, however, that Bisping has not defeated a single high-ranked opponent in his UFC career, with his best victories coming against Chris Leben way back in the day, Denis Kang, Jorge Rivera, and an old Cung Le.
His biggest career losses? Knockouts to Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort, being submitted by Luke Rockhold, and more.
"The Count" has supreme confidence in his abilities, and maybe he just has not been on point in his most important fights. I say give him one more shot at a legitimate world class fighter in either Gegard Mousasi or Lyoto Machida next.
Winner: John Makdessi
Who Should He Fight Next: Michael Chiesa
John Makdessi sure looked great at UFC 186, but the lightweight division is just so stacked that a victory over someone making his UFC debut on short notice just does not earn "The Bull" a crack at a ranked opponent.
Makdessi often times puts on a great show for the fans, so a fight against fellow fan-favorite Michael Cheisa would almost certainly deliver a "Fight of the Night."
With both men coming off big victories over solid opposition, the fight could catapult either man into a shot at a top-15 ranked opponent.
Winner: Thomas Almeida
Who Should He Fight Next: Francisco Rivera or Erik Perez
Thomas Almeida looked sensational in his second UFC outing, showing off his penchant for violent and quick finishes as he took out Yves Jabouin almost effortlessly in the opening bout on the UFC 186 PPV.
At only 23-years old, the sky truly is the limit for "Thominas," but UFC brass may want to catapult him up the ladder and give him a big push over the next year.
With 17 of 18 career victories coming by way of finish, it would be a shame to not schedule Almeida against a fellow dangerous striker in hopes of yet another highlight-reel finish. So why not give him the ever-durable Erik Perez or the heavy-handed Francisco Rivera?
Both men are ranked, so it will work in UFC brass' favor twofold; Either fight will likely be exciting, and they also are consequential bouts for the 135-pound division.
That's a wrap!
For complete results from UFC 186: "Johnson vs. Horiguchi," including play-by-play updates, click here.