Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brass delivered an exciting free event last Sunday night (Jan., 17, 2016), as UFC Fight Night 81: "Dillashaw vs. Cruz" appeased the mixed martial arts (MMA) masses at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
In the main event, Dominick Cruz regained the UFC Bantamweight title he was stripped of two years ago, eking out a split decision victory over TJ Dillashaw in a five round war that earned "Fight of the Night" honors (highlights here).
The co-main event featured Eddie Alvarez defeating Anthony Pettis via split decision in a fight that hardly lived up to expectations, but could catapult Alvarez into a UFC title shot.
With that quick recap of last night's marquee bouts, it's now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Dominick Cruz
Who Should He Fight Next: Urijah Faber or TJ Dillashaw
After spending the better part of the last four years on the sidelines rehabbing a myriad of injuries, Dominick Cruz once again sits atop the Bantamweight throne.
Cruz wasn't interested in discussing his next fight during the post-fight press conference (replay here), and Dana White didn't hint to any opponent right away either, so who can we expect to see Cruz battle next?
If "The Dominator's" foot is healthy enough to fight in the next six months, I'd expect to see UFC brass set up a trilogy bout between rivals Faber and Cruz.
While many will be calling for an immediate rematch, the Bantamweight division is simply too stacked with talent to give Dillashaw an immediate crack at gold again.
With Aljamain Sterling's future inside the Octagon in question, and Raphael Assuncao battling injuries of his own, I suspect "The California Kid" will sneak into yet another UFC title shot.
If that's the case, I'd expect Dillashaw to take on either Sterling, Assuncao, or Bryan Caraway in a No. 1 contender fight.
Winner: Eddie Alvarez
Who Should He Fight Next: The UFC Lightweight Champion
Eddie Alvarez may not have accrued the prettiest victory of his career in Boston, but it was undoubtedly his biggest to date.
The Philadelphia native has essentially been a Champion in every organization he has fought for, and defeating former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis should give Alvarez the opportunity to fight for UFC gold next.
Coming in from Bellator, many questioned whether Alvarez had what it takes to hang with the elite of the elite, and his battles against Donald Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez, and Pettis have proven he absolutely does.
With Conor McGregor and Rafael Dos Anjos set to battle for Lightweight supremacy at UFC 197, Alvarez could wait in the wings for the winner of that fight.
Of course, if "The Notorious" one ends up walking away with both the Featherweight and Lightweight titles, I highly doubt Alvarez would be the next opponent for the Irishman.
Expect Alvarez to be a massive Rafael Dos Anjos supporter come UFC 197.
Winner: Travis Browne
Who Should He Fight Next: Stipe Miocic
Heavyweight MMA is a crapshoot at this point, so UFC brass can potentially book Travis Browne against any ranked Heavyweight that he hasn't already fought.
Both Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem have solid claims to be next in line for a shot at the Heavyweight title, but one of them will be forced to take another fight in the interim.
Personally, I believe Overeem's knockout over former Heavyweight kingpin Junior Dos Santos earned him the right to fight for UFC gold next, plus he is an infinitely bigger name than Miocic at this point.
With that being said, I think Miocic reluctantly takes the Browne fight in the interim, which could easily serve as a pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event.
Winner: Francisco Trinaldo
Who Should He Fight Next: Evan Dunham
Francisco Trinaldo could very well be in the midst of the most unheralded five-fight winning streak in UFC history.
With four decisions sandwiched by a stunning knockout over Chad Laprise, "Massaranduba" has earned the right to fight a ranked UFC Lightweight.
The Brazilian's style is not exactly aesthetically pleasing, but he finds a way to get the job done over and over inside the Octagon.
Nobody is discussing it, but Trinaldo is 9-3 in the UFC since joining the roster back in 2012.
If UFC brass want to give Trinaldo a real test, he must face someone who can combat his wrestling and grappling acumen, and Evan Dunham fits the bill rather nicely.
For complete results from UFC Fight Night 81: "Dillashaw vs. Cruz," including play-by-play updates click here.