Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hosted an entertaining UFC Fight Night 82 mixed martial arts (MMA) card from inside MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada last night (Sat., Feb. 6, 2016), featuring a high stakes main event between Top-10 welterweights Johny Hendricks and Stephen Thompson.
What occurred in the night's headliner was nothing short of breathtaking. Thompson picked up the biggest victory (video) of his professional career -- and a sweet $50,000 check -- for stopping the former 170-pound champion Hendricks with strikes just over three minutes into round one.
In the co-main event, struggling heavyweight veteran Roy Nelson scored a much-needed win (video) over standout wrestler Jared Rosholt. "Big Country" never found the homerun shot, but "Big Show" was never really a threat during the entirety of their exchange.
With that quick recap of last night's marquee bouts, it's now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Stephen Thompson
Who Should He Fight Next: Robbie Lawler
I think we can all agree that Thompson is for real. Thompson downed Hendricks like it was nothing, becoming the first fighter to finish Hendricks.
Not only did he showcase his magnificent striking prowess, but his takedown defense was on point too. The kickboxing veteran never threw himself into harm's way and fought very intelligently.
With that being said, Thompson needs to fight for the title now. Why? Because any other fight -- outside of one with Carlos Condit -- with a Top-5 contender will be woefully painfully to watch.
I'm looking at you Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia.
Sure, UFC can go that route and perhaps it entices "The Natural Born Killer" to end retirement talks, but I'm pretty sure the promotion doesn't want to miss out on capitalizing on such an explosive title fight.
As we saw in his second title defense, a complicated striker can confuse "Ruthless" and Thompson showed that he's more than ready for a step up in competition.
The real loser in this situation is Woodley.
Winner: Roy Nelson
Who Should He Fight Next: Andrei Arlovski
Good ol' company man Roy Nelson has yet to turn down, or pull out of, a fight in his six-year tenure with UFC. It's been a rather rocky road, though, since his knockout of Brendan Schaub to claim The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 title in Dec. 2009.
When Nelson defeated Rosholt last night, he stopped the bleeding of a three-fight losing streak. Overall, that brings Nelson's record in his last seven bouts to 2-5.
Obviously that had much to do with competition and Nelson has faced the best that there is out there. It's certainly not a label that the Las Vegas native would like to have, but he's pretty much solidified himself as the premier gatekeeper in the heavyweight division.
However, that still doesn't mean he won't continue to draw marquee names and I have the perfect one for him in Arlovski. Considering Nelson made mention of going on the cliche "revenge tour" prior to his his tilt in Japan with Josh Barnett last September, I think it makes sense to slot him against "Pit Bull."
The former heavyweight titleholder lost in devastating fashion his last time out against the red-hot Stipe Miocic and he could use a good bounce back fight. Why not the durable, battle-tested veteran Nelson?
Their first meeting took place in Oct. 2008 with Arlovski scoring the second-round knockout.
Winner: Ovince Saint Preux
Who Should He Fight Next: Jimi Manuwa
It wasn't pretty, but "OSP" got the job done in the Octagon when he ousted the clearly beaten Rafael Cavalcante. The former Tennessee Volunteer was unable to carry momentum he gained from rocking "Feijao" in round one into the latter stages of their bout on FOX Sports 1.
What ensued was a wrestling-heavy approach, perhaps because Saint Preux appeared to have injured his foot in round one on a kick. Regardless, the Haitian-American is back on the winning track after a less-than-impressive outing against former 205-pound title challenger Glover Teixeira back in August.
After calling for the likes of Rashad Evans and Jimi Manuwa last October, I believe he'll draw "Poster Boy." When looking at the lay of the land at light heavyweight, Saint Preux has already faced off with -- and lost to -- Teixeira and Ryan Bader.
The Tennessee resident is certainly not ready for anyone higher than that duo, plus everyone else is booked, so a tussle with the returning Manuwa the most sense. The Brit's lone losses in UFC have come against the best in the division, Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson.
This fight would likely determine who's for real and who gets left behind.
Winner: Joseph Benavidez
Who Should He Fight Next: Demetrious Johnson
At this point, does Benavidez really need to fight anyone else before earning a third shot at the champ "Mighty Mouse?" The only contenders he hasn't fought are either moving up a weight class, or named Jussier Formiga and Kyoji Horiguchi.
And I doubt UFC listens to Wilson Reis' calls for a crack at "Joe Jitsu."
The Team Alpha Male product defeated former Division-I wrestler and bonafide tough out Zach Makovsky with relative ease. Benavidez has proven time and time again that it's extremely hard to keep him grounded for anything more than a few seconds and his boxing has greatly improved.
With an 11-2 UFC record in tow, and his only two Octagon losses coming to the pound-for-pound star Johnson, it's hard to deny him. But with former Olympian Henry Cejudo slated to fight for the 125-pound strap at UFC 197 in April, Benavidez may face some time on the sidelines.
Should he choose to wait it out is up to him.
Winner: Misha Cirkunov
Who Should He Fight Next: Daniel Omielanczuk/Jarjis Danho winner
With six wins in-a-row and an alarming finishing rate, it goes without saying that the Latvian powehouse deserves a step up in competition. But I think UFC decides to give him one more opponent with roughly the same amount of Octagon experience.
Assuming Cirkunov has no outstanding injuries, following his jaw-breaking, second-round dismissal (video) of Alex Nicholson, I'd call for him to face the winner of the UFC Fight Night 84 contest between the esteemed Polish grappler Omielanczuk and the debuting heavy-handed Syrian Danho.
More on that fight card here.
Both fighters are equally adept at finishing their opponents, but they also represent different challenges. As the Toronto-based Cirkunov looks to better himself on the feet, a showdown with "Man Mountain" could be the breakthrough fight he needs to see if he's truly grown in that department.
A bout with Omielanczuk, who has won nine fights via submission, would also be a welcomed Octagon jaunt.
I would've preferred to match Cirkunov up with the winner of Gabriel Gonzaga/Ruslan Magomedov, but that tussle is taking place in April.
Winner: Mike Pyle
Who Should He Fight Next: Court McGee
What can you say about Pyle? He may be over-the-hill at 40 years old, but he's damn tough.
"Quicksand" looked dead in the water in round one after he was dropped by the former Golden Gloves boxing champion Sean Spencer. However, the tide quickly turned in round two as Pyle settled down and utilized better movement to counter the aggressiveness of the Texas-based Spencer.
Then, in round three, when Spencer was beginning to slow down, the veteran of 39 professional fights turned up the heat, landing a blistering combination of elbows and knees (video) to score the finish.
At this point in his 16-year career, Pyle is still a threat to finish a fight at anytime and he can never be discounted. A solid match-up for him would be against TUF 11 winner Court McGee, who returned to UFC after a two-year absence to earn a unanimous-decision win over Marcio Alexandre Jr. last December.
"The Crusher" has always been talented, but injuries have slowed his ascent up the 170-pound ladder. Give him Pyle and see how quickly -- and if -- he can get Pyle out of there.
For complete UFC Fight Night 82: "Hendricks vs Thompson" results and coverage of all the night's action click here.