When Eddie Alvarez left the familiar confines of the Bellator MMA penthouse in 2014, he had this moment in mind.
Alvarez put away Rafael dos Anjos with first-round punches, as he captured the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title in the UFC Fight Night “Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez” main event on Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Dos Anjos wilted 3:49 into round one, his reign atop the 155-pound weight class having concluded after 481 days.
A winging right hook from Alvarez found its intended mark and left the badly dazed Brazilian on unsteady footing. Dos Anjos despite a spirted effort to do so was unable to recover, and Alvarez never quit punching. He let his fists fly -- the Philadelphia native connected on 49 of the 83 strikes he threw, according to FightMetric data -- in a sustained beating before he polished off the incumbent champion with a series of hooks and uppercuts along the fence.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez,” here are five matchups that ought to be considered:
Eddie Alvarez vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: Alvarez became the first fighter to win championships in Bellator and the UFC, and while that nugget gives him a permanent place in the MMA history books, it will do nothing to aid his cause against Nurmagomedov. The 27-year-old Dagestani grappler returned from a two-year, injury-induced absence in April and improved his sparkling record to 23-0 with a second-round technical knockout against Darrell Horcher. Nurmagomedov has long been viewed as the lightweight champion in waiting. Perhaps Alvarez can succeed where all others have failed and keep him waiting a little longer.
Derrick Lewis vs. Andrei Arlovski-Josh Barnett winner: In a division starved for new blood, Lewis has begun to rise to the surface. The menacing former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder picked up the most significant victory of his career with a split decision over Roy Nelson in the co-headliner. Still just 31 years of age, Lewis has pieced together a four-fight winning streak since succumbing to a hook kick and punches from Shawn Jordan in June 2015. Lewis will need to shore up his takedown defense -- Nelson was successful on seven of his 10 attempts -- if he wants to make real noise at heavyweight, but the opportunity is there for the taking. Arlovksi and Barnett will meet in a UFC Fight Night main event on Sept. 3.
Alan Jouban vs. Lorenz Larkin: Jouban it seems cannot partake in a boring fight. The 33-year-old Louisiana native knocked down Belal Muhammad three times in the first two rounds and withstood a furious assault from the Titan Fighting Championship titleholder over the final five minutes to take a unanimous decision. Jouban has won four of his past five fights and positioned himself to make a move at 170 pounds. Whether UFC matchmakers heed his call to face a top-10 or top-15 opponent remains to be seen. Larkin last appeared at a UFC Fight Night event on May 29, when he wound up on the right side of a split decision against American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal.
Joseph Duffy vs. Thiago Alves-Al Iaquinta winner: Duffy rebounded from his disappointing loss to Dustin Poirier in January and barely broke a sweat in the process. The Tristar Gym-trained Irishman needed just 25 seconds to submit Mitch Clarke with a rear-naked choke. A clubbing right hand from Duffy sent the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt into a nosedive and set the stage for the finish. It was the third time in Duffy’s 17-fight career that he had taken out an opponent in less than a minute. His other two victims: Julien Boussuge and Conor McGregor. Alves and Iaquinta will collide at UFC 202 on Aug. 20.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Tony Ferguson: No champion envisions it ending this way, least of all dos Anjos, who had put together a run of sustained excellence at 155 pounds that few others can match. Nevertheless, the Kings MMA standout was victimized by Alvarez, leaving his immediate future uncertain. The loss snapped his five-fight winning streak -- he had beaten Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson and Jason High in succession -- and marked the first time he had been finished in almost six years. Ferguson will do battle with newcomer Landon Vannata at UFC Fight Night “McDonald vs. Lineker” on July 13 in South Dakota. Should he win as expected, a title eliminator with dos Anjos could be in order.