With a short right hand and some follow-up shots to a collapsed Gray Maynard, Ross Pearson made a bold, violent announcement to the MMA world Saturday night in Maine at UFC Fight Night 47: His time is now; ignore him at your own peril.
The Englishman has been puttering about as a fringe contender seemingly since the day he stepped out of the Octagon as an official The Ultimate Fighter champion, and now, with a signature win under his belt to wipe away the foul stench of his decision loss to Diego Sanchez, he's moving on up.
With that in mind, here's a short list of guys who make sense for him the next time he knuckles up.
Michael Johnson was yanked from his bout with Josh Thomson in July after he suffered an injury, but in terms of matchmaking, there is a lot to like here.
The two men are at similar stages of their career—late-20s TUF products with a high athletic ceiling and some substantial career momentum—and for them to meet now would be notable for the future of the division.
It's also a bout that pits the wrestling chops and vastly improved striking of Johnson against the nasty kickboxing and crafty takedown defense of Pearson, which is almost a lock to provide an exciting fight.
Speaking of Thomson, he ended up losing—on the night he was supposed to fight Johnson—to an upstart Bobby Green. It was one of his more lackluster performances in recent years, and it essentially undid all the goodwill and momentum he'd ferreted away after beating Nate Diaz and losing a dubious decision to Benson Henderson.
Now, with his ranking lower than it's been in the promotion in quite some time (No. 6 in the lightweight division), there could be some serious enjoyment to be had if he were to lock up with Pearson just as his star is beginning to shoot a little.
Thomson is always fun and entertaining, and Pearson doesn't know what a boring fight looks like. When you add the stakes of divisional relevance to the mix, it becomes a pretty appealing tilt.
Another guy who's no stranger to in-cage excitement, Jim Miller could be a solid test for Pearson as he tries to stack up against the tougher men in the division.
Miller has been around forever and has only suffered defeats to the cream of the UFC crop, usually going in for a night of bloody mayhem no matter what side of the ledger he ends up on.
With his criminally underappreciated jiu-jitsu, solid wrestling, capable stand-up and unflinching will, he could be the perfect guy to help lock down exactly what the promotion has in the 29-year-old Pearson and determine just how far he might go now that he's entering his best years.