In this writer's eyes, Rory MacDonald is the real deal, the next big thing.
After dismantling a tough opponent in Che Mills at UFC 145, MacDonald proved once again that he is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC's welterweight division.
But let's not rush him into title contention just yet, folks.
He is still young, and he could still benefit from some mid-tier fights to fine-tune his game and bolster his comfort level inside the Octagon.
Here are five tough fighters that MacDonald needs to beat in order to prove he is ready for a title shot.
But first, some honorable mentions that just narrowly missed the list:
Thiago Alves, a longtime force in the welterweight division, would be a great fight for Rory MacDonald.
Alves has brutal Muay Thai and fantastic takedown defense—a dangerous combination for anybody.
These skills would potentially expose MacDonald's weakest area (his striking) and set up a long night for the Canadian sensation.
Few fighters have been able to take Alves down with ease, and it would be interesting to see if MacDonald could add his name to the list of storied wrestlers boasting that feat.
If MacDonald could handle Alves, I would have no problems with a follow-up No. 1 contender fight for him.
I personally think that every fighter in every division should have to defeat Diego Sanchez before earning a title fight.
The dude is tough as a college-budget steak and is a force wherever the fight goes.
Sanchez will not quit, and he is incredibly difficult to stop (he's been stopped only once, due to a cut). That is a dangerous combination regardless of the opponent.
Rory MacDonald would have his hands full with Sanchez (as anyone does), and a potential matchup with "The Dream" would be a great barometer for the young Canadian's future success inside the Octagon.
If he could finish Sanchez, MacDonald would be ready for a No. 1 contender fight in my eyes.
Say what you will about Jake Shields and his lay n' pray tactics, but the dude wins fights and imposes his will on his opponents.
Showcasing an improved stand-up game in his most recent bout against Yoshihiro Akiyama, Shields is becoming more than just a strong wrestler.
If Shields continues this improvement on his feet, he would instantly become one of the most dangerous fighters in the welterweight division and a tough matchup for the young MacDonald.
Defeating Shields would prove that MacDonald can dominate an experienced fighter with phenomenal wrestling and jiu-jitsu and would cement his status as a top-five welterweight.
Josh Koscheck has been one of the most dangerous welterweights in the world for quite some time now.
With world-class wrestling and dynamite fists, Koscheck is a nightmare matchup for anyone.
Since MacDonald is touted as the "next GSP," I'd like to see if the young fighter can dominate "Kos" like his mentor has in their two matchups.
If MacDonald can decisively handle Koscheck, he is unquestionably ready for a No. 1 contender fight.
Jon Fitch is a good measuring stick for any fighter, and he's about as entertaining as a stick, as well.
Despite his failings as an entertainer, though, Jon Fitch wins fights through his incredible wrestling prowess and solid stand-up game.
Would MacDonald be able to stay off his back in this fight, or would he be trapped under the blanket of Fitch like many fighters before him?
I, for one, would like to see it, and I think a win over Fitch would instantly propel MacDonald into contender status.