Sometimes, the path is pretty clear when it comes to matchmaking in the UFC. Sometimes, two dogs are snarling at each other through the chain link, and you've just got to put them together and let them hash it out.
After UFC Fight Night 45 and the remarkable showing by one Donald Cerrone, it's pretty clear who he should fight next: prospect-turned-contender Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Cerrone looked excellent in stopping Jim Miller in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Wednesday night. He was smooth and confident, tackling the hometown slugger with the type of slick grace that is always evident when he's on his game.
He was focused and committed to his plan of attack, and when the chance came to end the fight, he very calmly did so.
It was a textbook Cowboy victory—the type he's had on occasion in the past and the type that truly makes one wonder if he could be a champion.
When he's going like he was in AC, few men can match him.
Cerrone vs. Khabib: Yay or nay?
One way to find out about that championship potential is to give him Nurmagomedov.
The young Russian is a chore for anyone in the game. At 22-0, the cold-blooded fighter has found it increasingly difficult to find opponents with each dominant win.
However, Cerrone is by no means afraid of a fight. He'll sign on the dotted line.
Above all, the bout would accomplish two things.
It would settle, once and for all, whether or not Cerrone has the skills to contend for a title before his time in the sport is complete. It would also give Nurmagomedov the chance at a big signature win before he challenges for the title.
Whoever walks out of their meeting would have a pretty obvious claim to a title shot, especially considering the relative flux at the top of the lightweight heap these days.
Benson Henderson won't get a shot anytime soon, Josh Thomson is fighting in a week, and TJ Grant has been out for a year with a concussion. After Gilbert Melendez gets his chance in December, there is no clear top guy to challenge for gold.
A few months ago, the UFC got it incredibly correct when it booked Cerrone vs. Miller. Fight Night 45's thrilling main event proved as much.
The company now has the chance to get it right with Cerrone again, but this time against a tougher opponent and with higher stakes.
Cerrone vs. Nurmagomedov isn't just a fight to make, it's the only fight to make.