The UFC's lightweight division could produce some spectacular drama in the second half of 2019. Over the past two years, it's often felt as if this division was at a standstill thanks to inactivity from some of the biggest names in Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson.
But there's reason to believe that could change in the near future, and Cerrone's impressive victory over Iaquinta on Saturday plays into it.
Here's a special edition of ESPN's What's Next featuring the lightweight division.
Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone in July
Why: This was the fight to make back in January, after Cerrone moved to lightweight for the first time in more than two years and picked up a win in Brooklyn. There appeared to be mutual interest from both, as McGregor very explicitly stated on social media the night of Cerrone's win: "For a fight like that Donald, I'll fight you."
It didn't end up happening next for Cerrone, but it needs to happen now. McGregor is still the biggest star in the UFC, and Cerrone holds the most wins in the promotion's history. There's a history to get into between them, dating back beyond January. Cerrone's brand has never been hotter, and McGregor's brand (as it pertains to his fighting career) is at a crossroads. And if McGregor wants a rematch against Nurmagomedov as he has said he does, a win against Cerrone could get him there.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (champion) vs. Dustin Poirier (interim champion) in September
Why: This one is already in the works for UFC 242 on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi. And it's an obvious one. Poirier has more than solidified himself as the top threat at lightweight, and he has the interim title that (theoretically) guarantees the next title shot. Nurmagomedov has already said he's on board. Nurmagomedov will be the favorite, but no one should sleep on Poirier.
Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje in July
Why: Chaos. Pure chaos. That's what comes to mind when thinking about Ferguson versus Gaethje.
Look, Ferguson is deserving of a title shot right now. He has won 11 in a row, and the only reason he hasn't fought for an undisputed title yet is an extremely unfortunate, freak-accident knee injury he suffered in 2018. He has nothing left to prove as far as a title challenger goes, but Poirier has jumped him in line. There's just no arguing that.
So, book Ferguson against Gaethje. There has been some heat between these two for years. Ferguson hasn't been ready to go in 2019 yet due to personal issues, but it sounds like he's in the process of coming out of that. He recently changed management and is plotting his next move. Gaethje is back on a winning streak after slipping for the first time in 2017.
Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis in August
Why: Believe it or not, these two have sporadically gone back and forth over a potential fight since as far back as 2013 -- but the timing has just never been perfect. Until now.
The beautiful thing about booking it now is you can do it at 170 pounds. Because why not? Pettis' last fight took place at 170, and he's open to staying there. Diaz's past two fights have taken place at 170. In fact, he hasn't cut to 155 since 2015.
It could basically be an agreement between two lightweights to square off without a weight cut, which I'm good with. Like every other matchup on this list, the prefight buildup would be very entertaining. This one is years in the making. And the clash of styles is salivating.
Al Iaquinta vs. Edson Barboza in August
Why: Let's not write off Iaquinta because of this last loss. He is the same age Cerrone was in 2015 when he lost a lightweight title fight to Rafael dos Anjos and went experimenting at 170 pounds. Look at Cerrone now. He has never looked better at age 36 and is probably on the verge of signing some of the biggest fights of his career.
There's still a potential title challenger in Iaquinta, and Barboza is still highly ranked despite dropping three of his past four. Currently, these two aren't quite in the same stratosphere of popularity and rank as the other names, but they're only one win from getting back into those conversations.