Conor McGregor clearly established himself as a featherweight contender on Sat. night (Sept. 27, 2014) with a first-round technical knockout victory over Dustin Poirier on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of the UFC 178: "Johnson vs. Cariaso" mixed martial arts (MMA) event inside MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada (watch the highlights here).
But is he the No. 1 contender?
That all depends on Cub Swanson. While dusting "The Diamond" -- who was ranked No. 5 -- gets the Irishman into the upper echelon of the 145-pound weight class, Swanson has already racked up six consecutive wins and could make it seven straight by turning away Frankie Edgar later this year in Austin, Texas.
"Notorious" dwarfs him in box office appeal, however, so nothing is guaranteed when it comes to title fights.
Especially with the UFC 179 grudge match between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes just a few weeks away. I don't want to speak for the majority of fight fans, but I don't think it's outrageous to suggest that most folks are hoping for a featherweight showdown between Aldo and McGregor.
If "Money" upsets the apple cart, we just might get it.
You wouldn't normally pair a hot potato with a cold fish, but a loss for the Brazilian would be his first inside the Octagon. In addition, Aldo (24-1) hasn't been defeated in nearly eight years, so a fight against "Notorious" still makes sense from a rankings perspective.
That can leave Swanson to face Mendes at the same event.
But if Edgar exits "The Lone Star State" with a win, then Swanson is eliminated from the title chase. "The Answer" was already outclassed by Aldo back in 2013, so it's too soon for a second go-round with "Junior," despite a fairly spirited affair in the UFC 156 main event.
And good luck trying to sell the fans Aldo vs. Edgar 2 with McGregor sitting on the bench, enjoying life as the hottest 145-pound prospect in ... ever?
McGregor puts UFC in a tough spot here because now it's caught between doing what's right (on paper) versus giving fans the fights they want to see. Imagine the atmosphere of Aldo vs. McGregor in Brazil? Or even Dublin? Suddenly, those stadium ideas are starting to sound less nutty.
McGregor vs. Mendes just doesn't have the same ring to it.
That's why as a fan, I want to see "Notorious" and "Junior" go to war regardless of what happens at UFC 179. It might be too soon for C-Mac and you can make the argument that another Irish win makes the hype train speed even faster.
You can also make the argument, just as UFC President Dana White did in the case of Fedor Emelianenko, that McGregor is one punch away from being worth nothing. Strike while the iron is hot, and all that jazz.
Lot of moving pieces to this puzzle, fight fans, any guesses as to how they will all come together?