When the UFC rolls into the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas this weekend for UFC 271 all eyes will be on the 185-pound division.
Headlining the card will be the middleweight division undisputed title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and number one contender Robert Whittaker.
But two fights before that there is another huge middleweight fight scheduled which could have big implications on the title picture for the rest of 2022.
It will be number three ranked Jared Cannonier fighting number four ranked Derek Brunson on the main card, with both knowing that a victory could set them up for a title shot against the winner of the main event next time around.
For Cannonier, he has been here before. ‘Tha Killa Gorilla’ won three fights in a row against David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson via knockout to setup a fight with Robert Whittaker at UFC 254.
Israel Adesanya admitted that a win for Cannonier that night would’ve seen him next in line for the belt, but he was comfortably beaten by the number one contender.
He bounced back in his next fight though against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 34 to retain his top five ranking and earn another shot at glory.
Across the cage will be a resurgent Brunson, who has already fought Adesanya and got embarrassed by the now-champion via a first-round knockout.
Since then, Brunson has rattled off five wins in-a-row, a run only better matched by the champion himself in the weight class. He claimed decision wins against Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch, before a dominant main event win over prospect Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5.
He then claimed another main event victory, dismantling Kevin Holland with his wrestling at UFC Vegas 22 before a big fight with Darren Till. Till had been in a similar position to Cannonier, told he’d potentially get a title shot with a win.
Brunson quickly ended those dreams though, wrestling the Brit for two-and-a-half rounds before submitting him with a rear-naked choke.
Now the dream is his own. A win sees him move to six-in-a-row and almost certainly sets up a title fight against the winner of the main event in a rematch from earlier in his career.
But Cannonier will surely not let this opportunity pass him by twice, having been through a rollercoaster of a career with weight divisions and successes.
A victory should do it for either man in reality, but a statement win would be the icing on the cake and would likely guarantee it.
Middleweights go to war at UFC 271, but it’s not only in the main event that you should be paying attention.