Kiwi Israel Adesanya will almost certainly face a familiar foe in his next middleweight title defence, as Italian Marvin Vettori climbed the queue with a win over Kevin Holland at the UFC Fight Night event in Las Vegas on Sunday (NZ time).
Vettori joins former champion Robert Whittaker in the race to rematch 'The Last Stylebender', who is undefeated as a middleweight in 20 fights.
Whittaker - the No. 1 ranked contender - will meet Kelvin Gastelum next week, with a win likely to secure 'The Reaper' a rematch against the Nigerian-Kiwi, who stunned Whittaker with a second-round knockout to claim UFC gold in 2019.
But Vettori, who also came up short against Adesanya, extended his winning streak to five on Saturday, repelling the challenge of trash-talking American Kevin Holland.
Since dropping a split-decision loss to Adesanya in 2018, 'The Italian Dream' has been perfect inside the Octagon, scoring four decision wins to go with a submission against Karl Roberson in 2020.
Vettori says he is the rightful next contender to Adesanya's crown and expects to fight the champion in October.
"I want Adesanya next," Vettori says.
"I have the longest win streak in the division, I'm getting better and I have what it takes to beat him.
"October or November I'll be ready to go."
But it may be out of Vettori's hands if Whittaker prevails against Gastelum, who is riding an impressive two-fight win streak himself.
Whittaker has dispatched top-level contenders Jared Cannonier and Darren Till since dropping the title, and beating a highly-skilled Datselum would make it near-impossible for Adesanya and the UFC to deny the 30-year-old a shot at redemption.
Whittaker praised Vettori's performance when speaking to ESPN on Saturday, rating it a 10 out of 10.
"He looked great," Whittaker said. "He got the job done and that's all you can ask for in a big fight.
"I'm not looking past Kelvin - he is my focus and what comes after that can be talked about then."
Whoever gets the nod, the challenge of facing Adesanya will be a big one.
"What awaits the challenger is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world in Izzy," noted former champion Michael Bisping on the UFC broadcast.
"That's no easy task by any means so good luck to whoever gets that fight, but if Robert wins in style next week he deserves it."