Three. The number of welterweights on a six-fight or more winning streak inside the Octagon.

One of them is the current UFC champion, another is the next challenger and the third is Matt Brown, who despite earning five of his last six wins via knockout or TKO, is only ranked 10th in the Official UFC Rankings. The last fighter to accomplish such a feat was Thiago Alves, who earned a title shot with his seventh consecutive win in October of 2008. While Alves appears to have lost form in recent showings, it demonstrates such an occurrence is rare and a fighter’s window of opportunity short.

Despite only recently gaining traction and recognition for his hard work, Brown seems to be right on the cusp of a title shot. He is a former competitor on season seven of The Ultimate Fighter who has not only been consistently finishing fights of late, but also has reinvented himself and made a career comeback after barely having a winning professional record of 12-11 and a UFC record of 5-5 less than two years ago. This almost seems like a story good enough for Hollywood.

Enter Carlos Condit, who seems to have a penchant for defeating fighters who were “almost good enough.” Fighters like Martin Kampmann and Dong Hyun Kim, who were at one point or another considered contenders, fell violently at the hands of Condit, while others who still are or could be contenders, such as Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, failed to have their hand raised in victory as well. Even in his most recent loss against current No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks, Condit proved he could not only take a punch, but he could take one from the best of them.

As much as Condit’s chin could prove problematic for Brown, so should Brown’s confidence be a threat to Condit’s hopes of another title shot. Brown has not faced the biggest names in the sport, but he has been facing an increase in competition with each knockout delivered. Chris Cope, Stephen Thompson and Luis Ramos were not the stiffest of competition, but Mike Swick, Jordan Mein and Mike Pyle were game opponents who no one would think to sleep on. Pyle himself was on a four-fight winning streak, and his only loss in his eight previous UFC fights was at the hands of MacDonald.

Brown could not have asked for a better fight. In Condit, he gets a big-name opponent, a former title challenger and champion, and the official No. 2-ranked welterweight. This could either be the fight where he proves he’s a true contender and shocks the world by delivering an upset against a fighter many thought his better, or it could be the fight where he is remembered as another pretender because he failed to capitalize on a marquee moment due to either the pressure, injury, skill or cardio and ends up giving way to the force which is Condit.

The status of the welterweight division is murky at best right now as we await Georges St-Pierre’s title defense against Hendricks at UFC 167, as well as MacDonald and Robbie Lawler facing off on the same card. And let’s not forget about Demian Maia’s upcoming bout with Jake Shields in less than a week, as the Brazilian will attempt to continue his dark-horse climb up the ladder.

So if Condit wants another shot, or Brown wants to prove he belongs in the cage with the best, both of them are going to have to put on quite a show, because there’s a murderers’ row of fighters working their way towards the same goal, and the road to a title shot doesn’t look like it’s getting any easier. And that’s the bottom line.

Photo: Matt Brown (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)