Dan Hooker knocked out an international MMA veteran in his previous UFC appearance and his next task will be to dampen the hype around one of the featherweight division's more intriguing prospects.
The Aucklander will meet Mexico's Yair Rodriguez (5-1) at UFC 192 in Houston on October 4 (NZT).
Hooker (12-5) starched Japan's Hatsu Hioki (27-9-2) at UFC Fight Night 65 in Adelaide in May with a vicious second-round head kick that earned 'The Hangman' his first 'Performance of the Night' bonus.
He used the US$50,000 top-up to cover his ongoing expenses, while he and his fiancee are keen to get married in Thailand next year. Hioki, who had previously never been stopped via strikes in his MMA career, was later released from the UFC following the brutal loss.
Rodriguez, who won the featherweight section of 'The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America' reality TV show last year, produced a 'Fight of the Night' effort in his second UFC bout when he edged Charles Rosa (10-2) via split decision at UFC 188 in Mexico in June.
That bout earned him plaudits from the MMA community and while neither Rodriguez or Hooker are billed within the top-15 of the UFC's media-generated rankings, a strong showing in Houston would likely see them demand a ranked opponent in the future.
UFC 192 will be headlined by a light heavyweight title bout between Daniel Cormier (16-1) and Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson (16-3).
"I've been looking forward to fighting in the States for a long time so it'll be good," Hooker told the Herald.
"This is where you start building a name for yourself."
The booking with Rodriguez is curious given Hooker seemed a logical choice to help fill out the planned UFC 193 show in Melbourne in November when the promotion will make its debut in the Victorian capital.
"I was surprised by it too," Hooker said. "But I think this match-up ... is just too good to pass up.
"This is the first jump to getting that global recognition."
Although the bout order hasn't been determined for UFC 192, Hooker said he hoped he and Rodriguez would be on the pay-per-view part of the card.
Hooker's decision to fight southpaw against Hioki proved a revelation and the improving 25-year-old said he had more tricks in store for Rodriguez.
"I'm working on some things," the former kickboxer said. "This guy, I think I'm a better grappler than him. He's got a lot of flashy striking; I believe I can stand with him. But I think I'm a better wrestler and a grappler than this guy so I'll come up with a whole new gameplan. I might take him down."
Hooker built up for his meeting with Hioki with a training camp at the Saigon Sports Club in Vietnam but he has since returned to his roots in Auckland.
He is working alongside fellow Kiwi featherweights Ev Ting and Shane Young in a collaborative approach, most of which is being done at City Kickboxing.
Ting (9-3) has fought under the ONE Championship banner in Asia, while Young (5-2) has competed in Australia.
"It's good to be back and it's good to be working towards something," Hooker said.