With blood running down his face, Alex Volkanovski fell to the floor of the octagon.
On the canvas next to him, perennial UFC featherweight contender Chad Mendes lay concussed, receiving attention from UFC medical staff.
This was a fight the Australian Volkanovski had asked for. A win over Mendes, then ranked No.5 in the featherweight division, would see his star rise. And when the referee stepped in to put an end to their bout at UFC 232 last weekend, the 30-year-old said one thing jumped into his mind.
"When the ref stopped it, I mean, it's Chad Mendes," Volkanovski recalled to the Herald. "That's what I remember thinking: 'Oh my God I just beat Chad Mendes. I just knocked out Chad Mendes.' What a feeling, man.
"It was incredible really. What a card to do it on and I guess what an opponent to do it on as well. A lot of eyes were on my, I knew we needed to capitalise and that's exactly what we did."
It was an exciting end to a predictably explosive bout, which earned both fighters a US$50,000 fight of the night bonus. And for the New Zealand MMA audience, there were some familiar faces in the Australian's corner alongside coach Joe Lopez – with City Kickboxing's Eugene Bareman and Brad Riddell on hand to help.
For his past few fights, Volkanovski and Lopez have made the trip across the Tasman to train at the Auckland gym.
Australian and New Zealand MMA fans and fighters alike have banded by the continued rise of athletes from the two countries, with the likes of Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker, Tai Tuivasa and Megan Anderson among those leading the 'Anzac takeover.'
Volkanovski said having the opportunity to train alongside the City Kickboxing stable – which included UFC stars Adesanya, Hooker, Shane Young and Kai Kara France, as well as a host of other high level fighters – gave him the best chance to reach his peak.
"We're a real close team and the training I get over there to finish my camp, look at some of the guys they have down there. They train really hard and they get me in really, really good nick, as you could see.
"I was peaking right at the right time. I felt good out there and it showed."
He expected to return to the gym in the coming weeks to help some of the fighters prepare for their own bouts, including Adesanya, Young and Kara France who will appear at UFC 234 in Melbourne in February.
In stopping Mendes, Volkanovski jumped to No.4 in the UFC featherweight rankings, with just Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega and the champion Max Holloway ahead of him.
Moving so high up in the rankings, the Australian becomes a realistic option to challenge Holloway for the title.
And while he would love that opportunity, Volkanovski hinted that he had a fair idea of who he would likely find himself fighting next.
"Aldo and (Renato) Moicano are fighting each other soon, that rules them out for a little while and if Aldo wins, does he get a rematch (against Holloway)?
"But Frankie Edgar coming off a loss…it's starting to make a little bit more sense when you start to break it down like that.
"Whether Frankie Edgar's next for me, I don't really care who it is. I believe I can beat anyone in the division and we'll see what the future brings."