The victory didn't come quickly, but the finish was still impressive.
Uriah Hall took one step closer to winning the six-figure UFC contract with a TKO stoppage of Dylan Andrews in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter tournament.
For the majority of the fight, Hall was content to take his time and use his reach advantage to pick Andrews apart. He effectively used his jab to batter Andrews' face. By the end of the fight, Andrews' right eye was swollen shut, his nose was broken and he had to be taken to the hospital.
Hall will next take on fellow teammate and season dark horse Kelvin Gastelum at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on April 13. A win for Hall is far from a certainty, but his strength, speed and power definitely make him a heavy favorite.
And while Hall is careful not to look too far into the future, it's difficult for a fight fan not to get excited about the many possible matchups for his early UFC career.
The middleweight division may be stacked, but there's no reason to throw Hall to the wolves in his first official fight with the promotion. As such, these opponents were chosen for how their style matches up with Hall's. They are all strikers who are not afraid to engage on the feet and get into a good scrap.
All of these matches have the potential for Knockout of the Night or Fight of the Night honors.
Most fight fans and UFC president Dana White were hoping to see this matchup take place in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter. However, Kelvin Gastelum put an end to it when he dominated Samman in the semifinals and finished the fight via first-round rear-naked choke.
Samman's stock surely took a hit after the loss to Gastelum, but he will still get a shot in the UFC. What better matchup to make than Samman vs. Uriah Hall? They were heated rivals on the show. Hall particularly disliked Samman, saying on several occasions that he wanted to knock him out.
The fact that these two never locked horns was the biggest letdown of the season. That needs to be remedied. Put these two in the cage and let the fireworks fly. This fight is guaranteed to end in spectacular fashion.
Next fight: Kevin Casey (7-2) at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale
Brian Stann is coming off a vicious knockout loss to Wanderlei Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 8. The light heavyweight bout is an early contender for Fight of the Year, but it also marks Stann's third loss in four fights inside the Octagon.
The defeat has left Stann's fight career in a state of flux. For the time being, he has decided to shift his focus to his duties as an on-air fight analyst; however, it is unlikely that Stann's warrior spirit will allow him to stay away from the bright lights and cheering crowds for too long.
And who better to welcome "The All-American" back than Uriah Hall? Stann is a perfect mirror for Hall: a fighter who stands in the pocket and throws everything with the intent of knocking out his opponent.
Another important intangible that Stann would bring to the fight is his fearlessness. As a former Marine who saw combat in the Middle East, he never allows himself to be bullied in the cage. Stann sets the pace.
It would be interesting to see how Hall would deal with not being the hammer in a fight but rather the nail. Would he break or would he rise to the occasion?
Getting through a gatekeeper like Stann would definitely put Hall on a course for true Top-10 competition in his next fight.
Next fight: TBA
Chris Leben's tenure in the UFC has been rocky ever since his time on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. He has been suspended on two separate occasions for testing positive for banned substances. After a year away from the cage, Leben returned to action in December 2012 and lost to Derek Brunson by unanimous decision in a rather boring affair.
Regardless of these setbacks, Leben still is a fun fighter to watch. As a brawler, he always throws caution to the wind, wades in like a man possessed and drops bombs. Early in his career, it seemed as if the only way to knock him out was to use a sledgehammer.
Today, his granite chin may have a few more cracks in it, but a knockout win over "The Crippler" would be no easy feat for Hall and would show that his power is for real.
Next fight: Andrew Craig (9-1) at UFC 162
From one TUF alumnus to another.
Michael Bisping is an elder statesman of The Ultimate Fighter, having won the tournament way back in Season 3. He is also quite possibly the best UFC middleweight never to get a shot at the title. Most recently, "The Count" suffered a head-kick KO to Vitor Belfort that once again sent him to the back of the line.
Though Bisping is 34 and entering the winter of his career, he's still an exciting fighter whom fans either love or love to hate. His panache for trash-talking would give an added layer of drama to a matchup with Uriah Hall.
What also makes this fight stand out is that Bisping and Hall are primarily strikers, but their styles are totally different. On one hand, Hall keeps his opponents at length and uses his jab and kicks to score points. On the other hand, Bisping tries to close the distance, clinch and engage in dirty boxing.
The big question going into this fight would be if Bisping could impose his will and rough up Hall against the cage. However, if Bisping is unsuccessful in this endeavor and Hall can get into a rhythm, then it would likely be a bad night for the Brit.
Next fight: Alan Belcher (18-7) at UFC 159
This matchup is a no-brainer.
Costa Philippou and Uriah Hall fought back in 2011 at Ring of Combat 34. Philippou walked away with a razor-thin majority decision.
That's the kind of loss that can dig at any fighter's ego and is definitely one that Hall would like to avenge.
Since that bout, Philippou has gone on a tear in the UFC and is now considered a Top-10 middleweight. In his last outing, he chalked up a TKO victory over Tim Boetsch at UFC 155.
Hall and Philippou are currently on similar trajectories with each looking to make waves in the division, so it seems natural that these two should tangle again.
Both fighters have added new wrinkles to their game in the past two years, but Hall's game plan will be to go for the quick knockout.
A highlight-reel finish for Hall would go a long way in proving that the first fight was a fluke and he is a legitimate force at middleweight.
Next fight: Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (17-3) at UFC on FX 8