Australia's Robert Whittaker has declared he's ready for another UFC title shot after a five-round unanimous points win over England's Darren Till in a "stressful" tactical fight in Abu Dhabi.
Former middleweight champion Whittaker was floored with an elbow in the first round but landed more strikes in all rounds.
He was especially strong with his leg kicks and showed his versatility by scoring some crucial takedowns in the last round.
All three judges scored Sunday's fight 48-47 in Whittaker's favour, in his first fight since losing the 185-pound title to Israel Adesanya last October.
"I'm championship level, I'm ready for a championship fight right now," Whittaker said.
Adesanya is scheduled to make his next title defence against No.2 rated Paulo Costa in Las Vegas in September.
The 29-year-old Whittaker, who took time off at the beginning of this year due to burnout, showed he still has plenty to offer, displaying variety and smarts after getting tagged early.
He had a dominant second round, landing a left hook and then flooring Till with an overhand right.
He continued to pour on the pressure with some heavy ground and pound that included some nasty elbows.
The remaining rounds were close, but Whittaker continued to score with more significant blows, though Till opened up a cut on the Aussie's head in the fifth.
"It was a close fight, I think the take-downs weighed a lot," Whittaker said.
"It was a great fight, a stressful fight..
"That was the most technical striking fight I have ever had. It was a chess match.
"I got a bit antsy in the first round and he made me pay for it and I just remember thinking 'not like this.'
"But I got back up. I was like 'you've got to get back to work, change it up a little bit.'
"It shocked me, he put me on my arse. It's one of those shots, it happens.
"He was waiting for me to come in I was waiting for him to come in.
"We were both trying to wait for each other, to counter each other, to wait for each other to open up so then we could capitalise on each other's holes..
"Thats why I had to chip away at his defences from the outside. I had the calf kick, the stomp.
Till said the knee stomp he copped in the second round had affected his mobility. .
"That was it then for the whole fight, I just had to stay static," Till said.
"I'm not trying to sit here and say 'my knees gone', whatever,' maybe it just stopped me bouncing."
Former welterweight title contender Till, who was having just his second middleweight bout, felt he landed the more powerful shots, but conceded Whittaker was the busier fighter.