"I feel so much better on the feet, hitting guys and ending the fight early," said Pierce, who believes those skills could come in handy if he gets the opponent he wants for his next bout – Jake Shields, who recently outpointed Tyron Woodley at UFC 161.

"Man, that guy, he's tough," Pierce said of the former Strikeforce middleweight champ and current UFC welterweight. "He's good on the ground, but he's definitely got parts of his game that play to my strengths, and I definitely think he's beatable. He's certainly a relevant fighter right now."

Relevancy is what Pierce seeks after spending a good portion of his UFC career on preliminary cards, where exposure and sponsorship money are slim. And he's taking an active role in the process by requesting opponents rather than waiting for the UFC to assign them.

He added that Jake Ellenberger and Carlos Condit would also be great challenges. All three of his requests are significant steps up in stature, but to him, they're interchangeable.

"I don't care who it is, as long as it's a relevant fighter that's going to get me on that path to that right direction," said Pierce. "I just think Jake Shields is the right guy to do that.

"Of course, I realize how old I am, and you can't fight forever, unless you find the fountain of youth that Randy Couture had, you're fight career is not going to last that long."

The recent knockout is one more piece of evidence for Pierce's case in getting the UFC to think of him as an exciting fighter to invest in, rather than a dull wrestler to place on preliminary cards. But ultimately, his fate is in UFC matchmakers' hands.

Pierce said his attempts to get an audience with talent guru Joe Silva have been challenging.

"'Sure, he's a busy guy,'" the fighter said of requests. "It almost seems like it's in passing."

Still, you won't hear Pierce complaining about his pay or place on the card, despite its inherent challenges.

"It's a big deal to me, because I want to be on the main card," he said. "But at the same time, it's still fun to get out there and do what I love and come out with a win, and hopefully move back to the main card, where I think I belong."