The target appeared in the second round -- a red slash in the middle of Tim Boetsch's forehead. The perfect spot for Costa Philippou to land his thrusting, closed fists.

He did.

Philippou, the Long Island-based MMA fighter, recovered from a knockdown at the end of the first round to punish Boetsch and earn the TKO in the third round of their middleweight bout at UFC 155 in Las Vegas on Saturday.

"They know me now," Philippou tweeted moments after his victory.

Boetsch, bloodied on his face and blurred in his vision, was left in the middle of the cage as referee Kim Winslow stopped the bout at 2:11 mark.

The win is Philippou's fifth straight and unquestionably his biggest. Boetsch was widely regarded as a top contender for the middleweight title.

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Philippou (12-2, 5-1 UFC) replaced Serra-Longo teammate Chris Weidman, who separated his shoulder last month and had to pull out of what was considered a title eliminator bout. Philippou was available because his fight against Nick Ring at UFC 154 was canceled the morning of when Ring fell ill and was not cleared to fight.

Boetsch controlled the first round by controlling Philippou up against the cage. Philippou, who lives in Bayside and trains with Ray Longo and Matt Serra, was able to get free and land some punches but ended the round on his back after front leg kick by Boetsch landed on his chin.

In between rounds, Boetsch's coach Matt Hume was heard in the corner intimating that Boetsch was hurt.

In the second round, Philippou accidentally poked Boetsch in the eye as he tried to deflect a punch and circle away. The bout was stopped for a moment, but Boetsch returned and seemed to continue fine. But before the third round, he told his corner that he had trouble seeing out of that left eye.

He also had trouble taking down Philippou, a pro boxer with an improving ground game, in the third round. It was that takedown defense that helped Philippou gain control of the fight and land his fight-winning strikes.