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John Lineker confident he can KO both T.J. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

John Lineker impressed in his return to the bantamweight division, and already is aiming for the UFC gold.

Fighting at 135 pounds for the first time since signing with the UFC in 2012, Lineker tapped Francisco Rivera with a guillotine in an epic battle at UFC 191. The Brazilian fighter, who racked up a 6-2 record as a flyweight inside the Octagon, was surprised with his performance in September.

"I felt strong in this ‘new old’ division," Lineker told MMAFighting.com. "I thought I would be weak compared to the other bantamweights in the UFC, but I felt pretty well."

Lineker vs. Rivera lasted only 128 seconds, but had it all. The bantamweights traded punches in a wild exchange, with Lineker knocking "Cisco" down and jumping guard to lock a guillotine choke.

"That wasn’t my strategy, actually, but I believe a lot in my left hand," Lineker said. "I know that when it lands, it rocks you, so I went for it. My original strategy was to tire him out in the fence in the first round, but my hand landed and I changed my strategy."

Ranked at No. 12 at the bantamweight division after scoring one of his biggest UFC wins, Lineker hopes to face a top 5 when he returns.

"I hope my next fight is against a top 5," he said. "I won’t pick and choose, but I hope they give me a top 5 so I can get closer to the bantamweight title. One or two more intense wins like this last one, and I think they could give me a title shot."

With less weight to cut, he hopes to be able to fight more frequently now.

"I still cut a lot of weight to fight at bantamweight, but it’s not like it used to be before," Lineker said. "I believe I can fight more often now. I had to wait five months between fights to make 125 pounds, so I can fight more now that I’m at 135."

The UFC bantamweight title will be on the line on Jan. 17, when T.J. Dillashaw faces former champion Dominick Cruz in the main event of UFC Fight Night 81 in Boston. Lineker picks Dillashaw to win because of Cruz’s long layoff, but is confident he would be able to finish both of them if given the chance.

"For sure," Lineker said when asked if he believes he could knock both Dillashaw and Cruz out. "They move a lot, but that’s not a problem. They would have to get closer to hit me, and once you get closer, I’m hitting you back. I would not hunt them down, I would let them come."