John Lineker made his bantamweight debut under the UFC banner on the same night John Dodson fought for the last time as a flyweight. Thirteen months later, they will face off in a fight that puts the winner one step closer to the 135-pound belt.
Lineker has impressed so far as a bantamweight with three straight victories, capped off by a first-round stoppage over Michael McDonald. On Saturday night, "Hands of Stone" headlines UFC Fight Night 96 against "The Magician" in Portland, and guarantees he’s ready for everything despite Dodson’s different fighting style.
"He’s a short fighter, and I prefer to fight tall guys, but I did some specific training for him," Lineker told MMA Fighting. "He’s fast and all that, but I’m ready for his movement and I have a great strategy for this fight. His style is perfect for me because we both love to stand and trade. The only thing I had to focus more is that he’s left-handed, and this is my first time fighting a left-handed. But I’m ready."
Unbeaten in his last five fights, the Brazilian talent, who missed weight for UFC Fight Night 96, believes he will have earned a shot at the 135-pound gold against Dominick Cruz with a win in Portland.
"This is an important fight in my career," he said. "It’s one of the biggest fights in my career because beating Dodson, the title shot will definitely come. Dodson is also coming from the flyweight division, he fought for the UFC title twice and is a popular name, so a big win over him gets me there."
Unlike some of his previous UFC fights, Lineker decided to train in his gym in Paranagua, Brazil, instead of flying to American Top Team to prepare for Dodson. The bantamweight said that he made this call because the Albuquerque talent is not a wrestler, and he would have better training in the striking area in his hometown.
In his preparation for the UFC Fight Night 96 main event, Lineker watched the tape of Dodson’s losses in the UFC, both to flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson. And even though they are completely different fighters style-wise, Lineker saw some things he can go for on in their five-round bout.
"I watched those fights, and he gets lost close to the fence, and that will be one of my weapons in this fight, for sure," Lineker said. "I don’t know how the fight will play out, but if he gives me a chance to get him there, I will."
Don’t expect Lineker to go for takedowns in Portland, though. The Paranagua-native striker wants to test his hands – and chin – against Dodson, and is looking forward an exciting contest.
"It’s my instinct. That’s how I fight because I love to punch and get punched," Lineker said. "The more I get punched, the more alert I get. It’s my instinct to brawl. The more I get punched, the more I want to punch someone.
"I always go for the knockout, and that’s what I’m doing in this fight. I will always fight the same way. I never fight to score points. I believe there’s another knockout coming. I believe in myself, and I believe in God. He gives me the strength to get it done. My hand can stop him, for sure."