On Saturday night, former UFC flyweights John Lineker and John Dodson will battle it out to see who gets one step closer to bantamweight gold.
This fight is a marquee match up for the 135-pound division and it will unfold in the main event of UFC Fight Night 96 in Portland, Ore.
Lineker moved up to the 135-pound division a year ago and since has won three straight in impressive fashion. The Brazilian has quickly climbed up the rankings, and now sits at No. three in the division. Meanwhile, Dodson moved to bantamweight on April, defeating MMA veteran Manny Gamburyan via first-round technical knockout at UFC on FOX 19. With that victory, Dodson is now ranked No. 8 at bantamweight.
To breakdown this crucial bantamweight bout, MMA Fighting caught up with former UFC light heavyweight champion and FOX Sports 1 analyst Rashad Evans to talks about the action on Saturday night.
"This a very important fight for the bantamweight division," Evans said. "The thing about the bantamweight division is that it's still trying to find a top guy because for a long time it didn't have the toughest guys, but now it's starting to fill out with some of the toughest guys in the lighter weight-classes. So you got Dominick Cruz at the top, and now, it just keeps getting tougher and tougher, and Lineker is right up there, you know. And if little John [Dodson] can come in and put on a good show against a guy like Lineker, that says a lot."
Evans believes both Lineker and Dodson are very similar fighters, and says this fight will be like a old western movie.
"It's a big fight for little John [Dodson] at the 135-pound division to make a big impact, and he really has a tough order against a fighter cut from the same crop," Evans said. "The fact that Lineker is a power puncher, you know, and little John has been known for his power, and he wants to get that big win at 135 to kind of show what he can bring. Lineker is one of the toughest guys in the company exchanging punches inside the pocket, so it's going to be like an old western movie - the fastest draw wins."
Already expecting what Lineker is going to attempt during the fight, Evans believes it's going to come down to how Dodson reacts to Lineker's strategy.
"I think it's going to be how effective little John is dealing with Lineker inside the pocket," Evans said. "If you watch Lineker's fights, he comes in there and throws combinations, and you think that at some point he's going to get caught with a big punch because he kind of leaves his chin open a little bit. And I think that's the alluring thing that makes people want to exchange with him, and then, when they try to exchange with him, so fast with that wide left that he usually catches people. He's really fast in those transitions with those punches from the hips. Because it comes from the hips and you don't really see it coming, so even if you catch him with a good shot the way he's torquing his body, you don't catch him flush, and then, when he's moving that leg, he's coming with a left or a right to the side."
With that being said, Evans says Dodson will fight smart, and stay out of Lineker's trap.
"I'm going to go with little John [Dodson]," said Evans. "I like little John's speed and creativity, but besides that, I think that little John is the smarter fighter, and I think that's what it's going to come down to. I think that with Lineker he could do to get Little John in the kind of fight that he wants to, he's going to have to get him against the cage. He's going to have to get him behind that black line on the cage that's five or six feet from before the cage starts, and that's where he does the most damage because that's when he's really fast with the combinations he throws. But I think little John is too quick and too cagey to get caught against the cage."