The bout did not disappoint.
In a back-and-forth, nip-and-tuck affair, Lineker outbrawled Dodson to win by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 96 on Saturday night in Portland. Not only was it one of the best fights of 2016, it cements Lineker as one of the elite fighters in the bantamweight division. And he called for a title shot next.
"I think I deserve Dominick Cruz [next]," Lineker said. "It's time for me. I've got four consecutive wins. It's my turn now."
Lineker was the cat and Dodson the mouse throughout. Lineker was trying to chase Dodson down and keep him stationary for essentially the entire fight. Dodson, meanwhile, executed a very good game plan of sticking and moving. Very few are able to survive exchanges with Lineker, because of his massive power. But Dodson did and even came out ahead in many.
Dodson hit Lineker with multiple head kicks, but did not rock Lineker until the final round, which Dodson clearly won. Lineker, though, compiled hard blows throughout the middle rounds with shots to the body adding up over time.
It was a fight that could have gone either way on the cards — there was no obvious winner.
Lineker (29-7) has won six in a row, including four straight since coming back up to 135 pounds. The Brazilian did miss weight by 1/2 pound Friday and was docked 20 percent of his purse. Lineker, 26, struggled making weight as a flyweight and seems more comfortable in the bantamweight division, where he is a legitimate title contender.
Dodson (18-8) returned to bantamweight from flyweight with a 37-second knockout of Manny Gamburyan at UFC on FOX 19 in April. "The Magician" only lost to one man before this fight in the UFC: flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson twice. Dodson, 32, trains out of JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque.
Alex Oliveira won a fight, but probably lost some fans. "Cowboy" defeated Will Brooks via third-round TKO in the co-main event Saturday night with a ground-and-pound onslaught. Right after, he made a pair of obscene gestures at Brooks. Brooks got upset and tossed his mouthpiece at Oliveira in an ugly scene.
The whole mess started when Oliveira missed weight by five pounds Friday. He was docked 20 percent of his fight purse, which will go to Brooks. Brooks said the entire thing was unprofessional, which apparently set off Oliveira.
"He insulted me yesterday," Oliveira told Jon Anik afterward through an interpreter.
Brooks also appeared to injure his ribs in the first round.
Oliveira (16-3-1, 1 NC) also said he would be moving back up to welterweight. He has won two in a row now and five of his last six. The 28-year-old Brazilian fought previously at lightweight in his home country, but this was the first time in the UFC.
Brooks (19-2), the former Bellator lightweight champion, was coming off a unanimous decision win over Ross Pearson in his UFC debut. The American Top Team product had not lost a fight coming in since 2013. Brooks, 29, remains someone who can make a run in the lightweight division.
Welcome to the UFC, Brandon Moreno. The Ultimate Fighter 24 castmate took a bout with Louis Smolka on just two weeks notice and managed to upset the top flyweight with a guillotine submission victory to open the main card Saturday night.
"The Octagon is magical," Moreno, who hails from Mexico, told Jon Anik afterward through a translator. "I can't describe the feeling. It's magical!"
Moreno (12-3) was the No. 16 seed on TUF and fell in the first round of the tournament to Alexandre Patoja. But when Sergio Pettis pulled out of the bout with Smolka, Moreno was tabbed to replace him on short notice. Moreno, just 22 years old, is the former the World Fighting Federation flyweight champion and has not lost a fight since 2012. He trains with flyweight contender Henry Cejudo.
Smolka (11-2) had won four in a row coming in and looked to be surging toward title contention. Smolka is still just 25 years old and figures to be back in the mix soon enough.
Another UFC newcomer also made good in his debut in Portland. Zak Ottow defeated veteran Josh Burkman by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). Ottow, who came in on short notice, won the first two rounds with superior boxing and then nearly finished Burkman in the closing seconds with a rear-naked choke.
Ottow (14-3) has won five in a row overall, including his time King of the Cage. The 29-year-old former Air Force football player has been busy with seven fights since the start of 2015. Burkman (28-14) was supposed to face Bobby Green in this fight at lightweight, but moved back up to 170 to face Ottow on short notice. "The People's Warrior," now 35 years old, has lost two in a row and four of his last five.
Andre Fili might have had a star-making performance on the FS2 portion of the prelims. He nearly finished ranked featherweight Hacran Dias in the first round with a flurry and then hung in the third for a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) victory. Fili had great takedown defense and sweeps throughout, counteracting Dias' excellent wrestling game. The Team Alpha Male product also did plenty of damage on the feet.
Fili (16-4) has alternated wins and losses over his last seven fights, his full UFC career. But the Sacramento resident picked up the biggest win of his career by far Saturday night. Fili is still just 26 years old. Dias (23-5-1), who missed weight, has now lost two straight.
Also on the FS2 prelims, Henrique da Silva finished Joachim Christensen via armbar submission in the second round; Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos beat Keita Nakamura in a wild fight by unanimous decision; and Shamil Abdurakhimov won a split decision over Walt Harris.
On the early prelims, Nate Marquardt proved he still has more than enough to continue to compete in the UFC. The 10-year UFC veteran knocked out Tamdan McCrory with a head kick after rocking him with a right hand in a gorgeous finish in the second round. Marquardt (35-16-2), now 37 years old, has now won two of three after a rough stretch that saw him fall in five of six bouts. McCrory (14-5) has dropped two in a row via knockout.