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John Lineker: Fighting T.J. Dillashaw is the best way to prepare for Dominick Cruz

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UFC Fight Night 96 photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

John Lineker is one step away from fighting for the UFC bantamweight championship. He feels that facing a former titleholder in T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 207 in Las Vegas, on Dec. 30, is the best way to prepare for what’s coming in the future.

Unbeaten in four fights as a 135-pounder, including two post-fight bonuses for his first-round finishes over Francisco Rivera and Michael McDonald, Lineker expected to get a shot at the UFC belt with his win over John Dodson, but the promotion went with Cody Garbrandt vs. Dominick Cruz after the Brazilian failed to make weight.

"I really hoped to be next for the title after beating Dodson, but I believe that half-pound made the boss decide,” Lineker told MMA Fighting. "But I understand. And it’s good because I’ll get more prepared when it’s time to fight for the belt. Stronger."

Dillashaw is a former champion whose fighting style is similar to Cruz’s, and Lineker thinks it’s destiny that he’s fighting the Team Alpha Male product in what could be his last fight before a championship bout.

"I’m happy to be fighting a former champion. It’s going to be a tough fight,” he said. "Dillashaw is really tough, but I’m happy for this opportunity to face Dillashaw. God willing, I’ll bring another win and get the next shot at the champion.

"I believe a lot in God. If He wants me to fight Dillashaw, who has a style pretty similar to Cruz’s, it’s because he’s preparing me for what I’m going to face next.”

Fresh off a win over John Dodson, one of the few man to ever beat Dillashaw in the UFC, Lineker says he has learned important lessons in his recent five-round fight.

"I will be able to use my striking,” Lineker said. "Dillashaw has good takedowns, but he strikes more than Dodson, who ran away from the fight. I don’t know if Dillashaw will stand and trade with me, but I believe he will. I see myself using my boxing with him."

"I learned a lot with my last fight,” he continued. "I ran after him a lot, and I won’t do that anymore. I fixed this detail. I will force him to come, force him to fight with me in my game."

Dodson is the only man to ever finish the former champion, and Lineker is confident that his UFC 207 fight won’t last three rounds either.

"I believe a lot in myself. Every time I step inside the Octagon, I want the finish,” the Brazilian said. "I always want a knockout. We never know what’s going to happen, but I always want to end the fight with a knockout."

The bantamweight championship will be on the line later that night in Las Vegas, and even though Lineker believes Garbrandt can dethrone the 135-pound kingpin, he cheers for Cruz.

"Garbrandt has the knockout power and can beat the champion, but I’m rooting for Dominick because I want to fight the true champion when I have my opportunity,” Lineker said. "Beating Dominick Cruz, I’ll be the guy that beat the champion, not the guy that just won the belt. It will be a bigger deal."