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John Lineker steps in to face Jimmie Rivera at UFC 219

UFC Fight Night 96 photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jimmie Rivera will go from a former champion to one of the hardest hitters in the division.

With Dominick Cruz out due to injury, John Lineker has stepped in to face Rivera at UFC 219 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani confirmed with sources Tuesday. Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal had the news after an initial report by Helwani earlier in the day. Cruz withdrew earlier this month because of a broken arm.

Lineker (30-8) just fought at UFC Sao Paulo last month, defeating Marlon Vera by unanimous decision. The Brazilian slugger has won seven of his last eight fights with the only loss coming to current bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. Lineker, 27, has etched out a contender spot as a bantamweight after being a top-ranked flyweight, who struggled to hit the 125-pound limit.

Rivera (21-1) is one of the hottest streaks in MMA, winning 20 straight fights dating back to 2009. In the UFC, the New Jersey native has won five in a row. Rivera, 28, most recently knocked off Thomas Almeida by unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 25 in July. He owns a win over Urijah Faber and could earn a title shot with a victory next month.

UFC 219 will likely be headlined by a women’s featherweight title fight between champion Cris Cyborg and former women’s bantamweight champ Holly Holm. Also on that card, Khabib Nurmagomedov will return against Edson Barboza.

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