Power and volume gave John Lineker his recipe for success.
The former Jungle Fight champion moved one step closer to the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight division with a split decision over John Dodson in the UFC Fight Night 96 main event on Saturday at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Scores were 48-47 across the board, with two of the cageside judges favoring Lineker.
Dodson played matador for much of the 25-minute affair, retreating and circling away from the notoriously heavy-handed Brazilian. He landed at a far more efficient clip than Lineker, but his lack of output proved costly. According to FightMetric data, Dodson outstruck the man they call “Hands of Stone” 101-94 but threw 132 fewer strikes. The fight was likely won and lost in the middle rounds: Lineker out-landed the Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay in the second (16-15) and fourth (27-22) while equaling him in the third (15-15). No matter how one slices it, it was undeniably close.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Lineker vs. Dodson,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
John Lineker vs. Cody Garbrandt: Lineker poses a frightening challenge for anyone at 135 pounds. A pint-sized powerhouse with a granite chin and a thirst for violence, the 26-year-old has rattled off six consecutive victories at the expense of Dodson, Michael McDonald, Rob Font, Francisco Rivera, Ian McCall and Alptekin Ozkilic. Lineker showed his motor in going five rounds with the elusive Dodson, a fact which adds another layer of difficulty when confronting him. Garbrandt last appeared at UFC 202 in August, when he blew away Takeya Mizugaki with punches in just 48 seconds and improved his unblemished record to 10-0.
Alex Oliveira vs. Albert Tumenov-Leon Edwards winner: Oliveira recorded his eighth win in 10 bouts, as he put away former Bellator MMA champion Will Brooks with ground-and-pound in the third round of their co-main event. Brooks appeared to suffer a rib injury inside the first five minutes, and the Brazilian “Cowboy” capitalized on his counterpart’s condition. Late in round three, Oliveira advanced to top position, pinned the American Top Team rep to the canvas near the base of the cage and cut loose with punches until it was over. The victory was bittersweet for the 28-year-old, who did himself no favors in missing weight by more than five pounds. Oliveira will return to the welterweight division as a result. Tumenov and Edwards will square off at UFC 204 on Oct. 8 in Manchester, England.
Brandon Moreno vs. Sergio Pettis: A replacement for the injured Pettis, Moreno made the most of his opportunity under the bright lights. The 22-year-old Entram Gym prospect upset the heavily favored Louis Smolka, as a he sprang a guillotine choke on the Hawaiian and prompted a tapout 2:23 into the first round of their flyweight showcase. Moreno, who competed on Season 24 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, has won nine fights in a row, finishing seven of them. Pettis, 23, last competed at UFC 197 on April 23, when he earned a three-round unanimous decision over Chris Kelades at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Andre Fili vs. Darren Elkins: Fili rebounded from his knockout loss to Yair Rodriguez in April and did so as a short-notice fill-in for the injured Brian Ortega, capturing a unanimous decision from Hacran Dias on the undercard. The Team Alpha Male rep floored and nearly finished Dias in the first round, continued to give him fits in the second and held on in the third, registering the most significant victory of his 20-fight career. Fili has alternated wins and losses in his seven UFC appearances, offsetting his three defeats with victories over Dias, Gabriel Benitez, Felipe Arantes and Jeremy Larsen. Perennially one of the toughest outs in the featherweight division, Elkins finds himself on a three-fight winning streak following his unanimous decision over Godofredo Castro at UFC on Fox 20 in July.
John Dodson vs. Bryan Caraway: His stock unlikely to take much of a hit, Dodson was on the wrong side of a contentious split decision against Lineker and lost for just third time in seven appearances inside the Octagon. The 32-year-old Albuquerque, New Mexico, native still has never been finished as a professional and figures to catch another highly ranked bantamweight whenever he returns to the cage. Caraway has quietly compiled a 6-2 record in the UFC and picked up steam at a UFC Fight Night event on May 29, when he took a split decision from the previously unbeaten Aljamain Sterling.