After earning the biggest victory of his UFC career to date, John Lineker had a very simple request: he wants to face the best of bantamweight division.
“I’m a fighter. I’ll fight anybody they put in front of me, but I think I deserve Dominick Cruz,” he said. “It’s time for me. It’s my turn now.”
While Lineker’s split-decision victory over John Dodson in the UFC Fight Night 96 headliner at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore., on Saturday night was impressive, it also came with an asterisk attached. For the fifth time in his promotional tenure, the Brazilian missed weight. Even more damning was the fact that his most recent transgression came after the heavy-handed fighter moved from flyweight to bantamweight to escape such difficulties.
While the recurring scale issues might slow his ascent, it’s hard to deny that Lineker showed a new dimension to his skill set by going a full 25 minutes with a man who had twice gone five rounds in title bouts against Demetrious Johnson.
“I trained very hard for this fight,” Lineker said. “I came here for five rounds. I go one round after the other — that’s the way I like to fight.”
Dodson did not make it easy. The Jackson-Wink MMA representative often frustrated his opponent with his speed and movement, and Lineker spent much of the contest in heated pursuit of “The Magician.” Ultimately, the Brazilian was rewarded by two of the three cageside judges for his constant aggression and pressure — even if it wasn’t a typical Lineker performance.
“He was very fast. It was tough for me to find the pocket where I could hit him, but it’s the way it went,” Lineker said. “It’s five rounds and I’m very glad it went that way.”
On multiple occasions Dodson landed blows that might have ended a lesser man, but Lineker walked through hard left hands and clean head kicks like a man possessed. Meanwhile, Lineker’s patented body attacks couldn’t put Dodson away, either.
“He’s a tough guy. He took a lot of body shots. He hit me hard too,” Lineker said. “I was surprised that he kept on engaging me.”
Lineker has now won six straight bouts in the Octagon, including four at 135 pounds. If the title shot doesn’t arrive, he plans to keep on working until it does.
“I think I’ve shown the UFC in the last few fights that I deserve it, but if they want to put me against somebody else first, I’ll accept that too,” he said. “My life is fighting.”