Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweights should be on high alert by now.
John Lineker stepped up his demolition derby at 135 pounds in the UFC Fight Night 91 main event, as he cut down Michael McDonald with first-round punches on Wednesday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Hands of Stone” brought to a close 2:43 into round one, burying McDonald under a hailstorm of power punches.
A former flyweight, Lineker has carried his potent punching power with him to 135 pounds. The diminutive Brazilian -- he stand just 5-foot-3 -- has pieced together a five-fight winning streak, three of them as a bantamweight, and could soon be in position to challenge for the title. Since making the move to the 135-pound weight class, Lineker has bested McDonald, Rob Font and Francisco Rivera. According to FightMetric data, the former Jungle Fight champion has landed 134 significant strikes in those three wins.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “McDonald vs. Lineker,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
John Lineker vs. Cody Garbrandt-Takeya Mizugaki winner: Lineker has found a home in the top-heavy bantamweight division, having left behind the weight-cutting demons that plagued him at 125 pounds. A ferocious body puncher who throws in combination and has a nose for the finish, the 26-year-old American Top Team-trained Brazilian has put himself in position to become a serious player in a division that lacks a clear pecking order behind champion Dominick Cruz and No. 1 contender T.J. Dillashaw. The undefeated Garbrandt, fresh off his scintillating knockout of Thomas Almeida, will square off with Mizugaki at UFC 202 on Aug. 20 in Las Vegas.
Tony Ferguson vs. Rafael dos Anjos: The decision to accept a co-main event pairing with short-notice replacement Landon Vannata nearly proved disastrous for Ferguson. Vannata, who filled in for the injured Michael Chiesa, had “El Cucuy” reeling and out on his feet with a perfectly timed head kick in the first round. Ferguson recovered, withstood the barrage that followed and wore down the Jackson-Wink MMA prospect in round two, ultimately submitting Vannata with his patented brabo choke. A strong case could be made for Ferguson to challenge newly minted lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez next. However, if UFC matchmakers elect to go in another direction -- Khabib Nurmagomedov and his 23-0 record are also in line -- then perhaps a title eliminator with the fallen dos Anjos would be appropriate.
Louis Smolka vs. Kyoji Horiguchi: Smolka was spectacular in chasing Ben Nguyen with gruesome second-round ground-and-pound in their flyweight showcase. The fast-rising Hawaiian answered Nguyen at every turn, eventually putting him away with elbows and punches on the canvas. Smolka, 24, has rattled off four straight wins, three of them finishes, since his contentious split decision loss to Chris Cariaso in May 2014; it remains the only defeat on his ledger. A winner in 11 of his past 12 bouts, Horiguchi last appeared at a UFC Fight Night event on May 8, when he captured a unanimous decision over former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Neil Seery.
Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Francis Ngannou-Bojan Mihajlovic winner: It was not aesthetically pleasing, but Omielanczuk got the job done against the returning Alexey Oleinik. The Polish heavyweight survived a difficult first round with the combat sambo world champion, leaned on his superior gas tank and brutalized Oleinik over the final two rounds to walk away with a majority decision. Omielanczuk, who has never been finished in his 26-fight career, has posted back-to-back-to-back victories since his decision loss to Anthony Hamilton a little more than a year ago. Ngannou and Mihajlovic on July 23 will sling leather at UFC on Fox 20 in Chicago.
Michael McDonald vs. Rob Font: McDonald simply could not match Lineker’s firepower, as the 25-year-old Californian was on the receiving end of a first-round knockout for the first time in 21 professional bouts. “Mayday” has alternated wins and losses in each of his past five outings, sandwiching defeats to Lineker, Urijah Faber and Renan Barao around victories over Brad Pickett and Masanori Kanehara. Where the setback against Lineker leaves McDonald remains to be seen. Font last fought at UFC 198 on May 14, when he dropped a three-round unanimous decision to Lineker and saw his run of 11 consecutive wins grind to a halt.