ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One of the main things standing between John Lineker and the flyweight elite is that weight itself. Lineker has a hard time cutting and has come in above the 126-pound division maximum in three of his six fights at flyweight.
In his last fight, Lineker weighed in at 127 pounds, but an hour later he emerged and hit the 126 mark. The Brazilian slugger doesn’t believe his cut will be a problem this time around. His manager Alex Davis said Lineker is one pound off as of Monday and should be fine heading into Tuesday’s weigh-ins.
"It was easier, because I was focused this time and I put it into my mind that I’m going to do this and that’s what made the difference," Lineker told FOX Sports through an interpreter.
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Lineker (23-7) missed weight his previous two fights before falling to Ali Bagautinov back in February. He also was over in his UFC debut in 2012, an eventual loss to Louis Gaudinot. If he doesn’t make 126 on Tuesday, the UFC might have a long conversation with him about moving up to bantamweight.
I’m back and I’m ready to go after that title.
If he does, well he has the division at his fingertips.
Lineker is No. 7 in the UFC’s flyweight contender rankings. The entire top five has already lost to champion Demetrious Johnson and No. 1 John Dodson is out for a year with a torn ACL. Lineker meets Alptekin Ozkilic at UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller on Wednesday night here at Revel with a huge chance to become a serious candidate for a title shot. And he knows it.
"Certainly, I want to show everybody I’m ready here," Lineker said. "I’m back and I’m ready to go after that title."
Before the Bagautinov loss, Lineker had won four straight, finishing three of those opponents by TKO. There isn’t a fighter in the division — even Dodson — who can match his punching power. Then, if you take a closer look at the Bagautinov bout, there are questions. The Dagestani fighter just tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug EPO following his title fight against Johnson. It’s impossible to know if Bagautinov was using when he fought Lineker, but you can speculate.
Lineker’s fight with Ali Bagautinov was a close decision loss.
"It doesn’t really matter to me," Lineker said. "Maybe he was using something, but it’s already passed. He wasn’t caught. I don’t know if he was tested or not. If he’s the one in front of me again, it’s going to be different."
Lineker doesn’t blame the steep weight cut for losing to Bagautinov. He concedes that the Russian’s wrestling was just better than his. Lineker said he was improved since then, especially in clinch work along the fence. He drilled hard with training partner Rousimar Palhares, who is known for his grappling, on that very thing.
"The weight didn’t bother me at all," Lineker said. "It was really his wrestling that was better than mine. That’s what really made the difference. I got a little bit bothered by it psychologically, he weight, but I got over it and it wasn’t a problem."
Ozkilic is not ranked and an unknown. He’s 0-1 in the UFC. Lineker, 24, is a 3-to-1 favorite and deservedly so. On paper, it seems like he has very little to gain by beating someone not on most fans’ radar.
On the contrary, this is Lineker’s chance to remind everyone how good he is. And, you know, also to make weight without issue.
"I need to come out and give a great fight and show I can do this," Lineker said. "Hopefully, they’ll put me back into the title contention."