John Lineker’s move up to bantamweight was forced on him after he failed to make weight several times at 125 lbs. He made the most of the change in his 135 lb. debut, though, taking out Francisco Rivera last month at UFC 191.
Now that he’s firmly established himself in the field, Lineker has lofty expectations for himself, and said in an interview with Guilherme Cruz at MMAFighting.com this week that he has full confidence he can stop the two men fighting for the division’s title next in T.J. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz.
“For sure,” he said when asked if he believed he could knock them out. “They move a lot, but that’s not a problem. They would have to get closer to hit me, and once you get closer, I’m hitting you back. I would not hunt them down, I would let them come.”
Lineker understands that’s not going to come immediately, but he doesn’t believe it’s going to take long for him. Indeed, he’s hoping for a top five opponent next, and thinks similar performances to the one he had against Rivera will have the title fight coming soon enough.
“I hope my next fight is against a top five,” he said. “I won’t pick and choose, but I hope they give me a top five so I can get closer to the bantamweight title. One or two more intense wins like this last one, and I think they could give me a title shot.”
Penick’s Analysis: Lineker showed off his wild and exciting style to great effect against Rivera, who obliged him in a brawl and paid the price because of it. Lineker’s got the speed to keep up with a lot of the fighters in the division, but being undersized may wind up being a negative when and if he faces those the likes of Dillashaw and Cruz. Both current champ and former champ have a significant speed and movement edge on Lineker, and add in their reach and ability to avoid punishment, it’s unlikely they fall victim to Lineker if they fight. That’s still a ways down the line, and he has to get through some other very good bantamweights to get there, but the confidence in his own abilities is a positive thing for him.