The fact that John Lineker was willing to sit for an interview on weigh-in day should tell you all you need to know about how the cut for his Wednesday fight against Alptekin Ozkilic was going, and as he predicted, he not only hit the mark on Tuesday, he came in at 125.5 pounds, a half-pound under the limit.
It’s a new day for “Hands of Stone.”
“The first part of the fight is done,” said Lineker through translator Michele Spinelli Davis. Now all that’s left is the part with the gloves on, and that’s always been the easiest part for the 23-7 flyweight contender, who has gone 4-2 in the UFC despite missing weight in three of those bouts. But the 24-year-old insists that those days are over.
“For sure,” he said. “I have made a great job this time cutting weight, and I will keep working like this in the future.”
If not for his battles with the scale – and a February loss to Ali Bagautinov – Lineker might have already secured a shot at champion Demetrious Johnson. But there were too many red lights around him to put him in a fight he might not even make weight for. He admits that he thought about moving to 135 pounds, but after this smooth cut, he’s going to stay put and begin his quest for a title anew. And it starts with Ozkilic.
“I think we will both do a great fight,” said Lineker. “He is great on the ground and is also a great wrestler, but I don't want to worry about difficulties right now; I will only worry about imposing my game.”
That game includes the kind of knockout power that is rivaled only by John Dodson at 125 pounds. You don’t see a flyweight changing the course of a fight with a single punch like Lineker does, and he’s done it three times in the UFC against Azamat Gashimov, Jose Maria, and Phil Harris.
“I think that the reason for that is that I am usually the heaviest fighter in this division, and I am the one that cuts more weight,” said Lineker, and that’s certainly a good reason for remaining at 125 pounds. But it takes more than pure power to win four times in the UFC, and for this he doesn’t hesitate to reveal the trio of reasons why he believes he’s a major player in the division.
“The secret is a lot of training, focus, and faith in God,” said the Paranagua native, who can also point to determination for his success. Remember, this is the same kid who had no team with him when he came to the U.S. for his UFC debut against Louis Gaudinot due to visa issues, and didn’t even have a mouthpiece or cup. He’s come a long way since then, in and out of the Octagon.
“I can say that since I have started fighting in the UFC I gained a lot of experience and I look forward to always getting better,” he said. “Everything changes after you become a UFC fighter. My life has gone from 40% to 100%.”
Title shot or not, that’s a success story already, but Lineker – like any fighter – is hungry for more, and with John Dodson sidelined until next year, a big win from “Hands of Stone” could propel him up the flyweight ladder, something he’s aiming for.
“I think now that Dodson got injured, if I win this fight I might be closer to the title shot.”
And weight won’t be an issue.