John Lineker is preparing to return to the Octagon at UFC 219 on December 30 against Jimmie Rivera – who was originally supposed to fight Dominick Cruz and left without an opponent when the former champion broke his arm. With a win in Las Vegas, Lineker hopes to close out the year taking a big step closer to a rematch with current champion T.J. Dillashaw, whom he was beaten by last year. Dillashaw, though, is currently campaigning for a super fight against flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. That doesn’t sit well with Lineker.
“This business of challenging people in other divisions, I don’t like this”, Lineker told AG. Fight. “Every fighter has to stay quietly in his division and stay in his corner. But the UFC is now giving these opportunities to fight in other weight categories.”
Still, “Hands of Stone” doesn’t believe that the rumored super fight would hold up the bantamweight division for too long.
“Stagnation will not happen, because [T.J. Dillashaw] still has the bantamweight belt”, Lineker said. “Either way, he’ll have to defend the title. But in my opinion, everyone should stay in their division instead of challenging people elsewhere to fight.”
Currently ranked fifth within the UFC’s increasingly competitive bantamweight division, Lineker is set to face number four in Rivera, meaning there won’t be many names ahead of the winner of the December 30 bout. For that reason, even though he’s already been defeated by Dillashaw last December, Lineker is convinced that an impressive performance at UFC 219 can get him within reach of the belt.
“I believe I deserve a title shot if I win”, Lineker said. “I’ve been looking for this from the beginning of my career in the UFC and I think I’m ready. In fact, I don’t just think so, I’m sure that I’m ready. I had a loss against T.J. Dillashaw, but I went back home and reviewed the mistakes. Sure enough, with a convincing win [against Jimmie Rivera], I think I deserve my opportunity to fight for the title.”
“The fact that I lost to T.J. Dillashaw and him being the current champion doesn’t get in the way [of a potential title shot] because it’s a fight. Every fight has its own story, so I want to beat Rivera and get my chance to fight for the title. I believe that my loss to T.J. will not affect it at all.”
That being said, Lineker won’t underestimate Rivera, who sports an impressive resume with only one loss as a professional. “Hands of Stone” even admires his opponent for what he’s done so far, but still: Lineker believes that he’ll be the one to put a “2” in Rivera’s loss column.
“The matchup with Jimmie Rivera is very good for me, stylistically. Especially in the striking department, because he is a guy who also likes to exchange, who comes forward and so it’s sure to be a good matchup for me, too. I think Rivera is one of the toughest opponents I’ll face in the UFC, he’s a tough, tough guy. He has great skills. I think his strategy will be to pretend to seek a standup fight in the beginning and then to take me down.”
A UFC fighter since 2012, Lineker has become known for impressive knockouts, having finished five fights that way inside the Octagon. “Hands of Stone”, after healing a broken jaw that he sustained in his loss to T.J. Dillashaw, was last seen in action at October’s UFC Sao Paulo event when he defeated Marlon Vera by unanimous decision.