A potential title eliminator in the flyweight division is reportedly in the works for the UFC 169 event on Super Bowl weekend in New Jersey. The Russian website MMABoxing.ru was the first to deliver the news of a possible clash between Ali Bagautinov and John Lineker. If the fight becomes a reality, it would be a terrific way to determine the next title challenger for red-hot 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson.
“Mighty Mouse” capped a stellar 2013 with a devastating first-round knockout of Joseph Benavidez in their rematch at UFC on FOX 9. Johnson also recorded title victories over John Dodson and John Moraga and continues his climb up the ladder when it comes to the pound-for-pound discussion. With new challengers for the champion being sought out, the winner of “Puncher King” vs. “Hands of Stone” would seem to make perfect sense at some point in 2014.
Bagautinov has looked impressive since joining the promotion. The Russian Combat Sambo ace is 2-0 and most recently turned in a solid effort in earning a unanimous decision victory over fellow top-10 contender Tim Elliott at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Bagautinov outworked Elliott, landing a number of crisp, clean punches in the fight.
Elliott showed a remarkable chin in that contest, but didn’t have the answer for his dangerous opponent. Bagautinov has shown he’s a solid finisher with nine of his 12 career victories having come by way of either knockout or submission.
As for Lineker, he’s reeled off four straight victories since losing his promotional debut to Louis Gaudinot. The hard-hitting Brazilian’s toughest fight since entering the UFC has seemingly been with the scales. It’s why he’ll be relying on the expertise of nutrition and diet guru Mike Dolce to help him out moving forward in his UFC career.
Lineker would very likely have had a title opportunity by now if he hadn’t missed making weight on three separate occasions. His most recent effort was a first-round destruction of Phil Harris at Fight Night 30 in England. Lineker has stopped his last three opponents in impressive fashion and has 11 career knockouts to his credit.
With everyone still buzzing about Johnson’s highlight-reel knockout of Benavidez in Sacramento, the flyweight division is receiving some much-deserved props these days. A fight between exciting hard-hitting fighters like Bagautinov and Lineker would be a great way to carry over that momentum in 2014, and in the process find a new challenge for the champion.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports