There’s little argument that UFC Fight Night 45 was one of the best cards in MMA history. Moreover, flyweight contender John Lineker easily had one of the best fights in 2014 so far.
But is he ready for a title shot against UFC champion Demetrious Johnson?
At first glance, the matchup seems to make perfect sense. “Mighty Mouse” Johnson already defeated the top five competitors at 125 pounds — John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez (twice), Ian McCall, Ali Bagautinov, and John Moraga — which means that the UFC should be dying to get a fresh face into that title hunt.
But Lineker, despite his amazing performance against Alptekin Ozkilic, hasn’t earned his title shot just yet.
As UFC senior PR director Dave Sholler reminded the media during Wednesday’s post-fight press conference, Lineker has missed weight twice in his last four fights and three times in his entire UFC career. That’s a huge problem for a potential title contender, since any UFC championship bout immediately becomes a non-title match if either fighter misses weight.
Johnson has enough trouble drawing interest as a title holder, and a setback like that would only hurt the UFC.
Right now, Lineker needs to prove at least one more time that he can safely and reliably make the 125-pound flyweight limit. To boot, it also wouldn’t hurt for him to get one more win in the bank since he recently dropped a decision to Ali Bagautinov.
It’s also fair to argue in hindsight that Lineker’s loss to Bagautinov shouldn’t matter quite so much since the Dagestani fighter tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (erythropoietin) after UFC 174, but a loss is unfortunately still a loss. As much as MMA fans may not like Chris Cariaso getting the next flyweight title shot, at least he’s never missed weight once in his entire professional career.