A potential 125-pound title shot was on the line when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights John Lineker and Ali Bagautinov fought on the UFC 169 pay-per-view (PPV) main card last night (Sat., Feb. 1, 2014) from Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
No. 7-ranked Bagautinov recently made his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 28. He won his first two bouts over Marcos Vinicius and Tim Elliott to earn a big step up in competition against Lineker. A decorated grappling champion, Bagautinov's championship-level Sambo had given way to his recent preference to knockout his opponents.
No. 5-ranked Lineker came into the bout on a roll, having racked up four consecutive victories. His last win was a technical knockout of Phil Harris at UFC Fight Night 30. However, "Hands of Stone" gained a ton of criticism for repeatedly missing weight, a trend that continued prior to UFC 169. Ultimately he made weight, but it wasn't enough to get the job done.
Let's take a look back at Bagautinov's biggest UFC victory to date.
Bagautinov immediately went to his extensive grappling skills, taking down Lineker to land some intermittent ground and pound. Bagautinov stood up and Lineker went for a heel hook. "Puncher" responded by going for a leglock of his hold, but the fight soon returned to the feet. Bagautinov secured another good takedown and ended the round scoring with punches from top position.
The second round saw Bagautinov miss his first takedown, but he pushed Lineker against the cage to land some shots. Lineker controlled the center of the Octagon, stalking Bagautinov with body punches. Lineker sprawled out a takedown to nail Bagautinov with a ton of elbows to the body. Lineker controlled the action but Bagautinov landed some good shots, as well. The round ended with a solid striking exchange.
Lineker pressed forward in the third but was met with a takedown. "Hands of Stone" got up only to be tripped to the mat again. Lineker went for a kimura as Bagautinov rained down with elbows. Bagautinov stood back up to land a big straight that transitioned into a powerful takedown. "Puncher" got yet another takedown, then celebrated as Lineker went for a desperation heel hook to no avail as the final bell sounded.
Bagautinov took home the unanimous decision and may have earned a shot at UFC flyweight Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson in the process. His wrestling looked very sharp and he had the perseverance to match. When Lineker was seemingly finding his groove in the second round, Bagautinov responded well by hurting "Hands of Stone" with a big trip slam early in the third. He's 3-0 in the relatively shallow flyweight division, so he just may be primed for a shot at gold.
It's hard to think he would defeat the dominant "Mighty Mouse," however. Johnson owns wins over the top four contenders and Bagautinov just took out number five. That may or may not translate into an immediate title shot for "Puncher," but in a division as starved for contenders as flyweight, the odds are in his favor.
Meanwhile, Lineker's future will depend on his ability to consistently make weight.
He definitely needed an impressive win to erase the bad memories of his prior misses, but he fell painfully short. Despite some of the strongest punching power in the division, Lineker showed he could be taken down. He also controlled the Octagon against Bagautinov but failed to do much damage with it, perhaps a byproduct of his drastic (and nearly failed) weight cut.
"Hands of Stone" will fight on because he still has the ability to live up to his nickname.
We may have witnessed a new flyweight title challenger arise when Ali Bagautinov beat John Lineker at UFC 169. It wasn't the most electrifying of bouts, but "Puncher" got the job done. Was it enough to earn a bout with Demetrious Johnson?