This Wednesday night (July 16, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights John Lineker and Alptekin Ozkilic will face off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 45, airing live at 9 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 from Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
No. 7-ranked Lineker was last seen at February's UFC 169, where he dropped a unanimous decision to recent title contender Ali Bagautinov. Prior to that, however, Lineker had won 17 out of 18 mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, including four straight in UFC.
"Hands of Stone" may possess the most explosive knockout power at 125 pounds. He's an enigmatic contender who could become a star in a division starving for one if could only stop standing in his own way.
Lately, he's been his own worst enemy by failing to make weight on numerous occasions. Lineker barely made 126 pounds on his second attempt before facing Bagautinov.
He'll look to rebound against the 28-year-old Ozkilic. "The Turkish Delight" also comes into Atlantic City off a loss, as Louis Smolka outpointed him at January's UFC Fight Night 35. After defeating Darren Uyenoyama in his promotional debut at UFC on FOX 9, Ozkilic still has a lot to prove in the Octagon.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Lineker vs. Ozkilic:
Record: 23-7 overall, 4-2 UFC
Key Wins: Phil Harris (UFC Fight Night 30) Jose Maria (UFC 163), Azamat Gashimov (UFC on FX 8)
Key Losses: Ali Bagautinov (UFC 169), Louis Gaudinot (UFC on FOX 3)
Keys to Victory: With 11 knockouts in 23 total wins, it's safe to say Lineker has earned his nickname "Hands of Stone." However, he could be on the verge of being released from UFC if he can't make weight in New Jersey.
Bagautinov outclassed him, but Ozkilic is a different type of test, a much less difficult one. Lineker is going to push the pace early on in an effort to pick up another highlight reel knockout.
The Brazilian has the precision and hand speed to end almost any flyweight's night in an instant. While Ozkilic has ever been knocked out, he's also never faced an opponent even close to Lineker's skill level.
If the fight hits the ground, Lineker isn't especially proficient. He has three submission wins of his own, but three out of seven total losses have come by way of tapout. Because of that dynamic, it's obvious that he wants to keep this fight standing.
With excellent takedown defense, there's a very good chance he'll do just that. He's lost four decisions, so Lineker can't allow Ozkilic make this a tiring wrestling match.
He'll have to show up on point at the weigh-ins and stay focused to accomplish that goal.
Record: 9-2 overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Darren Uyenoyama (UFC on FOX 9)
Key Losses: Louis Smolka (UFC Fight Night 35)
Keys to Victory: The jury's still out on Ozkilic, as he's split his two bouts in the Octagon. Both were decisions, and with six of his nine total wins coming on the judges' scorecards, Ozkilic isn't doing himself any favors in the eyes of the UFC brass.
That could definitely change in Atlantic City, but the odds would tell you Ozkilic would be on the wrong end of an exciting knockout.
To prevent that, Ozkilic will most likely have to turn this bout into a grinding affair. Pushing Lineker up against the cage and battering him with knees from the clinch will be paramount to victory for Ozkilic, as will mixing in a steady torrent of takedown attempts.
"The Turkish Delight" only has two knockout finishes on this record, both in 2013. Although that shows his striking is coming along nicely, Lineker has never been knocked out, so there's no reason to get into a boxing match with "Hands of Stone."
If he can drag Lineker to the mat and control him with some effective ground and pound, Ozkilic's biggest-ever win could be at hand. An opening for a fight-ending choke could also present itself.
He'll first have to stop Lineker's relentless onslaught to get there, so Ozkilic is in for a trying uphill battle.
Bottom Line from Atlantic City: The bottom line for this fight is that it's a two-part dynamic.
For Lineker, it's more of a showcase for him to prove he can make weight because that's been his Achilles' heel as of late. The question of whether or not he can knock out Ozkilic is more of a secondary issue. Most believe he can.
If he shows up in shape and motivated, Lineker should pick up a win and earn a big fight his next time out.
On the other hand, Ozkilic has a golden opportunity to pick up a huge win over a highly ranked opponent on Wednesday. He's got nothing to lose, and all of the pressure is on Lineker.
If he can make this fight a bit more exciting than his first two UFC bouts, it would certainly help his plight. Unfortunately, that kind of match-up doesn't really fit into his gameplan for winning.
Expect a striking contest to massively favor Lineker, while a slower bout begins to favor Ozkilic. You never know what version of Lineker you're going to get, but the very best version borders on elite in a shallow division.
It's on Ozkilic to prove otherwise. If he can, expect "The Turkish Delight" to vault himself into a decent spot on the rankings.
After missing weight and losing to Ali Bagautinov, the talented but troubled John Lineker looks to bounce back against Alptekin Ozkilic. Will "Hands of Stone" begin realizing his lofty potential?