Last night (Wed., July 16, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights John Lineker and Alptekin Ozkilic threw down in a "Fight of the Night"-winning war on the main card of UFC Fight Night 45 from Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey (full results here).
Lineker was looking to rebound from a UFC 169 loss to recent title challenger Ali Bagautinov. The defeat snapped a four-fight UFC win streak, so the No. 7-ranked Lineker was looking to start a new one with his uncanny knockout ability.
"Hands of Stone" also put his troubles with making weight in the past heading into New Jersey, signifying he was ready to begin delivering on his exciting potential.
But he met up with an extremely tough opponent in Ozkilic, who received a huge step up in competition after losing to Louis Smolka at UFC Fight Night 35. Although "The Turkish Delight" couldn't pull off the massive upset, he did play his part in a war that was deemed the best fight on a card full of exciting bouts.
The fight kicked off with Lineker snapping a big hook to the body. He followed it with a powerful combo and Ozkilic went for a lifting throw. Lineker defended well but was eventually taken down. "The Turkish Delight" rained down with elbows before Lineker got back to his feet. "Hands of Stone" landed a big uppercut and stalked down Ozkilic with slugging blows.
Ozkilic scored a good hook of his own and kept his movement level high. Lineker missed on a takedown and ate a leg kick, rushing forward with quick and wild shots. He got a takedown near the fence, but Ozkilic got back up to land a good counter as the first round closed.
The second round began with Lineker aggressive as planned. He was landing left hooks and right uppercuts, backing up Ozkilic in the process. Still, "The Turkish Delight's" counter left was working. Lineker went back to the body and nearly secured a double leg. He snapped two good shots and a few jabs, continuing to show a strong mix of power and accuracy.
Lineker was mixing it up with huge punches to the body and head, but Ozkilic would not crumple. He scored a solid body-head combination of his own and the fighters traded in the pocket. Lineker threw a looping shot and a follow-up uppercut, securing a sloppy double leg to finish a strong round.
The final frame saw Lineker push the pace with surprising energy. He snapped a hard leg kick and several hard punches, showboating to the New Jersey crowd. Lineker had Ozkilic in trouble with a high volume of big shots. Ozkilic missed a takedown attempt and worked the jab over and over before landing more hooks to the body. Ozkilic was opened up but scored with a strong counter combination.
Lineker responded with an onslaught to the body, slinging leather like we've rarely (if ever) seen in a UFC flyweight bout. Refusing to quit, Ozkilic kept fighting on and landed two overhand rights. Lineker pumped up the crowd and found a final push, landing a series of huge left hooks to earn the impressive finish in the bout's final seconds (see the video replay here).
It was a memorable fight in the division that needed it the most, and Lineker may have earned himself a title shot by winning it. He most likely wouldn't be there yet in another division, but flyweight is starved for title challengers after dominant champion Demetrious Johnson has cleaned out the top level.
The UFC brass may be wishing that they waited to see the result of this bout before booking Johnson vs. Chris Cariaso in the co-main event of UFC 177, but they were probably weary of Lineker's ability to make weight, and for good reason.
"Hands of Stone" called out for a title shot after the exciting victory, and he'll probably get it sometime soon. His conditioning was much better than it ever has been, marking the emergence of a new contender in a shallow division.
Ozkilic won't lose any standing with the loss. He was an underdog against Lineker, and he absorbed an insane amount of hard shots from the heaviest hitter at flyweight. He fought back with some good strikes of his own, and he showed a true warrior spirit.
Those are the kind of performances that his bosses love, so Ozkilic will probably receive a slight step down in competition for his next bout. A fight with someone like Tim Elliott would probably make sense for him.
He should have a solid future in the Octagon, but despite his toughness, he's going to have to start picking up a few wins to keep the ball rolling.
John Lineker brought a dangerous new wrinkle to his game by keeping up a frenetic pace of power striking against the hard-charging Alptekin Ozkilic. Will Lineker wrap his "Hands of Stone" around the UFC flyweight title?