Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight standouts Ian McCall and John Lineker will go to war this Saturday (Nov. 8, 2014) at Ginasio Municipal Tancredo Neves in Uberlandia, Brazil.
Since going winless in first three Octagon appearances -- albeit against stellar competition -- McCall has gotten back on track, picking up clear decisions over Iliarde Santos and Brad Pickett. Still, to get another match up with division champion Demetrious Johnson, he'll need a dominant performance or his first finish inside the Octagon against Lineker.
Thus far, the scale has been the biggest challenge to Lineker's career. He's lost a couple of times as well, but the 24-year old brings constant violence, making those performances easy to forget. With a victory over a big name like "Uncle Creepy," the Brazilian could find himself in a 25-minute championship clash sooner than later.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Brad Pickett (UFC Fight Night 46), Dustin Ortiz (Tachi Palace Fights 9), Darrell Montague (Tachi Palace Fights 10)
Key Losses: Demetrious Johnson (UFC on FX 3), Joe Benavidez (UFC 156)
Keys to Victory: McCall is a well-rounded Flyweight with a high level of skill in each area of mixed martial arts (MMA). Though his punches pack power, and he has legitimate submission ability, McCall has yet to score a finish inside the UFC.
In his last bout, McCall squared off with Brad Pickett, an aggressive slugger with solid wrestling. In order to defeat Lineker, McCall will have to replicate that showing against "Hands of Stone."
Simply put, Lineker's style is not so different from Pickett's. He throws a high volume of looping punches but is not the most agile flyweight, and he can be taken down when his feet are planted.
The difference is that Lineker is a much better boxer and has more power than the Brit.
Still, McCall's strategy of moving around Pickett, picking his shots, then getting back on his bike should work here as well. In addition, McCall's takedowns will be even more effective in this bout, as Lineker is not particularly talented from his back.
However, it's vastly more important in this scrap that McCall ignore the urge to brawl. Against Pickett, McCall could afford to take a clean punch in order to land one if he was forced to.
That's far from an even exchange if he makes it with his Brazilian foe.
Key Wins: Alpetzkin Ozkilic (UFC Fight Night 45), Yasuhiro Urushitani (UFC on Fuel TV 6)
Key Losses: Ali Bagautinov (UFC 169), Louis Gaudinot (UFC on Fox 3)
Keys to Victory: Lineker is something of an anomaly in the Flyweight division. Surrounded by men with fleet feet and excellent movement, Lineker still chooses to walk down his foe, cut off the cage, and swing heavy leather.
Though his weight cut is clearly difficult, it's a huge advantage when Lineker does make weight. Lineker absolutely slams punches into his foe's body and skull, which has resulted in an impressive 12 knockout finishes.
Lineker may be facing a second step up in competition -- his first resulted in a decision loss to Bagautinov -- but this is absolutely a winnable fight for the Brazilian. Lineker may stand a bit flat, but his boxing is still quite technical in addition to being dynamic.
Lineker generally follows one game plan: walk towards his opponent and hit him lots and lots of times. Due to its consistency, more and more of Lineker's opponents have turned to lateral movement in order to avoid exchanges.
As any smart fighter does, Lineker has adapted. His ability to trap his opponent against the fence has improved, and he's now running his opponents into hard kicks to the head and body. For the most part, this will be the skill that determines whether Lineker defeats McCall, as he possesses a clear advantage in punching exchanges.
Additionally, I'd love to see Lineker taunt McCall. "Uncle Creepy" adores playing it up for the crowd and would very likely oblige Lineker's request for a brawl once provoked.
Bottom Line: This is an absolutely pivotal bout for the Flyweight division. All the other elite 125-pound fighters on the roster are either injured, suspended or have recently lost to the champion, meaning this bout will very likely determine the next title contender.
This bout is the key to McCall's redemption. He came quite close to defeating Johnson in his debut, but it fell apart afterward, as he lost two straight. Still, McCall believes he can beat the champion, but won't get a chance to prove it without a win here.
Furthermore, if McCall were to earn his first UFC finish, it would almost certainly seal up his shot at Octagon gold.
On the other hand, a loss would seriously set McCall back. Though he's only a few quality wins away from the title at any given time because of the state of the division, he'd have to begin another win streak anew. Plus, other contenders could build cases for the title by then.
As mentioned, this is Lineker's second step up to face an elite member of the division. Thanks to his exciting style, it's very likely that a victory would earn "Hands of Stone" a date with the champion.
Assuming he makes weight.
Though a loss would not cement Lineker's position in the division, it will make it much harder for him to earn another step up. If Lineker makes a habit of losing to the fighters in the Top 5, he'll end up as a high level action fighter rather than a contender.
At UFC Fight Night 56, Ian McCall and John Lineker will scramble for a potential shot at the Flyweight strap. Which man will emerge victorious?