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UFC 224 card: John Lineker vs Brian Kelleher full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Sao Paulo-Lineker vs Vera Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight bruisers John Lineker and Brian Kelleher will brawl this Saturday (May 12, 2018) at UFC 224 inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lineker is an odd fighter in an odd position. Despite further weight troubles, Lineker rose up the Bantamweight ranks with his usual ferocity, only to be unceremoniously shut down by the current champion. He’s fought just once since then, winning a rather ho-hum decision victory. Meanwhile, Kelleher burst onto the scene with a quick submission win. His next loss came in the first round and caused many to question whether “Boom” was a flash in the pan, but a pair of consecutive wins since have made it clear that Kelleher is here to stay.

It’s going to be a scrap, so let’s take closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

John Lineker
Record: 30-8
Key Wins: John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 96), Michael McDonald (UFC Fight Night 91), Rob Font (UFC 198), Ian McCall (UFC 183)
Key Losses: TJ Dillashaw (UFC 207), Ali Bagautinov (UFC 169)
Keys to Victory: Lineker is a bruiser. He throws power punches by the dozen and never takes his foot off the gas, walking down his foe until the final bell. Unlike other brawlers, Lineker does a good job of targeting the body with both his left and right hook, helping create a path for the head strikes to land.

This is a fight between two men who like to advance. Neither fighter works from his back foot, which means the fighter initiating the exchanges will be at an advantage.

In Lineker’s case, he should be able to be the advancing fighter more often than not. Lineker is the more physical and more powerful Bantamweight — his punches clearly land with greater impact than Kelleher’s strikes. That advantage should allow Lineker to dictate the exchanges. Against a fellow high-volume striker, I’d really like to see Lineker double down on his commitment to body shots. No amount of conditioning can replace the energy stolen from a nice liver shot, which should help guarantee that Lineker is ahead on the cards if he’s unable to stop “Boom.”

VS.

Brian Kelleher
Record: 19-8
Key Wins: Renan Barao (UFC on FOX 28), Yuri Alcantara (UFC 212), Damian Stasiak (UFC Fight Night 118)
Key Losses: Marlon Vera (UFC on FOX 25)
Keys to Victory: Kelleher is an all-action offensive ball of energy. Kelleher has a decent mix of submissions and knockouts on his record, and he generally tends to finish foes simply by overwhelming them with his nonstop output.

As explained above, Lineker’s advantage here is punching power and physicality. Luckily, Kelleher’s chin is historically quite solid, and he’s slick enough in a brawl to get his own heavy shots in.

For Kelleher, the deciding factor will be how well he’s able to mix up his game. In a straight kickboxing match, his foe will probably get the better of him, but fighters like Dillashaw and Bagautinov found great success in frustrating Lineker with takedowns. Given their nature, it shouldn’t take long for Kelleher and Lineker to engage in a wild exchange. If Kelleher is smart, however, he’ll drop down and try to blast Lineker off his feet. Even if it doesn’t work, Kelleher needs to keep mixing the takedown and clinch work into his offense, as that type of fight fatigues Lineker far more than a boxing match.

Bottom Line: Violence!

More to the point, Lineker is highly ranked but without much momentum. Given his fighting style, however, that can change quickly. Lineker only needs one impressive stoppage win to get him back in the cage with a top five contender, and Kelleher seems the perfect opponent to guarantee an exciting result.

That said, even an exciting loss would drop Lineker far down the ranks.

In Kelleher’s case, it’s a big step up in competition. He earned this bout with his great display of dominance opposite Renan Barao, but Lineker is a far more dangerous foe than the former Bantamweight kingpin. If Kelleher can wear him down and impose his will on a top-tier athlete like Lineker, it really says promising things about his future at 135 pounds.

At UFC 224, John Lineker and Brian Kelleher will square off. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?

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