Opinion: John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher – what will go down?

A hugely interesting meeting at 135lbs finds it’s way to the main card of UFC 224 this weekend in Rio de Janeiro, as home town striker John ‘Hands Of Stone’ Lineker faces surging American contender Brian ‘Boom’ Kelleher, with possible title implications on the line for the emerging victor this Saturday night.

The heavy handed Lineker returned from a legitimate outclassing by T.J. Dillashaw, in which his entire striking arsenal was shut down by the now champion. Following that, Linekar came back to score a unanimous decision victory over Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night Sao Paulo.

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Rivaled by maybe only Cody Garbrandt at bantamweight in terms of stopping power, Paraná boxer John Linker has trail blazed the 135lbs ranks since his move from Flyweight back in 2015. A couple of weight cut issues forced the 27 year-old to move division’s scoring an eye catching guillotine over Francisco Rivera after lighting him up in the standing exchanges in his premier bantamweight bout.

The returning and now Bellator challenger Michael McDonald was KO’d stiff by Lineker in his most impressive performance in his recent run, with the stoppage sandwiched between decision wins over Rob Font and two time title challenger John Dodson. His heavy striking power is also matched by his almost ridiculous ability to take a shot, somewhat relying on his chin to walk through Dillashaw during their three round bout and seeming unfazed throughout any striking exchanges, something he may have to rely on once more against Brian Kelleher.

MMA: UFC Fight Night - McDonald vs Lineker
Jul 13, 2016; Sioux Falls, SD, USA; Michael Mcdonald (red gloves) fights against John Lineker (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Denny Sanford Premier Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

New York native Kelleher on the other hand, managed his most notable career victory to date in his most recent octagon walk, taking a decision victory over one time division best and pound-for-pound great Renan Barao.

UFC Fight Night: Barao v Kelleher
ORLANDO, FL – FEBRUARY 24: (R-L) Brian Kelleher punches Renan Barao of Brazil in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Amway Center on February 24, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

A talented striker with a slick Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game, warranted by his purple belt and his tendency to wrap up a tight guillotine from the bottom, Brian Kelleher can really trouble some of these upper echelon contenders at 135lbs, if he finds a way past ‘Hands Of Stone’. 3-1 since his 2017 promotional bow, Kelleher secured a nasty guillotine over fellow grappling ace Iuri Alcantara before losing via submission to Marlon Vera. Returning against Damian Stasiak just last October, Kelleher displayed his underrated boxing prowess to stop the Pole in the dying embers of the final round.

Brian-Kelleher

The result of this meeting entirely depends on if Lineker can land a patented one hitter quitter clean on Kelleher who is yet to be finished by strikes in his seasoned career, but also if Kelleher can survive long enough to possibly secure a takedown and utilize his BJJ base to tie up a victory off his back inside the distance. Lineker is certainly no slouch in terms of grappling either, but seldom displays his brown belt status due to his brawling and terrifying stopping ability.

Official pick: John Lineker via unanimous decision.

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