John Lineker and Brian Kelleher have been trading shots on social media even before they were matched up against each other at UFC 224 on May 12, and the Brazilian hopes that Kelleher is willing to continue this trend and stand and trade with him in the Octagon as well.
Kelleher has had a fast rise in the UFC, going 3-1 in eight months, including wins over Renan Barao and Iuri Alcantara, and Lineker loves the match-up for the Rio de Janeiro pay-per-view card.
”He’s tough, audacious, and is not afraid to trade punches,” Lineker told MMA Fighting. “He had good performances in the UFC, and I believe this is a good match-up because we both love to trade. He said he’s not afraid of my hands, and I think that favors me a lot.”
Saying you are not afraid of Lineker’s “Hands of Stone” is one thing, but actually expecting someone to stand against you is completely different. Kelleher stopped Damian Stasiak with punches to secure his second UFC win and was a second away from knocking out a former champion in Barao in February, so Lineker does expect — and hope for — that.
”I think he will, but he’s not the first to say that,” Lineker said. “I’ve fought people in the past that said that but changed their minds when the fight started. I’m prepared if he tries to fool me and does something else.
“And if he wants to go to the ground, I’ll go for the submission,” he added. “I want to go for the knockout standing, but we never know what will happen in a fight. I want the knockout.”
With six stoppage victories so far in the UFC, Lineker wasn’t happy with his most recent performance, a unanimous decision win over Marlon Vera. It was his first fight after fracturing his jaw against T.J. Dillashaw less than a year before.
This time, Lineker will be entering the cage months after a tooth infection forced him out of a planned bout with Jimmie Rivera in December.
”I had a good recovery since that,” Lineker said. “I was a bit upset I fractured my jaw and was away for 10 months and then had this problem ahead of an important fight, it breaks the training and fighting rhythm, but I’m back for good now. I can’t wait to fight again and win.”
Lineker was forced to stay away from training for a couple of months, not taking punches to the face for weeks, and “definitely lost rhythm.”
”I don’t think my performance against Marlon Vera was good because I was out for 10 months, and then that tooth thing happened,” Lineker said. “I lost rhythm, but was able to get back in the gym and train hard. I did my best in the gym, so I think I’m 100 percent prepared now.”
One of the most exciting fighters in the 135-pound division, Rivera was hoping that a win in December would earn him a shot at the bantamweight championship. He doesn’t think the same will be on the line with a win over Kelleher, but it could put him one fight away from the belt.
”I want a convincing win over Brian, one that the UFC looks and says ‘he’s ready to get back in the title picture,’” Lineker said. “I think I’ll be in the path for a title shot again with a good performance. I won’t go straight for the belt, but I’ll be there at the top.”