Bantamweight John Lineker moved a step closer to a bantamweight title shot on Saturday when he knocked out Brian Kelleher at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Lineker entered the fight ranked No. 6 in the UFC’s 135-pound division and having won seven of his last eight bouts. Kelleher was coming off a win over former champion Renan Barao in his last outing and had won nine of his ten previous contests. The matchup promised fireworks and it delivered.
Lineker knocked Kelleher down with a left hook in the opening frame, but Kelleher recovered and returned fire. Lineker pressured Kelleher the entire fight landing combinations to the body and head. Kelleher stayed in the fight and stunned Lineker with a left hand of his own.
In the second frame, Lineker took over the fight. He dug to the body with right hands and followed them with left hooks to the head. Kelleher spent much of the time covering up and retreating from the forward pressure of the Brazilian.
In the third round, Kelleher took Lineker down as Lineker worked to secured a guillotine choke. He was unable to inflict damage from top position and Lineker quickly worked his way back to his feet and went back to work. He continued to pressure Kelleher and scored a knockout finish late in the final frame. He landed a right hand to the body and followed with a left hook that landed flush on Kelleher’s jaw sending him crashing to the canvas. The referee quickly stepped in and stopped the fight.
After the finish, Lineker called for a title shot. “Hands of Stone is back. Dana White, Sean Shelby, I want to fight for the title,” he said.