Despite the fact that he left England with a first-round TKO victory on Saturday night, John Lineker may have been the biggest loser at this past weekend’s UFC Fight Night 30 card. Lineker didn’t get head kicked into oblivion like Mark Munoz or collapse like Ryan Jimmo’s leg. He showed up and did his job perfectly on Saturday night, but his performance was overshadowed by his failures on the scale a day earlier.

Heading into Lineker’s fight with Phil Harris this past weekend, the MMA community was definitely paying close attention to the 23-year-old Brazilian flyweight. It was only a few months ago when a largely unknown fighter in John Moraga was given a shot at 125-pound champion, Demetrious Johnson, due to the lack of depth in the flyweight division. Since the pool of contenders within the weight class is still relatively shallow, it seemed inevitable that another win for Lineker would put him on the cusp of the flyweight title picture, especially if he came out and finished his third straight opponent. Of course, he still had to figure out his weight-cutting issues.

Lineker has struggled to make the 125-pound limit since his UFC debut over a year and a half ago. The Brazilian missed weight by a pound prior to his bout against Louis Gaudinot, and after being submitted by the Ultimate Fighter veteran the next day, Lineker shouldn’t have been surprised if he was pushed back onto the unemployment line. However, Lineker and Gaudinot put on a “Fight of the Night”-winning performance before Lineker was forced to tap to the guillotine choke, which was enough to earn “Hands of Stone” another shot inside the Octagon.

The UFC is normally pretty unforgiving when it comes to fighters missing weight, and becoming a repeat offender is a good way to ensure your position as a non-contender. Lineker obviously knew that making weight was pivotal to keeping his job, and he was able to get down to the required 126 pounds in his next two fights, both of which resulted in wins for Lineker.

The Brazilian’s two-fight winning streak, which featured a victory over former top-ranked flyweight Yasuhiro Urushitani, was enough to earn him a spot on the main card of the UFC 163 pay-per-view event in Brazil this past summer. But after two straight fights without any major issues, Lineker’s troubles with the scale popped up again.

Missing weight by any amount is usually considered a huge misstep, but the more over the required weight limit a fighter is, the more likely they are to get blasted by fans and media alike. When Lineker checked in at 129 pounds before his pay-per-view debut against Jose Maria Tome, it raised some questions about “Hands of Stone” as a title contender. Even after Lineker disposed of a very tough Tome in the second round, more focus seemed to be on his struggles with cutting weight than the TKO victory he had just earned.

As impressive as Lineker had been in the cage, everyone knew that his achievements wouldn’t matter if he were unable to consistently prove he could hit the 125-pound mark. When the Brazilian was matched up against Harris, a decent flyweight but nowhere near Lineker in the rankings, following his third straight UFC win, it only solidified that point. The UFC couldn’t trust Lineker to make weight in a meaningful bout, so the promotion decided to make him prove himself before giving him a big-name opponent. Good move.

After Lineker missed weight for the third time in his five-fight UFC career on Friday, talks of the fighter being forced to move up to the bantamweight division immediately began to gain some traction. In the past, we have seen UFC President Dana White warn guys like Thiago Alves and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson that he would force their hand if they couldn’t make weight on a regular basis, and Lineker was already on par with those fighters in terms of his struggles on the scale after just a handful of UFC appearances. If his future as a flyweight contender was in doubt after missing weight for his fight against Tome, his future as a flyweight in general is in question after missing the mark against Harris.

Even though Lineker destroyed Harris in less than three minutes, he’s still far from a shot at the UFC flyweight title until he gets his weight-cutting situation figured out. As it turns out, though, the process may have started before Lineker even stepped into the cage this weekend. Lineker is reportedly going to work with MMA’s most well-known weight-cutting expert, Mike Dolce, in order to make sure he can properly make the 125-pound limit before his next fight.

We’ve seen Dolce take on similar projects in the past with positive results. The most obvious example of the success of Dolce’s system is Alves, who struggled with making weight for most of his UFC career prior to hooking up with Dolce in 2011. After missing weight twice in his UFC career and consistently struggling to make the 170-pound welterweight limit, Alves has now made weight in his last four Octagon bouts. To make things more impressive, more often than not he’s weighed in below the required 171-pound limit for a welterweight fight. Considering Alves is just one of many fighters that Dolce has helped to navigate a tricky weight cut, Lineker is in good hands.

With Dolce on board, the sky may be the limit for Lineker. The Brazilian may have to take a few fights against lower-ranked opponents to prove to the UFC brass that his issues on the scale are over, but once he does, it won’t be long before the UFC gives him a chance against a top contender. How he competes at that level is still up in the air, but at least making 125 pounds won’t be Lineker’s biggest challenge once he gets there.

At just 23 years old, “Hands of Stone” is an extremely scary threat to the top fighters in the flyweight division, and the faster he’s able to resolve his weight-cutting issues, the faster he’s going to be going after the top-ranked fighters in the division. Considering that Dolce rarely (if ever) has a fighter miss weight, it’s easy to feel good about Lineker’s future at flyweight.

Photo: John Lineker (Marcio Valle/Primeiro Round)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.