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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight brawlers John Lineker and Brian Kelleher battled last night (May 12, 2018) at UFC 224 from inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lineker stormed into title contender after going up to 135 lbs., only to be completely dominated by T.J. Dillashaw in a title eliminator match up. He returned to the win column last time out in rather non-aggressive fashion, putting some extra pressure on “Hands of Stone” to return to form last night. Alternatively, Kelleher was picked up as a short-notice replacement, but quickly made an impact with a nasty upset submission. He’s established himself as a Top 15-ranked fighter since then, but this was a big step up in competition for “Boom.”

Kelleher opened showing movement and feints, but Lineker picked his shots and landed with power, including a trio of low kicks. Lineker seemed to be comfortably finding his range and landing big shots, but Kelleher reminded his foe of his own power with a clean left hook counter.

Just before the halfway point in the round, Lineker followed up a low kick with a clean left hook, dropping Kelleher to the mat. The New Yorker recovered quickly and immediately went on the offensive with a spinning back fist that partially landed. True to promise, the two continued to exchange powerful blows, though Lineker’s body punches and low kicks seemed to be the most effective weapons of either man.

It was a strong opening round from the Brazilian, but both men landed hard shots.

Lineker continued to find a home for his body-head combinations to start the second round, and he pressured “Boom” constantly. Kelleher planted and countered on occasion, but he had a difficult time deterring the Brazilian from his aggressive offense even when he landed a hard knee or counter left hook.

Once more, Lineker stunned his opponent at the midway point of the round, this time with body shots that caused Kelleher to back far away from the pocket. The fight was no longer the competitive scrap of the opening frame; Lineker was marching his foe down and landing brutal shots.

Kelleher never stopped trying to land, but he was forced on the defensive for larger portions of the round.

Despite all the abuse, Kelleher seemed to be moving fairly well and still in good conditioning. Lineker soon countered a bad shot with a deep guillotine, but Kelleher transitioned into top position and defended the choke.

Sadly for him, Kelleher was unable to hold the brawler down.

After the wrestling exchanges, Lineker’s punches were a bit slower, leading to fewer exchanges and some good jabs from Kelleher. Lineker recovered his wind though, unleashing a monster combination and a series of left hooks that had Brian Kelleher in all sorts of trouble. The New Yorker seemed to survive, only for a murderous left hook to connect perfectly on the chin and send him to sleep.

It was positively violent.

Lineker was far ahead on the judges’ scorecards, but he clearly wanted to make an impression. This was a far cry from the hesitant Lineker who worked past Marlon Vera, as the Brazilian was full of forward violence from the very beginning of the first round, and his manic energy carried through to the knockout.

Lineker’s body-head combinations are unrivaled. His right hook to the body crumples people routinely, and his follow up left hook obviously has a ton of steam on it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s predictable, as Lineker only needs one punch to get through to have a major impact on his opponent.

Now that Lineker has put together a pair of wins and returned to his methods of violence, it’s time for him to return to the title mix. A match up with Aljamain Sterling — one of Kelleher’s team mates — seems like a reasonable next step.

As for the defeated man, Kelleher gave it a hell of an effort. He nailed Lineker with some brutal counter strikes that would’ve given most fighters pause — if not dropped them outright — and he attempted strategies that have worked opposite the Brazilian in the past. It was smart work and Kelleher had no quit in him, but Lineker’s physicality proved too big an obstacle.

Last night, John Lineker returned to his old form with a vicious knockout win. Who should Lineker face next?

For complete UFC 224: “Nunes vs. Pennington” results and play-by-play, click HERE!