By Raphael Garcia
Now that International Fight Week is over, it’s time to look towards the MMA action fleshing out the rest of July. First up is UFC Fight Night 91, which features an important main event bout between Michael McDonald and John Lineker. The bantamweight division is wide open, as Dominick Cruz is healthy and sitting back on top of the weight class he once ruled in dominant fashion, and this is a fight that pushes the winner closer to a title fight at such a crucial time.
The influx of new contenders makes this an exciting time for the bantamweight division. Both McDonald and Lineker offer compelling challenges to the rest of the men within the Top 10. It’s hard to root for either man over the other, as they both are a drastic change from the rest of the men that sit near the top of the 135-pound weight class.
On the other side of the cage is Lineker, a man who was almost on his way out of the UFC due to weight issues. Moving up in weight is a major step that has adversely affected some individuals in the past, but Lineker seems to have effectively adjusted to the change. While he certainly gives up a major reach disadvantage to many of his opponents (for example, he gives up 3 inches to McDonald on Wednesday night), he’s found a way to overcome that issue in his first two bouts as a ranked 135-pound competitor.
The winner of this fight should find himself on the short list of title challengers. Right now the names of Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw are perhaps the first two in consideration for a title shot, and Bryan Caraway is a UFC veteran that shouldn’t be overlooked in the conversation either. McDonald and Lineker are vying to be included on that list with a highlight-reel victory in their main event matchup.
McDonald has only been knocked out once in his career. However, both Faber and Barao were able to hurt him with strikes before finishing him off with grappling. The question is whether or not Lineker will be able to find the range to connect with the power that he throws in each shot. If he does, this could be a short night for both men, but the longer the fight goes on, the more it will favor McDonald.
UFC Fight Night 91 features a fight that reminds us that we don't need title bouts to make compelling main events. The contest between McDonald and Lineker presents a test that both men need at this point if they are truly set on contending against Dominick Cruz and the rest of the elite fighters in the 135-pound division.
UFC Fight Night 91: McDonald vs Lineker (formerly UFC Fight Night 91: Chiesa vs. Ferguson) takes place on July 13, 2016 at Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.