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Report: With Cruz injured, Lineker meets Sandhagen in UFC’s ESPN+ debut

Dominick Cruz’s injury has left the UFC without a prime top contender’s matchup for the bantamweight division, but it’s also opened the door for a young prospect to get a big name fight.

UFC 207: Dillashaw v Lineker Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Dominick Cruz’s fight with John Lineker at the (now cancelled) UFC 233 PPV event was primed to be a high profile return to contender-ship for the former two-time bantamweight champion. Cruz had been once again plagued by injuries, since losing his title to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 in 2016. If he could come back from another long layoff, still in top form, he could be right back in the title hunt.

Unfortunately, a career plagued by bad luck almost as much as it has been by success, appears to have hit yet another road block. Cruz is injured again. This time two torn ligaments in his right shoulder will keep him out for at least a year.

But when one door closes, another often opens. For Cory Sandhagen, Cruz’s bad luck has turned into a massive opportunity. The 26-year-old Elevation Fight Team prospect opened his UFC career with impressive back-to-back wins over Austin Arnett and Iuri Alcantara — taking his overall record to 9-1. Now ESPN reports that he’ll be taking a massive step up, replacing Cruz against the no. 6 ranked Lineker at UFC Brooklyn on January 19th.

The UFC is looking to stack the deck for their first fight card with their new broadcast partner. The main event features a ‘superfight’ between flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and current bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw. With notable talents like Donald Cerrone, Glover Teixeira, Paige VanZant, and Joe Benavidez dotting the card.

Lineker will enter his bout against Sandhagen off his own two-fight win streak, having picked up victories over Marlon Vera and Brain Kelleher in 2017 & 18 respectively. A loss to TJ Dillashaw in 2016 broke a six fight unbeaten run for the Brazilian slugger, but his long track record of success has built his reputation as one of the most consistent and dangerous talents at 135 lbs.

A win in New York for Sandhagen would rocket him toward title contention, while a loss could prove to be a valuable taste of what the highest levels of the UFC have to offer. A win-win situation for the American, and a potentially risky proposition for ‘Hands of Stone.’

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