In another time, another life, UFC 207's TJ Dillashaw and John Lineker would've already had a title shot off their current runs.
As bantamweight champion, Dillashaw began sniffing around the No. 1 pound-for-pound discussion by steamrolling Renan Barao twice in the span of a year. He would drop the title after two defenses to Dominick Cruz in January via split decision, but the razor-thin nature of the loss had many calling for an immediate rematch.
Unfortunately, the UFC opted for one last cash-in on an aging Urijah Faber, matching him with Cruz for the title while leaving Dillashaw to spin his wheels. Despite returning to the win column at UFC 200 at the expense of old foe Raphael Assuncao, he was once again passed over for a shot at gold and needs to win an all but meaningless fight at UFC 207.
Lineker is in a slightly different boat, but finds himself with the same future. A longtime contender at 125 pounds, he moved up to 135 in 2015 and has been on a tear ever since. Entering UFC 207 on a six-fight winning streak and set to face a former champion and clean-cut top-three fighter in his division, he should poised to jump into a title shot with a win. A history of missing weight, however, will likely result in the UFC doing him no favors and could result in him being left in mid-tier purgatory for the foreseeable future.
Because of that, the stakes were simultaneously high and low for Dillashaw and Lineker, but there's no doubt both men wanted a win. There was only one to go around, though, and it went to Dillashaw.
Dillashaw looked to work his dynamic striking arsenal right from the start, hunching forward and feinting a variety of punches while keeping Lineker honest with kicks. Lineker did a solid job of avoiding any damage and keeping Dillashaw from getting comfortable, but Dillashaw would eventually explode into a takedown, notching minutes in dominant positions. Lineker would eventually break free, but didn't manage to do anything that would swing the round in his favor.
Round 2 started off significantly quicker as Dillashaw scored two smooth takedowns in the first 90 seconds. Once again, Lineker was forced to work off his back for a prolonged period of time but this time, he couldn't manage to escape, spending nearly four full minutes pressed to the mat and soaking up elbows and punches.
It was do-or-die for Lineker entering the third but, alas, the round was no different from the first two. Dillashaw mixed strikes and worked feints before taking Lineker down and keeping him there for a prolonged period of time, never giving him room to breathe and never giving him the chance to swing the momentum.
The final horn sounded, and Dillashaw's shutout was acknowledged by the judges in the form of a 30-26 unanimous-decision win.
Dillashaw's strong performance wasn't especially surprising. Despite losing to Cruz in January, he has the toolbox and resume to remain among the pound-for-pound elite. Lineker, despite being a gritty and entertaining power puncher, lacks the versatility and physical assets to really be an enduring, elite bantamweight.
Theoretically, that win should set him up with a fight opposite the winner of the UFC 207 co-main event between Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbrandt. Dillashaw knows it, too, saying, "If I don't get a title fight we all know this s--t is rigged," to Joe Rogan in the Octagon in the post-fight interview.
He may or may not get that shot at gold next. There's no doubt he deserves it, though.