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You should be able to update to whatever version of the application you want.
Or downgrade if you want etc.
The numbers in the next Ubuntu or any other distribution means that they updated something since last update like new kernel or couple of major apps like window manager for example or xorg-server. To avoid any problems with full upgrade, i would suggest to update one by one (major programs and packages) and when you will have your 'system' up-to-date and working then perform full update for the rest.
I would start with the kernel first, then gcc, systemd, then xorg-server, then gnome, kde or whatever you prefer. after all that, go for the rest of the packages. On the end you will have system more up-to-date than this Ubuntu 16-something version.
good luck and don't forget to backup important data just in case.
...run it as you would be from an internal drive, albeit slower...
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