Sometimes the MMA stars align.
Former Jungle Fight champion John Lineker will collide with “The Ultimate Fighter 14” winner John Dodson in the UFC Fight Night 96 main event on Saturday at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. If nothing else, their five-round battle in the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight division promises fireworks. In the lightweight co-headliner, former Bellator MMA titleholder Will Brooks takes on Alex Oliveira. The rest of the four-fight main draw features a lightweight clash pitting Joshua Burkman against promotional newcomer Zak Ottow and a flyweight encounter pairing Louis Smolka with Brandon Moreno.
Let us take a closer look at the UFC Fight Night “Lineker vs. Dodson” card, with analysis and picks:
BantamweightsJohn Lineker (28-7) vs. John Dodson (18-7)
THE MATCHUP: Two former flyweights clash in this exciting battle of knockout punchers. Lineker repeatedly failed to make the flyweight limit before being forced into the bantamweight division. It does not seem to have been a bad move, as the Brazilian is currently enjoying a three-fight winning streak in his new division, having recorded two first-round knockouts and one dominant decision. Lineker has earned all of these victories with an aggressive approach. Sometimes his pressure is methodical, and sometimes it is reckless, but he is always coming forward and always, always threatening his opponent.
The mindset which enables Lineker’s aggression is precisely what makes him so difficult to beat. Unlike most fighters, he does not mind being hit. Opponents struggle to disincentivize his pressure, because when they punish Lineker, he punishes them right back. Lineker can be scared but not as easily as other fighters and usually not before he scares them. The more likely path to victory is to frustrate Lineker. Rather than fighting back, an opponent needs to refuse to fight, force Lineker to chase and sting him with quick, safe punches while he struggles to set his feet and throw.
Can Dodson do this? The Jackson-Wink MMA fighter is certainly fast enough to evade Lineker’s assault. He was the fastest fighter in the flyweight division -- faster even than Demetrious Johnson, though Dodson could never match his pace for five rounds -- and that speed will only be more effective against the bigger, slower bantamweights. That speed is accompanied by power, but only a perfect knockout punch would stop Lineker’s assault.
Dodson seems to be an out-fighter by nature. Thanks to his explosive speed, he can counter when an opponent lunges after him, but he prefers a long-range battle. His speed has often been a crutch, however, hiding the fact that his basic boxing is not fully developed. Neither Dodson’s footwork nor his combination punching can effectively deter a relentless pressure game, as evinced by Dodson’s two fights with Johnson, both of which he lost with his back to the fence.
THE ODDS: Dodson (-120), Lineker (+100)
THE PICK: A careful analysis of his own shortcomings could enable Dodson to win here. His combination of speed and power might be the keys to thwarting Lineker’s pressure. Traditionally, however, the swarmer beats the boxer, and Dodson is not as good a boxer as he would have his opponents believe. Lineker can be hit and Dodson will make those shots count, but they will come less and less frequently as the minutes pass and Lineker refuses to go away. If Dodson gasses, which he has been known to do in the past, Lineker will quickly transition from stalking to swarming. The pick is Lineker by third-round TKO.
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