Aggressive knockout artist, John Lineker, is set to throw down with fellow power puncher, John Dodson, this Saturday (Oct. 1, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 96 inside Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
Lineker is one of the most unlikely contenders in recent times. The Brazilian is predictable, walks with the flat-feet of a man twice his size, and is far smaller than most of the athletes in his division. So far, however, none of that has mattered, as Lineker continues to melt men with his hands. This time around, Lineker will face a fellow former Flyweight contender in Dodson. If he can continue his winning ways here, Lineker has defied the odds and is knocking on the door to a title shot.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
As mentioned, Lineker is quite an odd fighter. The Brazilian has shown some definite craft to his stalking attack, but he’s also proven completely willing to bite down on his mouthpiece and swing for the fences at the first opportunity.
Few men at Bantamweight or Flyweight can punch like Lineker, in large part because so few try. In divisions dominated by fleet-footed fighters like Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz, Lineker is a massive outlier who walks straight forward, plants his feet and throws each punch with all of his weight behind it.
Most of the time, the smart decision to this approach is to circle away, make the puncher over-extend, and counter with punches or takedowns. Against an opponent looking to follow that strategy, Lineker will show off his skill a bit.
Since Lineker’s opponent is trying to circle away, Lineker smartly looks to interrupt that movement with a punch or kick. Usually, this comes in the form of a long left or right hook to the head or body. If his opponent is especially far, Lineker does nice work with body kicks as well (GIF). He’ll mix the occasional low kick into his attack as well, which stops his opponent from moving away and allows Lineker to throw from his range.
Lineker’s body work is a massive part of his game. While punching the face of a circling opponent is a difficult task, it’s much more difficult to move the entire mid-section out of the way. In addition to potentially finishing the fight, Lineker’s slip-off-the-line left hook and wide right hook to the bread basket exhaust his opponent and make them more vulnerable to his forthcoming face punches (GIF).
The body shot plants his opponent in one spot and slowly causes their hands to drop, making Lineker’s favorite haymakers far more available.
One of the things Lineker does well while pressuring is work behind the jab, or at least the feint of the jab. Using his lead hand to occupy his opponent’s eyes and raise the hands up, a devastating right to the body or an overhand is on its way.
Lastly, there’s always the chance his opponent simply backs himself into the fence or decides to stand and trade with the Brazilian. In that case, a hail of alternating hooks and overhands is headed his way, and that’s a battle Lineker has not yet lost.
In his last bout against Michael McDonald, Lineker showed off both parts of his game. Early on, McDonald remained disciplined and countered, landing some nice shots as Lineker tried to walk him into the fence.However, Lineker did eventually begin to succeed in closing the distance, and this is where his foe faltered. Rather than rely on his footwork to escape or use wrestling to get to a safer position, McDonald stood his ground and traded with his back to the fence.
It didn’t end well for him (GIF).
Defensively, Lineker is definitely a hittable fighter. When he tries to walk his opponent down, Lineker is willing to eat a punch in order to begin an exchange. Against a knockout artist like Dodson, that’s a very risky strategy.
Lineker only relies on one real strategy ... and it doesn’t involve shooting for double legs. On the rare occasion Lineker actively seeks to bring the fight to the mat, it usually comes in the form of a strong double-leg against the fence. Other times, Lineker’s opponent is simply off-balance from taking punches, and the Brazilian can simply muscle him down to the mat.
That said, a mix of offensive wrestling would be an interesting strategy against "The Magician"
Defensively, Lineker has come a long way from his Octagon debut. His defensive wrestling game has always revolved around having a strong sprawl and low center of gravity, and those two attributes have only improved. While he’s yet to face a large Bantamweight with strong offensive wrestling, the early signs have been good.
The only way anyone has found consistent success with taking down Lineker is to shoot reactive double legs. Lineker plants his feet and swings wide with his overhands, so a fighter able to duck under that punch blast through his hips has a good chance at finishing the shot.
Even though that’s the best strategy to put Lineker on his back, it’s not fool-proof. If his foes misreads a punch and its actual target is to the body, Lineker is in good position to defend, meaning his opponent has just absorbed a hard blow and failed a shot.
Lineker’s grappling game is hardly his strong suit, but it’s definitely a dangerous part of his game. For the most part, Lineker seems to rely on his two go-to techniques: the heel hook and guillotine.
From his back, Lineker looks to thread his outside leg across his opponent’s knee — a.k.a. reaping the knee — which opens up the heel hook position. While Lineker hasn’t yet finished anyone with the heel hook, it has allowed him to scramble up to his feet.
The most effective weapon in his grappling arsenal is the guillotine choke. It’s a great tool in any counter wrestler’s arsenal, and he uses it well to deter takedowns. In his bout with Ian McCall, Lineker reversed his opponent several times with the threat of this choke.
Lastly, Lineker’s guillotine finish over Francisco Rivera was one of the stranger submissions in recent memory. Despite having his neck completely jammed into the fence — which should negate his ability to finish the choke — Lineker was still able to squeeze and force the finish. Rivera may have been badly rocked, but it still shows that Lineker has a serious squeeze.
For a striker, the primary goal of any submission doesn’t have to be the finish. If Lineker can sweep or submit with his heel hook/guillotine, it’s a damn effective transition that puts him where he wants to be. He understands that well and often uses his submission attempts simply to get out of bad spots or defend himself.
Lineker is perhaps the most high-octane action fighter in the sport today, undoubtedly so at an elite level. Whether or not the brawler’s offense-first style can succeed in a championship fight remains to be seen, but a victory here gets him much closer to that opportunity.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.