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UFC Fight Night 96 predictions, preview, and analysis

MMA: UFC 183-McCall vs Lineker Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Didn’t we just do this last week?

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back, yet again, with a mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1. This Saturday night’s (Oct. 1, 2016) offering will pit John Lineker against John Dodson in the bantamweight main event, because even little people have trouble getting ... more little.

Elsewhere on the card, which takes place inside Moda Center in Portand, Oregon, Bellator import Will Brooks will try to get combat sports fans to care that he exists, which will likely require a highlight-reel finish against Charles Oliveira.

My job is to break down the four-fight main card for UFC Fight Night 96; but don’t worry, as we’ve also taken a closer look at the “Prelims” on FOX Sports 2 and UFC Fight Pass here and here.

UFC “Portland” odds and betting lines can be found here.

135 lbs.: John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (28-7) vs. John “The Magician” Dodson (18-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: John Dodson moved mack to bantamweight because he wanted to. John Lineker, on the other hand, returned to 135 pounds because he had to. He wasn’t so incredibly large that he was unfit for the flyweight division, some guys just can’t master the weight cut.

I’m not complaining.

“Hands of Stone” lived up to his moniker with a sensational knockout win over Michael McDonald earlier this year, and that performance told us a lot about his ability to fluster larger opponents, as well as endure his fair share of punishment.

“Mayday” hits hard but was unable to win the firefight.

That’s important against a power puncher like Dodson, who dropped his fair share of opponents in both weight classes. This idea that he can knockout Lineker — who hasn’t been KOed in 35 professional fights — sounds hokey to me, which means “The Magician” will need some of those extra tricks come fight night.

Speed will undoubtedly be his friend.

That said, the power-punching Dodson is not the striking dynamo he appears to be, but he tends to wow the fans (and sometimes the judges) with his busy work, which is a trick I used to pull back when I was a supermarket porter: look super busy during my shift and leave the bosses mystified as to how I accomplished so little.

He’s good, but not great.

This fight will largely depend on Dodson’s gameplan. Lineker will be chasing him down every second, looking for the knockout punch. Dodson can evade and counterstrike, run away like McGregor-Diaz or Condit-Diaz, or stand in the pocket and bang it out. I’m not sure I like the results in any of those three scenarios, particularly if his acrobatics leave him winded by the later rounds.

Sorry “Magician,” but your consciousness is going to disappear.

Final prediction: Lineker def. Dodson by knockout

155 lbs.: “Ill” Will Brooks (19-1) vs. Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (15-3-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Will Brooks crossed over from the ranks of Bellator and quickly established himself as a player in the crowded 155-pound division, turning away Ross Pearson last July and getting those Octagon jitters out of the way. But some of the criticism he faced under the Viacom banner also followed him over to UFC.

Namely, his lack of finishes.

I know Bellator is seen as the B-leagues with most of the rosters set up like that milk bottle game at the boardwalk, but Brooks was fighting the best Scott Coker and Co. had to offer and some of those were tough fights. “Ill” Will is dynamic and athletic and technically sound just about everywhere. He may not have the power to end fights with one punch, but he can certainly work on his killer instinct.

He’ll need it on Saturday night.

Oliveira is a powerful lightweight and he enters this contest with a four-inch reach advantage. What he lacks in skill he makes up for in aggressive recklessness, which sounds like a bad thing, but in reality it works for some fighters in MMA because it disrupts opponents who like to follow the playbook. That could be a factor in this co-main event, both for and against the Brazilian.

Who, it should be noted, has not beaten a top 15 fighter in six fights with UFC.

If Brooks is the caliber of fighter we all believe he is, this should be a rout. Wherever “Cowboy” is good, his opponent is better, and in a three-round fight it only takes one or two well-timed takedowns to sway the cageside judges.

Final prediction: Brooks def. Oliveira by unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Louis “Da Last Samurai” Smolka (11-1) vs. Brandon “The Assassin” Moreno (11-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Fight fans who can’t be bothered with the smaller weight classes are doing themselves a disservice, particularly those who overlook the sensational run Louis Smolka is having at 125 pounds. In addition to his aggressive-but-well rounded style, Smolka has finished three of his last four wins — violently — and that’s just not something you see very often at flyweight.

His nickname is kinda goofy but nine finishes in 11 victories? He can call himself whatever he wants.

Opposing him is the venerable Brandon Moreno, who also racked up nine finishes in 11 wins. Unfortunately, he came up empty in his first big test, getting subbed in the opening fight of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24. We also need to take into consideration the fact that he accepted this bout on less than two weeks’ notice.

Don’t expect any surprises here.

Smolka has been doing big things inside the Octagon and continues to look more impressive with each performance. Moreno, meanwhile, has done an admirable job of pushing around the competition on the regional circuit, but needs a signature win — or at least full fight camp — to build a compelling case for the upset.

Final prediction: Smolka def. Moreno by submission

155 lbs.: Josh “People’s Warrior” Burkman (28-13) vs. Zak “The Barbarian” Ottow (13-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Zak Ottow gets the unenviable task of stepping in on super short notice to face a grizzled veteran in the form of Josh Burkman, who is becoming increasingly inconsistent in his twilight years in the welterweight division. “People’s Warrior” went roughly five years without losing back-to-back fights and since returning to UFC, he’s just 1-3 with one “no contest,” getting finished twice in the process.

This might be the break he was looking for.

I don’t know much about Ottow except for what I’m plagiarizing from other, more competent breakdowns. I can barely stomach UFC fights at this point so you know I’m not out there watching tape from Milwaukee’s Pure Fighting Championships. What I can say is that we must immediately take away “puncher’s chance” as the “Barbarian” has just two knockout wins in 16 pro fights.

But his submissions are nasty, to the tune of 10 in 13 wins.

I don’t think Burkman is in danger here. Then again, I said that about his fight against Steve Carl and we all saw how that turned out. Anyway, Ottow — who was already in fight camp for the regional circuit — will be looking to drag this fight to the ground and work for the submission, but that’s okay, because “People’s Warrior” is just as good on the mat as he is anywhere else.

This is Burkman’s fight to lose.

Final prediction: Burkman def. Ottawa by unanimous decision

There you have it.

For much more on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 96 event on FOX Sports 1 click here.

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