Saturday, October 1st, 2016 in Portland, Oregon for UFC Fight Night 96: “Lineker vs Dodson” by Daniel Tom

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John Lineker (28-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’2″ Age: 26 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 67″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Michael McDonald (7-13-16)
  • Camp: OCS Jiu-jitsu (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   13 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Persistant stalker
^   Deceptively closes distance
+   Good cage-cutting & pressure
+   Devastating R. hand-L. hook
^   Variates well to the body
+   Underrated wrestling
+   Dangerous Guillotine choke
–    Struggles off back
+/-Willingness to exchange
^   Counter availabilities
+   Solid chin/Physically durable

John Dodson (18-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’3″ Age: 32 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Manny Gamburyan (4-16-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   2x Wrestling State Champ (NM)
+   9 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Devastating left hand
^   Accurate & intercepting
+   Athletic & agile
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Dangerous off the counter
^   Works well w/caught kicks
+   Solid counter wrestler
^   84% Takedown defense
+   Superb scrambles & get-ups
–    Slightly low standing guard
+/-Output/Adjustments bear watching


The main event for UFC Portland is a fun fight between two former flyweights as John “Hands of Stone” Lineker meets John “The Magician” Dodson. Now enjoying life without weight cuts, the growing John Lineker seems to be making himself a permanent home in the bantamweight division. Coming off crushing victories over three well-respected opponents, Lineker will seek to make another statement for his status as a contender. Standing in his way is John Dodson, a veteran of the lighter weight classes who has already made his claim for the crown.

Despite each man being among the smaller of their contemporaries, both fighters carry supernatural stopping power that makes this feel like a heavyweight affair. That said, I believe this fight should come down to the space in which one man operates, opposed the space in which the other man makes his kills. Dodson, for example, is similar to a smaller version of Chuck Liddell in that he makes his money off of the counter shot. When he is not conducting his bombing runs of explosive jump-knees to dip-and-rip combinations, Dodson will often revert to playing the inner-black Octagon lines along the outside. Looking to land is left hand, in particular, the Magician will patiently bait his opponents into exchanges and counter shots.

Although Dodson is as lethal as he is accurate, the New Mexican native can sometimes be too willing to let the action come to him. Whether Dodson is too patient or not, he seems to lack the consistent volume and output as he is often involved in close rounds. The biggest question in this matchup for me is—How will Dodson deal with the Brazillian’s pressure? Despite Dodson being agile and athletic enough to play the Matador, he has seldom been pressured in the UFC, outside of his fights with Demetrious Johnson. Most of the fighters Dodson faced at flyweight respected his power and explosiveness, but the few who pushed forward were successful more often than not.

Although most of Dodson’s vulnerabilities only showed when facing the outlier that is Demetrious Johnson, he did show difficulty to dealing with pressure through distinct parts of his battles with Zach Machovsky and Tim Elliot. Though one man was wild with their pressure while the other was technical, they both found success in getting the better of exchanges with Dodson when doing so under those terms. In my opinion, this is because Dodson is so dependent and faithful in his counter-left, that he will quickly look to reset for it again instead of flowing into other offensive or defensive options. Hence, when a fighter can avoid the counter shot and disrupt his process with pressure, Dodson will seemingly become more vulnerable off the breaks and against the fence.

Enter John Lineker. Similar to when Super Mario acquires the star of invincibility, is John Lineker in the way in which he walks down his opposition with impunity. Despite wielding power that can change the course of a fight in a single shot, it is Lineker’s durability that makes his game so scary. Don’t let his short stature fool you, despite lacking bounce to his step, the Brazilian closes distance deceptively well. Cutting off the cage and feinting forward, Lineker will look to force exchanges off of his pressure. Wielding devastating hooks from both sides to the head & body, John usually enters off his opponents strike retractions as he gets them to initiate.

Although Lineker’s right-hand is his preferred method of body crushing and cleanup hitting, I feel that his left hook will be the key punch to look for from the Brazilian. Often initiating, or even punctuating with it, Lineker’s left hook is arguably his most accurate punch as it usually sets up his kill shots. Considering that Dodson has a tendency to keep his lead hand low, this could be a shot worth looking for inside the exchanges. That said, Lineker will be the more defensively vulnerable man on paper as the Brazilian is not without pocket liabilities of his own. Unabashedly throwing hooks from left to right with little regard for defense, we have seen Lineker eat punches with no signs of getting full.

Even though his durability is what makes him dangerous, Dodson is no slouch in the power department either, as a stopping shot from him would not surprise me. That said, we have seen Dodson develop some other striking tools since working with Brandon Gibson. Now putting his punches together more fluidly, we have also seen a front kick from his power side show itself with consistency. I feel that kick, in particular, will serve him well against a pressuring Lineker. However, both men will need to be mindful when throwing kicks, as each fighter has a knack for catching them and countering.

That brings us to this fights key-intangible, the takedown. With neither fighter traditionally going for takedowns, Dodson will clearly have more of a motive to do so, as well as the better tools to do it. That said, Dodson usually only engages in takedowns when he or his opponent is hurt in mid-exchange. Though I do not doubt his ability, nor his camp’s intelligence, it is just hard to see a fighter that is 32 years old and has a decade of experience dramatically adjust their style. Another thing to consider is the quiet improvements to Lineker’s wrestling. Knowing that most of his opposition will be looking to take him down, Lineker will lower the level in his approach as his short stature makes him difficult to take down.

However, should Dodson fight smart and look to ground the Brazilian, he could chalk up rounds and momentum in this match. Although Lineker likes to create space with leg-locks, his acumen there is not strong, nor does he use these opportunities to scramble as he is often content to fight from his back. That said, the Brazilian has a dangerous Guillotine choke that almost caught Ian McCall, and subsequently scared him off his takedown game. Even though I agree with Dodson being favored slightly in this fight, I feel that his preferred choice of space will be his undoing as he will ultimately be operating inside Lineker’s kill zone.

Official Pick: Lineker – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: To be determined.

Will Brooks (18-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 29 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Ross Pearson (7-8-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Bellator Lightweight Title
+   5 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   Athletic & agile
+   Good distance management
+   Controls pace of fight
^   Makes in-cage & corner adjustments
+   Diverse striking arsenal
^   Heavy kicks & hard knees
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Strikes & stifles
+   Excellent takedown defense
^   Solid base & balance
+   Underrated takedown ability

Alex Oliveira (14-4-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 28 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / James Moontasri (7-23-16)
  • Camp: TATA Fight Team (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Pro Muay Thai Experience
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   9 KO victories
+   9 first round finishes
+   2 Submission wins
+   KO Power
+   Fast starter
+   Manages distance well
+/-Heavily reliant on head movement
^   Slips & rolls well
+   Dangerous L. hook-R.hand
+   Physically strong in clinch
^   Favors body locks
–    Struggles off back
+   Good chin/never stopped


The co-main event for UFC Portland is a lightweight fight between “Ill” Will Brooks and Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. After a successful UFC debut back in July, the former Bellator champion Will Brooks will now set his sights on climbing toward the top of the UFC’s lightweight division. Seeking to spoil the party is Cowboy Oliveira. A fast rising fan favorite, Alex will look to score the upset on American soil.

An anomaly of athleticism, the term “natural ability” is an understatement when used to describe Will Brooks. Despite no combat sports or collegiate base, Brooks has developed into one of most well-rounded fighters in MMA’s deepest division. His victories over Michael Chandler alone were proof of this, as Will was able to out wrestle the 4x NCAA qualifier en route to the title. Although he favors fighting on the feet, I suspect Brooks natural grappling abilities will come in handy against the explosive Cowboy Oliveira.

From his fan friendly style to his unmistakable smile, there is a lot to like about the former bull riding Brazilian. A long and physical presence at lightweight, Oliveira moves deceptively well as his fast feet have a knack for finding angles or pressing forward. Although he keeps his hands low, Cowboy does a good job of slipping or rolling with punches. Despite his shown senses and comfortability inside the pocket, the Brazilian is a bit too reliant on his head movement for my liking. Considering that Will’s kicks and knees are the most accurate strikes in his arsenal, Cowboy could run into some heavy gunfire should he not protect himself when slipping and rolling.

However, the pressure Olivera brings early could be the key to opening up Brooks. Traditionally a slow starter, the first round has usually been the closest round for Will in his last few fights. Despite being a good mover himself, we have seen Brooks often revert to a shell defense when coming under heavy fire. With this guard style typically presenting openings up the middle and to the body, expect the uppercut to be the strike worth watching for from Oliveira. Usually implementing his pressure toward the fence anytime the opportunity arises, Alex could make for some interesting exchanges depending on the prerogative Brooks applies.

Although Will is an active clinch striker himself, he tends to let the fight come to him before getting going. Utilizing his preternatural defensive abilities to survive the storms, it is Brooks’ adjustments that allow him to overcome all shapes and sizes of opposition. That said, Oliveira is a deceptively strong clinch fighter that does not allow for lulls in the action. In a borderline head-butting fashion, Alex will drive his forehead into and underneath the chin of his opponent(ala Randy Couture). From here, the Brazilian will use a mix of collar ties, throat grabs, and wrist pins to open up unrelenting elbows, knees, and uppercuts.

Despite Brooks wielding fast hands and knees in close, the former Bellator champ has a far more promising plan B than the Brazilian does. Should things get ugly for Will, he has an underrated takedown game that will serve him well against Alex. Whether he is scoring inside the clinch or off of reactive shots, Will could make this a long night for Alex should he fail to shore up his defenses. Even though Oliveira’s pressure translates well to his top game, he shows to struggle when on the bottom. Not only does Alex display fundamental errors in his hip positioning and under-hooks, but he also demonstrates a lack of technique and urgency in regards to his get-up ability.

We saw the extent of Will’s top control and positional awareness in his fight with Marcin Held, as the Pole was able to put Brooks in a multitude of precarious positions to no avail. Fortunately for Will, Oliveira’s submission and scramble acumen should not be as threatening as Held’s. That said, Brooks will need to maintain a healthy respect for his foe given his heart and opportunistic nature. Although Cowboy is more than capable of winning this fight, this one should be Will’s to lose as I see him weathering a storm en route to a decision win.

Official Pick: Brooks – Decision

Official Outcome: To be determined.


Josh Burkman (28-13-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Paul Felder (5-29-16)
  • Camp: The Pit Elevated (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 2 Alum
+   Former JUCO All-American (Football)
+   9 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   15 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Deceptive counter strikes
^   Dangerous check right hook
+   Powerful kicks (both stances)
^   Favors body & leg kicks
+   Physically strong in the clinch
^   Looks for takedowns/slams
+/-Primarily throws from right side
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Propensity to take damage


Zak Ottow (13-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Craig Eckelberg (6-11-16)
  • Camp: Pura Vida BJJ (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   Collegiate Football Experience
+   Wrestling base
+   13 KO victories
+   9 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   Fundamental striking setups
^   Uses to setup shots
+   Strong clinch/cage pressure
^   Favors takedowns from here
+   Solid top game
^   Looks to ride & control
+   Good ground strikes
^   Uses to setup strikes
–    UFC debut on 1 week notice


In an impromptu welterweight affair, Josh Burkman will welcome Zak Ottow to the UFC. Originally slated to face Bobby Green at lightweight, Burkman will now meet Zak Ottow at 170 pounds. Although Ottow will be fighting on just over a weeks notice, the Wisconson native was already training for a fight on October 7th. That said, Zak will need to be in his best shape if he means to overcome the durable veteran in Josh Burkman.

Starting off on the feet, Burkman should have the advantage striking as he is the more dangerous man. Often switching his stance, Josh strikes effectively from either side as I see his patent check hook working well against the oncoming Ottow. Although Zak rarely throws himself out of position with his fundamental approach, his striking only seems to exist to set up his shot entries. Despite most of Ottow’s attempts often ending up with him pushing his opponent into the fence, Burkman’s choice of circling the outside may inadvertently feed into Zak’s game. Josh will also have to be careful when throwing kicks, given that catch counters will be Ottow’s best chances of getting this fight to the floor.

Once topside, Ottow has a solid control game as he is clearly a wrestler who has embraced jiu-jitsu. Not afraid to take the mount position, it is Zak’s steady approach to the transition game where he makes his money. However, I am not sure that Ottow can consistently ground Burkman, much less control the terms of the ground fight. Often relying on his athleticism and explosiveness early on his career, Burkman has steadily accrued the technics to strengthen his underrated grappling game. Not only should Josh be able to match Ottow’s strength inside the clinch, but I suspect we will see Burkman reverse position and give Zak some of his own medicine.

Even though Burkman’s eagerness to engage in his opponent’s strength bit him in the ass against Dong Hyun Kim, he has appeared to approach fights more tactically since working with Xtreme Couture’s Dennis Davis. Even if Josh does decide to play in Zak’s wheelhouse, I do not feel that the grappling of Ottow will be near the level as Dong Hyun Kim. Despite being a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Ottow’s no-gi game does not appear to translate as effectively, and is reliant on him being on top. I do not mean to discount Zak’s chances here, but I ultimately feel that Burkman’s veteran savvy should shut him down for three rounds, if not find a late finish.

Official Pick: Burkman – Decision

Official Outcome: To be determined.

Louis Smolka (11-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Ben Nguyen (7-13-16)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt Kenpo Karate
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   4 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   2 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
^   Well composed & conditioned
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Excellent check hook
+   Improved takedown game
+/-“Gives to get” positionally
+   Relentless transition game
^   Thrives inside the scramble
–    Head often upright

Brandon Moreno (11-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 22 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Isaac Camarillo (4-16-16)
  • Camp: Entram Gym (Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 24 Alum
+   BJJ Purple Belt
+   WFF Title
+   8 Submission wins
+   1 KO victory
+   6 first round finishes
+/-Aggressive striker
^   Dangerous knees
+   Accurate left hook
+   Solid back controls
+   Active guard game
^   Favors triangles & armbars
–    Suspect transitional choices
^   Willingness to fight from back


Kicking off the main card on Fox Sports 1 is a flyweight fight between Louis Smolka and Brandon Moreno. Originally slated to face Sergio Pettis, Smolka will now meet a recent TUF 24 contestant in Brandon Moreno. Despite Smolka being hailed as one of the dark horses to challenge for Demetrious Johnson’s title, Brandon Moreno will look to follow in Eric Spicely’s footsteps and shock the world.

Starting off on the feet may be Moreno’s best shot, especially considering that Smolka tends to take a minute in finding his striking rhythms. Moreno looks to be an aggressive combination striker when he is not circling the outside and throws a solid left hook that may serve him well. Despite Smolka’s shown fight-to-fight improvements, he is quite tall for the division as his head tends to keep upright. In fact, we have seen the Hawaiian stung in his previous bouts due to his defensive posture. Brandon also has dangerous jump-knees that Smolka will have to be aware of, as the Mexican throws them sporadically and with little regard.

That said, Smolka should be the better striker by a clear stretch. Coming from a Kenpo Karate base, Louis displays the distance management and darting attacks that you would expect from that style. However, the Hawaiian will now put his punches together more fluidly, as he promises to show an evolved version of his striking for this fight. Although Moreno’s wrestling game has improved over his short career, he makes questionable calls in transition that could get him burned against a more skilled scrambler. Not only will Smolka be the better overall wrestler, but he is also one of the best scramblers in the sport(and I stand by that statement). Louis is also the more active and efficient clinch fighter, which I see only further fueling the bad decisions from Brandon.

Anytime a fighter entangles with Smolka, the Hawaiian stays two-steps ahead as he uses his long frame as an active blanket of non-disseminating offense. Although Smolka has thankfully shown less head & arm throws, Louis still tends to give his back when attempting tosses and takedown variations. Despite finding the back usually being Brandon’s best case scenario(as it is also his best position), he may ultimately end up taking a deeper step into the quicksand. We saw much more proven back takers in Paddy Holohan and Ben Nguyen struggle here, as they ended up losing the exchanges as well as positions. If Brandon lets his emotions get the better of him and he dives in head first, Moreno may fall into the downward spiral that is Louis Smolka’s scramble game.

An interesting dichotomy of grappler, Smolka possesses the technical flow chart of a black belt that is fueled by the offensive eagerness of a white belt. Whether he is sweeping, standing, shucking, or sitting out, Smolka is snake-like in the way that he denies his opposition complete control. Although I could pontificate on the positional wherewithal of Smolka’s grappling for days, the essence of his game comes down to his give-and-take mentality. Smolka has no problem succeeding the small battles to win the war, as that is what I see happening here.

Official Pick: Smolka – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: To be determined.

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Da Silva def. Christensen
  • Dias def. Fili
  • Abdurakhimov def. Harris
  • Nakamura def. Dos Santos
  • McCrory def. Marquardt
  • Cutelaba def. Wilson
  • Blaydes def. East
  • Faszholz def. Vieira

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:


Team #1: $49,800.00

-Louis Smolka ($9,400.00)
-Josh Burkman ($8,900.00)
-Ion Cutelaba ($8,700.00)
-John Lineker ($8,100.00)
-Andre Fili ($7,700.00)
-Joachim Christensen ($7,00.00)

Team Summary:

Due to some changes to the scoring and roster criteria’s for DraftKings MMA contests, you are now allowed to elect 6-man teams. For my higher-tier favorites, I decided to go with Louis Smolka, Josh Burkman, and Ion Cutelaba. Not only is Louis Smolka the fighter I favor most on this card to find a finish, but he is also the 2nd highest point scorer with an average of 101.083. Although he is the highest price pick of the card, I feel he is more than worth it for the reasons listed in the breakdown above. Secondly, I elected to go with Josh Burkman, as I favor his chances in finding a finish against a green fighter who is making his debut on short notice.

Lastly, I went with Ion Cutelaba as my final high-tier pick. A young Moldovan monster who has finished all but two of his wins in the first round, I feel that Ion has more of an upside in his matchup with Jonathan Wilson. Although Wilson has some physical gifts of his own, I believe Cutelaba’s explosive casting punches will overwhelm the defenses of Wilson. If the Moldovan does run into unruly weather standing, he has an imposing clinch and takedown game that should only feed into his perceived grappling advantages. For my lower-tier dog picks, I decided to go with John Lineker, Andre Fili, and Joachim Christensen.

Not only is John Lineker a 5-round main event participant, but I feel he has the better chance of both finding the finish and winning the fight, despite being an underdog. Although both men wield knockout power, I feel Lineker’s insane durability and volume will overwhelm Dodson’s operating space, and ultimately force the fight into his kill zone. As the 3rd highest average point scorer on the card at 89.455, I feel that John Lineker is a solid dog pick at $8,100.00.

Secondly, I went with Andre Fili, despite officially picking Hacran Dias. Although Dias’ risk managements and well-rounded style should earn him a decision, Fili is a wild man with little regard for process with his offense-first approach. At the cost of $7,700.00, I believe that the juice may be worth the squeeze if your roster is in need of a low-priced pick.

Lastly, I went with Joachim Christensen, despite officially siding with Da Silva. Although Henrique has the highest point average and finish rate on the entire card, he has done so against low-level and or unproven competition. I believe that Christensen is the more technical fighter in all facets, albeit not by much. Although Da Silva’s Muay Thai maelstrom is deadly, he applies it with little regard for defense as he could get caught speeding here. If you are looking to play value and avoid traps, then Christensen is one of the more solid picks at the bottom of the pack at only $7,000.00.

Props worth looking at(

-Nakamura by Sub: +200 (1 Unit)
-Lineker by TKO/KO: +190 (0.5 Unit)
-Louis Smolka ITD: -230 (2 Units)
-Abdurakhimov/Harris over 1 1/2: -120 (1 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Tamdan McCrory
-Louis Smolka

Fights to avoid:

-Henrique Da Silva vs Joachim Christensen
-Curtis Blaydes vs Cody East
-Jonathan Wilson vs Ion Cutelaba

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