Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for UFC Fight Night 91: “Lineker vs McDonald” by Daniel Tom

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*Spotlight Summary:

Due to the scheduling of 4 UFC fight cards in 6 days, I unfortunately only had time to present two in-depth breakdowns spotlighting the most exciting matchups on paper. That said, I did my usual duties of film study as I feel good about these picks and even touch on them in my Draft Kings team summaries. Enjoy!


Michael McDonald (17-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 25 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Sub win / Masanori Kanehara (1-2-16)
  • Camp: Last Stand Fight Team (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   9 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   12 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Good timing & technique
+   Aggressive pocket puncher
^   Devastating uppercut
+/-Lacks wrestling presence
+/-52% takedown defense
+   Dangerous off his back
^   Good guard retention
–    Sometimes succeeds bottom
+   Scrambles well
+/-Willingness to exchange
^   Counter availabilities


John Lineker (27-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’2″ Age: 26 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 67″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Rob Font (5-14-16)
  • Camp: OCS Jiu-jitsu (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   12 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Persistent stalker
^   Deceptively closes distance
+   Cuts off cage & forces to fence
+   Devastating R. hand-L. hook
^   Variates well to the body
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Dangerous Guillotine choke
–    Struggles from the bottom
+/-Willingness to exchange
^   Counter availabilities
+   Solid chin/physically durable


The newly minted main event for Sioux Falls features a barnburner at bantamweight as Michael McDonald does battle with John Lineker. After two years away from the sport, Michael McDonald made a successful return earlier this year in a stunning win over Masanori Kanehara. Looking to regain his status as a title contender, McDonald will now look to capitalize on the opportunity ahead. Standing in his way is a former flyweight, as John Lineker looks to turn the heads of fans and fellow bantamweights alike.

With this shootout being between two of the heaviest hitters in the division, expect this fight to contest(and likely be decided) standing. Arguably the more technical striker, Michael McDonald will have to rely heavily on his range management being the longer man. Despite being 6 inches taller than his Brazilian foe, McDonald only holds a 3-inch reach advantage which makes his footwork in this fight extra important.

Circling just outside of his opponents range until finding his own, Michael times his initiations to intercept his oncoming opposition. Executing this in a similar fashion to Thomas Almeida, McDonald also shares the accountabilities of the aggressive Brazilian. Although he does not overstay his welcome as much as Almeida, Michael is still vulnerable to counters due to the nature of his aggression. Despite changing his level and getting his head slightly off center, McDonald’s willingness to exchange once committed inside could cost him in this contest.

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. With a renown power that changes the course of fights with 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 from his pressure. Wielding devastating hooks from both sides to the head & body, John usually enters off his opponents strikes as they retract(something to watch for in this fight).

However, 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. That said, Lineker will be facing another fighter with freakish power as I see the uppercut potentially posing him problems. Not only is Linker short, but he also tends to lean low and forward when committing to combinations. With the right uppercut being McDonalds most accurate & dangerous punch, this could be something to look for in this fight.

Regardless of how standing exchanges fare, I feel that Lineker will have to more favorable plan B. Although McDonald is more dangerous in the submission department, his arsenal is primarily off of his back due a lack of wrestling presence. Despite displaying explosiveness in his hips, Michael still shows susceptible to being taken down(especially when against the fence). Even though McDonald surely has the skills to submit Lineker on paper, he tends to succeed bottom more than he arguably should.

If Michael hangs out on his back in this fight, he may find himself at the end of Lineker’s punches as well as the judges scorecards. That said, it is hard to be certain of either man’s ground intentions given their past reluctance in this field. With McDonald’s striking success usually predicated on his ability to dictate distance, range management will be the key factor for Michael as he will need to stay away from the cage.

Even though McDonald moves well laterally, he has trouble establishing counters from those angles as it is not his strong suit. Coupled with Lineker’s knack for forcing fights to the fence, Michael may handicap himself if he allows the battles to contest in the Brazilian’s kill zone. In fact, anytime McDonald finds himself in between the cage and inner-black Octagon lines, he will need to be on high alert.

Unless Michael can establish his power and the terms of range early, he may find himself behind the higher striking volume of Lineker. Although it would be crazy to count out McDonald’s chances of stopping or submitting the Brazilian, I give a slight edge to the more active and proven man. With only one fight in nearly two years, it is hard to confidently back Michael McDonald. Regardless of who you like here, make no illusions, this is a gun fight.

Official Pick: Lineker – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Lineker – KO (round 1)


Louis Smolka (10-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 24 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Sub win / Paddy Hoolohan (10-24-15)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional Flyweight Title
+   Brown Belt Kenpo Karate
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   2 first round finishes
+   3 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   Solid pace & pressure
^   Well composed & conditioned
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Excellent check hook
+   Active clinch striker
+   Improved takedown game
+/-Will give positions to get positions
+   Relentless transition game
^   Thrives in the scramble
–    Head often upright/lead hand low
^   Counter availabilities


Ben Nguyen (14-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 27 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 65″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Ryan Benoit (11-14-15)
  • Camp: Integrated MMA (Australia)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fiar

Supplemental info:
+   Regional Bantamweight Titles
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   7 first round finishes
+   8 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   Aggressive pace & pressure
+   Switches stances well
+   Heavy handed
^   Favors left hooks & crosses
+   Excellent feints & footwork
^   Draws out attacks & counters
+   Underrated grappling
+   Solid positional awareness
^   Transitions intelligently
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Counter availabilities


Kicking off the main card on FOX Sports 1 is a fantastic flyweight fight between Louis Smolka and Ben Nguyen. Putting together a 3-fight winning streak since his lone career loss, Smolka has steadily been making a name for himself at 125 lbs. Another quietly ascending contender, Ben Nguyen has slowly strung together an 8-fight streak over the past 6-years. Although Nguyen has established residency across the world, he originally hails from Sioux Falls as Ben is undoubtedly excited to make his return. That said, Smolka’s last three wins have come in enemy territory as he looks to score another upset.

With both fighters possessing technically aggressive and crowd-pleasing styles, expect every phase of this fight to be competitive and exciting. Starting on the feet, however, is where I expect to Nguyen to have a slight advantage as he is the more dangerous man. Despite being known as an aggressive striker, Nguyen prefers to counter as he uses pressure to draw out his opposition’s attacks and capitalize. Using excellent feints and footwork to initiate this, it is Ben’s head movement off his strikes and stance-shifts that make him so effective inside the pocket.

Although I could see Ben stunning Smolka by slipping and coming over the top, I suspect he may show more southpaw looks as he searches for his patent left-cross. Not only is that Nguyen’s best punch, but it is also a strike that has troubled Smolka in the past. Whether it was Hoolohan’s left cross off a stance shift or Vaculik’s left jab from orthodox, Louis’ often upright head position has accommodated many straight shots. Considering Smolka’s lone career loss came to a southpaw, do not be surprised to see Nguyen show more “lefty” looks than usual.

However, Nguyen will have left-handed liabilities of his own in this matchup. Although Ben does a good job of getting his head off of the centerline, his propensity to throw left hands often leads his head off to his right side. Coupled with Nguyen’s aggression in exchanges, this has traditionally cost him left hook counters. Even though Ben has shown to take shots well, he will still need to be mindful as Smolka’s check hook is his most accurate punch. Whether he is kicking at a distance or dealing out elbows & knees inside the clinch, Louis largely dictates traffic off of his left hand.

Operating behind an active jab and cross, Smolka attempts to set up strikes and stay long as that will undoubtedly serve him well against Nguyen. Although Louis likes to throw unorthodox Karate style kicks, they may come in handy in deterring some of Nguyen’s head movement at the very least. That said, I feel Smolka’s best chances to win this fight are in the clinch and on the mat. Nguyen is more than competent working inside or breaking from the clinch, but Smolka has shown to use his lengthy frame as an active blanket of non-disseminating offense.

Whether he is operating out of a Thai clinch, dirty boxing, or driving low for legs & hips, Louis has a knack for forcing action against the fence. If Nguyen fails to avoid this trap or losses discipline, he may get sucked into Smolka’s dog fight and find himself on the floor. However, as is accustom in the Hawaiian’s approach, Louis will present opportunities to his opposition early. Although Smolka has thankfully shown less head & arm throws, Louis still tends to give his back when attempting tosses and takedown variations. The Hawaiian will also give his neck when entering in on hips, something that Cariaso used to compromise Smolka’s approach in their fight.

If Nguyen has solid head control or can work well off a guillotine, then we may see Smolka get stifled. That said, Louis has a unique grappling style where he succeeds small battles so that he can win the bigger ones. In fact, if Nguyen fails to establish himself early in ground stanzas he 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.

Even though I give an edge to the Hawaiian on the mat, Nguyen will be a tough challenge as he has an underrated ground game. Although he shows to be competent from his back, Nguyen is a handful if he is allowed to work from topside. Displaying excellent striking posture from inside the guard and seamless transitions in his advancing, it is the little things that tell me Nguyen possesses more skills than meets the eye. In his last fight, for example, Ben was able to control and finish Ryan Benoit from back mount. However, Nguyen showed solid fight-IQ by dismounting to a single hook rides on multiple occasions to maintain his position.

If Nguyen can implement his game early off of Smolka’s mistakes, we may see his skills take the Hawaiian by surprise. That said, if Ben ends up on the bottom in the exchanges, we could see Smolka take the steering wheel. In a match that is this close on paper, you will find little certainties in my prediction. However, I am a firm believer that scrambles win fights, especially in the lower weight classes. For that reason, I will be siding with Smolka as I recommend caution in playing this one. It is a shame that my two favorite dark horse contenders have to do battle, but this is likely your best bet for the fight of the night.

Official Pick: Smolka – Decision

Official Outcome: Smolka – TKO (round 2)

Full Card Predictions:

  • Lineker def. McDonald
  • Ferguson def. Vannata
  • Samman def. Boetsch
  • Oleinik def. Omielanczuk
  • Noke def. Nakamura
  • Smolka def. Nguyen
  • Murphy def. Chookagian
  • Alvey def. Spicely
  • Casey def. Stanciu
  • Holtzman def. Pfister
  • Yahya def. Lopez
  • Clark def. Nicholson

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:


Team #1: $49,600.00

-Tony Ferguson ($11,500.00)
-Sam Alvey ($11,000.00)
-John Lineker ($9,900.00)
-Daniel Omielanczuk ($8,600.00)
-Alex Nicholson ($8,500.00)

Team Summary:

For my first team, I went with Tony Ferguson, Sam Alvey, and John Lineker for my favorite/higher-tier picks. Tony Ferguson is facing Landon Vannata, who is an undefeated prospect out of Jackson-Wink MMA. Although an athletic fighter with heavy hands, Landon shows defensive holes standing that could favor the long and accurate punches of Ferguson. Like many wrestlers, Landon also tends to turtle out when standing which exposes his back(something Ferguson notoriously capitalizes on). Taking this fight on short notice, it is hard not to see Ferguson finding a finish.

Next I favor Sam Alvey, who faces TUF 23 contestant Eric Spicely. Although undefeated, Eric lacks overall experience, especially at the higher levels. Spicely also shows to struggle when unable to get his fights to the floor. Despite a poor performance his last time out, Sam is a skilled and experienced fighter. I see Sam stuffing Spicely’s attempts and forcing this fight to take place on the feet, where Sam eventually finds the finish. As for the reasons stated above, I went with John Lineker for my mid-tier favorite. A 5-round main event fighter with high output and power, Linker makes an excellent addition to your roster.

For my low-tier picks, I elected to go with Daniel Omielanczuk and Alex Nicholson. Although I officially picked Clark for his wrestling base and time spent at Jackson-Wink MMA, Nicholson is an athletic and sporadic fighter who always one shot away from stealing the show. With a tough UFC debut behind him, Nicholson may hold some intangibles over the undefeated favorite. I also went with Daniel Omielanczuk, who will also hold the same spot in my next lineup. Despite officially picking Oleinik, Omielanczuk is a durable heavyweight who has never been stopped. With Oleinik coming off a 2-year layoff at the age of 39, the stage may be set for Omielanczuk to score the upset.

Team #2: $49,600.00

-Tony Ferguson ($11,500.00)
-Josh Samman ($10,600.00)
-Michael McDonald ($9,700.00)
-Cortney Casey ($9,200.00)
-Daniel Omielanczuk ($8,600.00)

Team Summary:

For my second team, I elected to go with Tony Ferguson and Josh Samman for my high-tier favorites. Tony Ferguson, for the reasons stated above, makes a solid spot for the top of your roster. I also went with Josh Samman, who not only holds a 92% finish rate but is facing a fighter who is on a downtrend. With Tim Boetsch only having one decisive win in the past 4-years(a fight in which he was losing), it’s hard to see Boetsch making it out of the kitchen without being burned in this one.

For my low-tier picks, I went with three underdogs in Michael McDonald, Cortney Casey, and Daniel Omielanczuck. Although I officially sided with John Lineker, this is a close fight with almost heavyweight intangibles. And considering that McDonald also has knockout power and 5-rounds in which to work, McDonald makes for a valuable pick if you disagree with my summary above for this matchup. I also went with Cortney Casey, who I feel has a great chance in this matchup as the underdog.

An underrated fighter in both her skill set and experience, Casey’s UFC record can be deceiving as she’s faced top competition on their home turf(one of which was on short notice). Both females are durable with well-versed skill sets, but also have the propensity to give positions. That said, I feel Casey is the bigger & stronger fighter who also has a better gas tank. Unless Stanciu can stop Casey, then I see Cortney’s volume and pace wearing out Stanciu en route to a decision victory. Finally, Daniel Omielanczuk makes another appearance for the reasons stated above.

Props worth looking at(

-Nakamura/Noke Over 2 1/2: -190 (1 Unit)
-Cortney Casey by Decision: +200 (.05 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Josh Samman
-Scott Holtzman

Fights to avoid:

-Clark vs Nicholson
-Murphy vs Chookagian
-Nakamura vs Noke

For the complete analysis of future & past UFC events visit and for future breakdowns & your latest in world-wide MMA news, stay tuned & follow @MMALatestnws

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