Borderline comical inability to cut weight aside, John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (29-8) is unbelievably dangerous. Standing only 5′ 3″ with a 67″ reach, Lineker has been the shorter fighter in every single one of his UFC fights. He has become one of the best fighters in his division because he understands how to use his natural gifts.
He has ungodly power, great hand speed, and an iron jaw. His short stature works as a natural takedown deterrent since his opponents can’t get in on his hips as easily. So he walks his opponent to the fence, tucks his chin and flurries until his opponent falls. And it works against pretty much everyone.
Because his punches have an upward trajectory, Lineker’s shoulders naturally protect his jaw against hooks. His shorter limbs accelerate quicker and their effective range is inside his opponents which allows him to stand, trade and win every time. He attacks the body as well, which makes it tougher for opponents to circle away. Say what you want about Ian McCall but he’s a well-rounded veteran and even he couldn’t get away from Lineker’s bombs. He’s knocked out Michael MacDonald, a notoriously tough striker who gave Renan Barao a tough time during their title bout.
But this simple strategy also has its limits.
Fighters who can time (very low) takedown attempts under Lineker’s punches have a good chance of taking him down. Plus, it’s not impossible to circle away from his salvo as long as you’re clever about it.
Marlon “Chito” Vera (10-3-1) is more than the guy who knocked out Brad Pickett in his retirement fight; he’s a talented bantamweight whose ceiling may be quite high.
At 5’8″ Vera is on the tall side of the bantamweight division. Perhaps it’s just the way he postures himself, but Vera appears to be on the gangly side as well. This works well with his striking which involves straights, long hooks, leg kicks and knees.
Vera’s biggest weapon is his fearlessness. This differs from recklessness; he’s not stupid. Rather, he has the confidence to throw strikes in positions where opponents may not expect it. Shoot for a takedown from too far out and he’ll slap on a Thai plum and try to knee you into oblivion. Try to stand in front of him and feint and Vera will gift you a long punch for your troubles. Forcing him on the back foot doesn’t guarantee that you’re safe.
Vera also has a fantastic guard. Notice I didn’t say he’s a good grappler; his takedown defense is notably lackluster. But trying to rest in Vera’s guard is a nightmare because he doesn’t let his opponent rest. He’s not always going to submit them, but it’s a great way to prevent damage when he’s on his back.
The weakness that has shown up twice now is the same thing that affected BJJ specialists during the changing of the guard in the UFC; if you don’t fall into his submission, he can be held down for long periods of time. In both of his decision losses, Vera was wrestled to the ground and couldn’t submit his opponent. As a result, he lost on points.
This is an interesting matchup because neither man has the tools to properly exploit the weaknesses of the other; Lineker can’t wrestle and Vera can’t hit and run very well. Lineker has a better shot of catching Vera’s chin in an exchange than Vera has of catching Lineker in a submission. There’s a small chance Vera could time Lineker with a knee as the latter comes in, but that’s a huge risk as a miss will produce a guaranteed counter hook knockout.
Whoever wins, it will probably happen in spectacular fashion. It’ll likely be a knockout for Lineker.
Lineker via TKO
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