Preview, Picks and Betting Tip – UFC Fight Night: Lineker vs. McDonald

John Lineker

After the razzmatazz and fanfare of the UFC’s international fight week it’s back down to earth this Wednesday night as the UFC heads to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for its latest fight night event.

Initially, Tony Ferguson’s lightweight eliminator fight with Michael Chiesa was due to headline the card but when Chiesa was injured Ferguson was moved down the card which will now be topped by bantamweight contenders John Lineker and Michael McDonald.

A native of Brazil, but now often training out of American top team in the states as well, 26 year-old John Lineker is one of the most exciting fighters in MMA today. In his early days, though, not many would have predicted that was possible. After making his debut in 2008 Lineker lost 5 of his first 11 outings with a couple of submission defeats included.

But 13 wins on the bounce followed that which lead to Lineker being signed up by the UFC as a flyweight in 2012. And although he scored 4 wins in his first two years inside the Octagon, Lineker’s time was marred by multiple missed weights and a couple of losses. That lead to UFC president Dana White forcing him up to, bantamweight which has, so far, worked out well with two wins out of two.

Michael McDonald, conversely, saw most of his lower days come more lately. Having debuted in the winter of 2007 it was eight fights before McDonald first tasted defeat. That loss came against Cole Escovedo, an opponent he beat just a year later to earn himself a WEC spot. One fight in the blue cage was all McDonald had, though, as the UFC quickly came acallin’.

Wins over names like Chris Cariaso and veteran Miguel Torres had McDonald on the fasttrack to the title shot which indeed did quickly come. In fact, it was a little too quickly in hindsight as Renan Barao beat McDonald badly over four rounds. He returned to beat Brad Pickett after that before a loss to Uriah Faber and a series injuries put a career seemingly destined for the top in serious jeopardy. Upon his return in January of this year McDonald looked extremely rusty but came out with a win which he will be looking to add to on Saturday.

What a fight this should be… for as long as it lasts.

Today, bantamweight is maybe the most exciting division and these two are a lot of the reason why. Lineker, especially, is a manic striker who bites down on his mouthpiece and throws punches like they are going out of fashion. Amazingly, he is also extremely accurate when he does that and has ungodly power for a man of his size.

McDonald, similarly, loves to let his hands swing. The counter overhand right is probably his favourite shot to get started but he will add 4 or 5 after that to set his tempo. Power is also a big asset of the young American who has 9 career KOs but that’s not to say his technique isn’t extremely good too when he needs to stick and move.

Like their strengths, both of these men have similar weaknesses. On the feet, defence wouldn’t be their fortay but that comes with the territory of hard hitting acting fighters. Before his injuries, McDonald was improving with his wrestling but on his comeback he looked very bad in that area. Lineker has had similar issues in the past, but his ability to get up has also gotten better. On the ground, it’s also pretty even when it comes to jiu-jitsu as both men are fairly dangerous on the way down with McDonald probably shading it all around.

With that all said, it’s fairly hard to split these two. If this goes beyond two rounds I think McDonald’s cardio and willingness to settle more into the striking will get him the win. If it finishes early it could be McDonald’s too, but I’d fancy Lineker’s power. For me, I think this one will be a insane exchange of windmills early. In a fight like that, John Lineker always wins.

This card is pretty basic in its make-up aside from that but I’m looking forward to seeing Tim Boetsch vs. Josh Samman in what looks like a changing of the guard fight. Boetsch has been a solid professional for years but Samman is the coming man and looks like he could possibly break into the upper echelon of a middleweight division badly needing new talent. If he can stop the Boetsch takedown and avoid the big shot, I fancy him to get a finish late on here.

louissmolka

Also definitely worth watching is the meeting of Louis Smolka and Ben N’Guyen in the flyweight division. For me, Louis Smolka is the most interesting contender at 125 lbs who is yet to have faced the champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and faces a tough test against N’Guyen, another talented up and comer, this week. I fancy an exciting fight on the feet here with Smolka getting the submission once it hits the ground.

You may also keep an eye on Scott Holtzman, Fight Pass star Matthew Lopez and bantamweight Lauren Murphy who could have a bright future if she can tie a couple of wins together. While it’s also always fun to see Tony Ferguson who now takes on newcomer Landon Vannata in what amounts to a keep busy fight for the man who is vying to be the next 155 lbs number 1 contender.

FIGHT PICKS

Michael McDonald vs. John Lineker – I’m taking Lineker early
Tony Ferguson vs. Landon Vannata – Should be a Ferguson showcase
Tim Boetsch vs. Josh Samman – Samman to make a statement
Daniel Omielańczuk vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk – Oliynyk
Kyle Noke vs. Keita Nakamura – Nakamura
Louis Smolka vs. Ben Nguyen – Smolka
Lauren Murphy vs. Katlyn Chookagian – Murphy
Eric Spicely vs. Sam Alvey – Spicely
Cortney Casey vs. Cristina Stanciu – Casey
Scott Holtzman vs. Cody Pfister – Holtzman
Rani Yahya vs. Matthew Lopez – Yahya
Devin Clark vs. Alex Nicholson – Clark

BETTING TIP

Not the biggest one this week but Louis Smolka at evens is an unbelievably good price

START TIMES

Early Prelims – 11pm on Fight Pass

Prelims – Midnight on BT Sport 2

Main Card – 2am on BT Sport 2

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma