John Lineker vs Francisco Rivera Preview and Analysis – UFC 191

John LinekerThe most anticipated matchup on the UFC 191 preliminary card may be the bantamweight contest between heavy-handed strikers Francisco “Sisco” Rivera and John “Hands of Stone” Lineker. Both fighters are true knockout artists that lay it all on the line every time they fight. This is one fight that promises to be a thrilling affair for however long it lasts.   Francisco Rivera (11-4 (1 NC), 4-3 (1 NC) UFC, +115 underdog) The 33 year old Rivera is a powerful Muay Thai aficionado that has had an underrated run in the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion. After his first stint with the UFC ended with a submission loss to Reuben Duran in 2011, Francisco recorded two straight first round knockouts to earn his way back to the promotion. He compiled four straight wins in the Octagon upon his return, although one was ultimately overturned and declared a no-contest after Rivera tested positive for ephedra in a post-fight drug test. After serving a brief suspension for his drug test failure, he suffered consecutive losses to top contenders Takeya Mizugaki and Urijah Faber. However, his fight with Faber was extremely controversial. Rivera, who was winning the fight early in the second round, was inadvertently poked in the eye by Faber and proceeded to get choked out when the referee failed to stop the action. Francisco attempted to get the fight declared a no-contest, but he was unsuccessful. In his most recent outing, Rivera floored Alex Cacares with a vicious left hook in only 21 seconds. He will look to notch one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Lineker on Saturday night. “Cisco” is predominantly a striker that has greatly improved his defensive wrestling and grappling in recent years. He is a very powerful fighter that has managed to record five knockdowns and four knockouts in only eight fights in the bantamweight division. Rivera works a stiff jab and thudding right leg kicks, which are complimented nicely by very hard overhand rights and left hooks. He excels at countering his opponent in the pocket with punches, though he is also an adept kicker. Francisco has had issues with his takedown defense, grappling, and conditioning, but he has improved those areas in recent fights. He has sturdy hips and a decent sprawl, though he can be taken down by experienced wrestlers. On the mat he can defend himself against most fighters, but will struggle against the elite. Additionally, Rivera seems to always have conditioning issues in fights where he is pushed hard. However, his one-punch knockout power is often an equalizer for his shortcomings.   John Lineker (25-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC, -135 favorite) Lineker is already a 32 fight veteran at the age of 25. The young Brazilian should be fighting for the flyweight title right now, but his continuous struggles with his weight have prevented that. He has missed weight four times in his eight fight UFC career, including three of his last five contests. John would have earned a title after his impressive decision win over Ian McCall in January, but he missed weight by four pounds. That prompted the UFC to issue an ultimatum to Lineker: either move up to the bantamweight division or you are gone. John is taking the promotion’s advice and moving up a division, even though he will be an undersized bantamweight. John is one of the hardest hitting fighters in the lighter weight classes. The Brazilian takes a flat-footed approach inside the Octagon, but he is still very effective. He takes the center of the cage and wades forward aggressively; his opponent is often at a disadvantage immediately. He enters the pocket behind his jab and then fires powerful hooks, uppercuts, and overhands in vicious combinations. Additionally, he is one of the best fighters in the UFC at working his opponent’s body. Kicks are not a large part of Lineker’s game, he is mostly a puncher. He would likely benefit by throwing more kicks because it would give his opponent something else to think about besides his punches. Further, John does not really shoot for takedowns or look to grapple much unless he is forced into those exchanges. Lineker does have decent jiu-jisu but he is yet to use it to much success inside the Octagon. His weight issues have not affected his cardio as much as one would think, but we will have to see how he fares against bigger fighters in the bantamweight division.   Thoughts This promises to be a thrilling affair for however long it lasts. These fighters each have a long history of putting their opponents to sleep. As far as the matchup is concerned, I can see either man winning by knockout, as both fighters hit hard and are also very hittable. Rivera holds a significant height advantage over the diminutive Lineker, but his reach advantage is only three inches. Rivera also has better footwork and kicks, but Lineker is the better puncher in the pocket and likely has the superior chin. I believe Lineker will be able to land at a higher rate and ultimately hurt Rivera with a punch on the feet. Rivera has been knocked out before and rocked on several other occasions. Lineker’s power will be the difference here, and it will be seen early.   The Prediction: John Lineker defeats Francisco Rivera by knockout (round 1)

Written by Mike James

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