Event: UFC Fight Night 96 Date: October 1, 2016 Location: Portland, Oregon Venue: Rose Garden Broadcast: Fox Sports 1 UFC Bantamweight Contender John Dodson One of the fastest fighters in MMA, John Dodson can be as infuriating to watch as he is explosive. Capable of knocking out nearly any opponent in a matter of seconds, or going minutes at a time without throwing any strikes, Dodson’s fights are reliably unpredictable because of his duality. ‘The Magician’ holds a knockout win over former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in his UFC debut, and has only lost to the only flyweight champion the UFC has ever known during his tenure with in the Octagon. Around his two shots at the flyweight belt, Dodson holds wins over the likes of Jussier Formiga, John Moraga, and Zach Makovsky. However, his second loss to Demetrious Johnson convinced Dodson that his future did not lie at flyweight. A move back up to bantamweight produced a brilliant 47 second stoppage of Manny Gamburyan, and earned Dodson a main event slot opposite John Lineker at UFC Fight Night 96. UFC Bantamweight Contender John Lineker Often in MMA, ‘Hands of Stone’ is a misnomer when it comes to nicknames. John Lineker has proven the exception to that rule, but not without facing some adversity. While he piled up a 6-2 record in the UFC at flyweight and established himself as an incredibly entertaining fighter, Lineker missed weight in four of his eight bouts and was forced to move up to bantamweight. Many questioned his ability to hang with the larger men given his 5-foot-3 stature, but he immediately answered those questions in his first appearance at 135 pounds. Facing one of the hardest hitters at bantamweight, Francisco Rivera, Lineker proved that both his chin and hands were well suited to the division absorbing shots and rocking Rivera several times before wrapping up a guillotine choke. Lineker would follow that performance up with a dominant decision over Rob Font, and a first-round TKO over former title challenger Michael McDonald. His status as a contender firmly in place, Lineker was then booked to take on John Dodson in the main event at UFC Fight Night 96. UFC Fight Night 96 Odds Analysis: Back on August 15th, MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened John Dodson a -125 favorite (bet $125 to win $100) with the comeback on John Lineker at -105 at 5Dimes Sportsbook. The near Pick’em line quickly flipped in favor of Lineker, but it has since crept back towards Dodson with steady action. As of this writing, Dodson sits at the same -125 he opened, but due to the tighter lines, Lineker can now be had at the underdog price of +105 (bet $100 to win $105). To me, Lineker would be the play even as a small favorite, but has tons of value at any underdog price. The key to this fight in my eyes is that Lineker will once again dictate the pace. Ever since we’ve discovered that Lineker’s chin is absolute granite at 135, his fights have been easy to break down. Because Lineker refuses to respect his opponent’s power, he’s going to stalk forward and push a pace that Dodson simply can’t endure. The options when tasked with facing Lineker are: 1) Be a stud wrestler who can counter Lineker’s aggression with consistent takedowns; 2) Try to use footwork and counterpunching to outpoint Lineker for 25 minutes; 3) Plant your feet and trade. John Dodson is not capable of No. 1, as he has only scored seven takedowns in his nine-fight UFC career, and never more than two in a fight. We saw that a much longer fighter with a more consistent output in Rob Font was unable to affect No. 2. Finally, both Francisco Rivera and Michael McDonald attempted No. 3, and despite being big hitters and landing clean shots were unable to phase Lineker while getting rocked badly and eventually ending up finished. Now, due to Dodson’s unique physical skills, he may be one fighter capable of using movement and effectively jumping in with one quick strike on Lineker. However, judging by the way Lineker has brushed off Rivera and McDonald’s punches, it’s hard to see Dodson changing the fight with one shot. In anything more than a one-off exchange, Dodson is at a disadvantage to Lineker who throws better in combination and has a massive edge in volume. Also, Dodson is a low-volume fighter prone to gaps in activity even when he’s moving forward and dictating the fight, so I can only imagine that with Lineker constantly in his face his output with be even lower than normal. Dodson is incredibly tough and has yet to be finished in his MMA career, however it’s hard to imagine anyone surviving 25 minutes against Lineker’s massive power and tactical ability to break an opponent down to the body. Lineker can win this fight by landing a big shot that rocks Dodson and allows him to swarm for a finish, breaking Dodson down in his typical style for a late finish, or simply beating Dodson on volume across 25 minutes. On the contrary, Dodson needs to land a single shot on Lineker’s legendary chin that turns the tide of the fight. Weighing those options — and even taking into account Dodson’s massive speed and power — I can’t help but feel this points towards Lineker. As an underdog, it’s even more enticing.