Thomas Hobbes gave an apt description of John Lineker's punching form. When Lineker gets in range to start swinging those wingers, you will find that they are invariably “nasty, brutish, and short.” Time after time Lineker chased John Dodson around the cage, swinging and hitting little but air as Dodson was able to continue circling past the hook on the same side that it should have been cutting off his escape.
Circular strikes will always be the weapon of choice for ring cutting. Sure, you can line up a nice rear handed straight as the opponent walks into the line of your shoulder and get that punch to the mark quicker than you otherwise would—in fact this is a go to power punch for Chocolatito—but circular strikes serve as a clothesline to catch your opponent and hold him in place. Round kicks, hooks, even wheel kicks though those are less versatile. John Lineker's right hook to the body is a George Foreman classic for ring cutting, the problem is that Foreman had the pressure to get his man on the ropes before he even began throwing it, and Foreman's arms were the better part of a foot longer.
The purpose of hooks to the body as a ring cutting weapon are that they cannot be ducked or leaned away from, and if they connect on the guard they serve exactly the same purpose in holding the opponent in place for a follow up.
Sandy Saddler demonstrating the flaw of hooking at the head along the ropes.
And the immobility of the body. Both examples against the elusive defensive boxing great, Willie Pep.
Over the course of the five rounder, Lineker landed just 93 of his 322 punches thrown. A 28% connection ratio to Dodson's 101 of 191, or 52%. The judges gave Lineker the decision and the arguments from both sides are worth considering. The point of this article isn't to defend or attack the decision; it is to look at what was learned about both fighters. And if Lineker ever hopes to fight Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title, he's got some work to do. We examined this in our article about Lineker last week, but now two opponents have shown up his inability to cut the ring effectively.
Appealing to the other fighter's machismo might work with some very emotional fighters, but if Dodson frustrated Lineker this much with some simple but disciplined outfighting, the direction switching, level changing, boxing-to-wrestling and defensive ringcraft of Dominick Cruz or Demetrious Johnson could cause him an aneurism.
Half the time Lineker was swinging so long and so wide that when Dodson didn't circle out, he could get his forearms up and counter back down the center.
Lineker began throwing body kicks to try to cut the cage on Dodson more effectively but had very little success, only getting his leg caught and or eating counters up the middle. The same happened when he lunged in with a knee strike.
The thing about ring cutting in the cage is that the cage has far less severe corners. You are fighting in a near circular arena and the corners don't help you much at all. Except MMA fighters have one important tool that boxers do not in ring cutting (other than round kicks), they can literally push their opponent. Many of the best fighters along the fence don't just cut the cage and hope their opponent will stand still long enough to land a combination eventually. Instead they will create enough pressure to get close enough to the fence that can actually step in on their man and then push him to the fence in a clinch, freeing their hands to dig to his body and head later on. When Lineker defended takedowns and wound up in a loose clinch because of Dodson's decision to go there, he landed his best hurting flurries of the fight.
That which was hinted by Ian McCall in his fight with Lineker was obvious here: Lineker's hands are only up to punch, he very rarely defends himself from incoming strikes. His ability to take a shot is absurd, as the two flush head kicks he ate from Dodson will attest, but that is very much an exploitable characteristic.
When dealing with a man who won't defend himself but can take a tremendous shot the best strategies have been proven to be attrition based ones. When exhausted or blinded, the man with the granite chin typically stops holding up so well. In terms of exhaustion, Lineker's right hand is always ready to fire that right hook to the body. McCall timed a right kick to the body on Lineker a couple of times in their fight which Lineker ate flush on his ribs because he was so keen to swing.
Dodson was able to find Lineker's exposed ribs with kicks each time he tried too. In drawing out or reacting to Dodson's right hook with the left body kick a fighter could either wind him or convince him to clamp that always dangerous right hand more tightly to his guard.
The most interesting thing about Lineker's dangling right hand and lack of defense in this bout was his eating of counter left hands. Dodson was able to close Lineker's right eye to the degree that he obviously couldn't see the left hands coming in the last round and shots which he might otherwise have shaken off easily suddenly stumbled him. They say that it's always the punch you don't see coming that does the damage and many of history's best jabbers have made that a reality in the later rounds of their bouts, capitalizing on swollen eyes to begin landing heavier punches on the same side.
Perhaps that paints a pessimistic picture of John Lineker but it is best not to sugar coat it. Lineker still hits as hard as anyone in the lower weight divisions and isn't a hopeless ring cutter against most. He is simply not on the level of a Rafael dos Anjos or Chris Weidman and anyone fighting Dominick Cruz or T.J. Dillashaw or Demetrious Johnson in the future should be aiming for the standard that Dos Anjos and Weidman set. Lineker has the power to do the damage and connected often enough and with enough effect that he was able to get the decision. In one of the few instances that he mixed up his attack, with a little George Foreman style shifting right hook, he stumbled Dodson.
However you feel about the result of the contest or the 'running' that some fans seem to see in any fight of this dynamic, it was a damn fun scrap. Moreover it showed those fans who don't much care about the lower weightclasses that there are fighters down there with hitting power and consequences to their blows. Finally it really laid John Lineker's ring cutting abilities bare. This fight will surely serve as a reassurance to Cruz, Johnson and Dillashaw, but it might also serve Lineker's coaches and mark a turning point in his ringcraft. Either way it is worth another watch.
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