The sun may rise and titles may exchange hands, but fear not boys and girls – The Downes Side is here to be your rock. That’s right, as many of you are still recovering from 2016 International Fight Week, the UFC heads to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In the main event of the evening, Michael McDonald and John Lineker battle for position in the crowded bantamweight division. We’ll take a look at that fight as well as a few others.
We start in the women’s strawweight division with Cortney Casey and Cristina Stanciu. A tough, aggressive fighter who looks to keep it standing, “Cast Iron” Casey searches for her first UFC victory. Romania’s Stanciu is also looking for her first win inside the Octagon. One of the youngest fighters on the roster, “Barbie” dropped her debut to Maryna Moroz back in April.
Casey comes from a traditional kickboxing school. Stanciu has an extensive Wushu background. Despite the large differences in those two styles, the two fighters mirror each other in a lot of ways. They’re both offensive minded, often to their own detriment. Casey’s blitzes give her an impressive significant striking rate of 4.5/minute. They also cause her to absorb 5.37/minute. Stanciu’s eagerness for the finish in her first UFC fight caused her to waste all her energy and she never recovered. In both striking and grappling, Stanciu has the more diverse skill set. In this case, though, that won’t be enough. Casey may not have a ton of finesse, but she has better cardio and a better chin. She’ll get caught as she rushes in, but Stanciu won’t be able to maintain her defense over the course of the entire fight. Casey wins by unanimous decision.
Next we move to welterweight for Kyle Noke and Keita Nakamura. A veteran of 10 UFC fights, Kyle Noke was finally starting to get into a groove. A split decision loss to Alex Morono in January stifled some of the momentum, but he could get back on track with a win here. Another veteran fighter who gets better with age, Keita Nakamura tries to bounce back himself after a loss to Tom Breese.
Both fighters fall into the “Jack of all trades, master of none” category. Noke can grapple, but prefers to strike, while Nakamura can strike, but prefers to grapple. Having said that, the talent gap is far greater in the striking department than the grappling one. Nakamura has a strong counter hook, but stands upright and absorbs a lot of punches. Even though he beat Jingliang Li in the first fight of his second UFC stint, he had no answer for Li’s hand speed. He converts 52.63% of his takedowns, but most of them come from bodylocks and trips. He doesn’t chain his strikes and takedowns together. Noke should easily defend those and then control the striking. Noke has difficulties in firefights or against fighters who are more athletic than him. Nakamura has capable boxing, but he’s not the type to overwhelm opponents. The pacing should favor Noke and he’ll take the unanimous decision.
We move to heavyweight for Aleksei Oleinik and Daniel Omielanczuk. Holder of 40 career submission wins, the “Boa Constrictor” Oleinik is 2-0 inside the Octagon and winner of 11 in a row (all finishes and eight in the first round). Omielanczuk may only have a paltry nine submission wins by comparison, but he also packs a lot of power in his fists. A three-time Polish Muay Thai champion, he’s won his last two fights against Jarjis Danho and Chris de la Rocha.
No matter who wins, this fight is probably going to end in the first round. Omielanczuk is the far better striker. The southpaw batters opponent’s bodies with his rear leg kick and wide power punches. He does fade as the fight progresses and doesn’t fight off the fence particularly well. Oleinik’s plodding footwork does worry me against someone with Omielanczuk’s power, but he has shown that he can weather a storm and survive. At 39 years old with 60 fights, though, that seems as wise as betting on a Cleveland sports team to win a championship. But it’s 2016, so anything’s possible. Omielanczuk may know how to dish punishment, but he receives a lot of it, too, seeing that he defends significant strikes at 39.43%. Oleinik will get beat up early, but he’ll strike in his injured state (I guess that makes him a viper instead of a boa constrictor?), stun Omielanczuk and lock up the first round RNC.
MICHAEL MCDONALD vs. JOHN LINEKER
Time for the main event! Fighting for the first time in over two years, Michael McDonald submitted Masanori Kanehara at UFC 195. Now he’s looking to regain his spot at the top of the bantamweight division. Standing in his way is “Hands of Stone” Lineker. Undefeated since weight-cutting issues forced his move to bantamweight, he could be two fights away from a chance at UFC gold with a win.
John Lineker doesn’t throw a lot of strikes. When you have his kind of power, though, you don’t really need to. He can move forward and be the aggressor, but he’s at his best letting opponents come to him and dropping them with a counter right hand. McDonald walked away with the win in his return to action, but he did not look great in the process. Kanehara finished easy takedowns and dominated him from top position. The fact that he reversed position and quickly finished the fight is a testament to his jiu-jitsu, but it’s not something you’d like to get into the habit of doing. Was it a bit of “cage corrosion” as Mauro Ranallo would say? Possible, but that wasn’t the only thing that was worrisome. The reason he gave up those easy takedowns was because of his upright, static stance. Against someone like Lineker, you might as well put your hands behind your back with a bullseye painted on your face. Lineker catches McDonald with a big right hand early. A long as he doesn’t run in for reckless ground-and-pound and get himself caught in a submission, he wins by first round knockout.
That wraps up another sobering edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, queries or musings on life on the page here. Did you know that a bassinet isn’t for fishing?