UFC 163: John Lineker vs. Jose Maria Tome Dissection

Dallas Winston portends the fast-paced carnage that will surely ensue in UFC 163's pay-per-view opener between flyweights John Lineker and newcomer Jose Maria Tome.

Any level-headed MMA fan has pondered the in-cage outcome of spiking UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson's Gatorade with PCP -- just to behold the frenetic chaos that would ensue if his lightning-fast and diverse style was injected with a sense of uncontrollable rage and berserk savagery. Until that revolutionary day dawns, fight fans still have the luxury of watching firecrackers like John Lineker and Jose Maria Tome, who light off Saturday's UFC 163 pay-per-view card and embody the closest approximation of that warped science experiment.

23-year-old John Lineker (21-6) is the type of fighter you can't really complain about. His M.O. is morphing into a Tasmanian-Devil-like whirlwind of rapidly oscillating fists that methodically devours any life-form within its perimeter. Despite dropping his UFC premiere to Louis Gaudinot, it was obvious halfway through the first stanza that "Hands of Stone" was a very welcome new addition.

Right or wrong, justified or not, there have been some grumbles from the peanut gallery regarding risk-averse fighters who employ a safe -- and often disappointingly enervating -- strategy to get the W. You've heard the jibes: point fighters, winning the contest but not the fight, etc. Lineker is the archetype for the exact opposite -- he's a fearless gunslinger who headhunts from bell to bell, and few in the flyweight division, or in all of MMA for that matter, can match his frenetic pressure or unquenchable bloodlust.

Except for UFC newcomer Jose Maria Tome (33-3). "No Chance" is a 33-year-old vet who's currently soaring on a flawless 17-fight win streak (with one No Contest). He's finished 28 of his 33 career outings with an almost perfectly balanced ratio (15 TKOs, 13 subs) and he's dusted 19 opponents in the first frame. His submission wins range from armbars to rear-naked chokes (8 wins overall) to kimuras; his KO/TKO methods encompass punches, knees, kicks and slams.

Tome exploded out of the gate in 2004 by scoring 13 straight wins (with ten 1st-round stoppages) before he underwent the only mediocre stretch of his career, falling in three of his next eight, with one NC. Two of those losses, however, were highly respectable in elite UFC flyweight Jussier Formiga (15-2) and Team Nogueira prospect Leandro Higo (12-2). Tome rebounded with the aforementioned 17-fight surge to land a spot in the Octagon.

Pace and pressure are always pivotal factors in flyweight contests, but they'll play an even more significant role here. Here's what I mean:

As depicted in the video above, Tome's best asset -- along with Lineker's -- is drenching his opponent with relentless waves of unending pressure. He's equally content to let his hands go in a phone-booth brawl, but more inclined to change things up by locking horns in the clinch and imposing his machine-gun rhythm from the top after a takedown.

Tome hails from the virtual epicenter of MMA's Luta Livre revival, which is Master Marcio "Cromado" Barbosa's Renovacao Fight Team in Brazil. Not unlike Chute Boxe in their heyday, the premiere RFT fighters are all known for their blistering aggression, unparalleled fight tempo and willingness to handle their business on the feet or on the ground.

Lineker, who was taken out by Gaudinot on the mat, is not only a striking specialist but, specifically, a boxer. While his explosive salvos are delivered in crisp combinations, and his punches are mixed well and loosened at a blinding clip, his heavy-handed style requires assuming toe-to-toe range. Lineker addresses that issue like a boss: he puts his head down and marches forward with a churning fan-blade of streaking leather in front of him. While, perhaps, a simple and basic strategy, the pint-sized juggernaut has mowed down nine foes by TKO and, hey ... it works.

The vast majority of opponents have countered Lineker's seething barrage by adopting a more calculating and methodical gameplan; the timeless "boxing the brawler" routine. The appeal of this match up is the question of what will happen if Lineker were to fight his own shadow, e.g. the final stage of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda. Adding additional sizzle to the pairing is the fact that Tome can keep Lineker honest by using his forward momentum against him with the threat of takedowns.

Though more comfortable standing, Lineker is far from a fish out of water on his back and has the ability to react with defensive scrambling. Of course, those segments of the fight in which Lineker is battling to balance the scales by getting back to his feet will likely be perceived as offensive assertion for Tome, and it's quite possible that "No Chance" can keep Lineker there for a bit and wreak havoc with his overbearing top game.

The X-factor here is Lineker's top-level experience and familiarity with fighting on the big stage. Though Tome's resume stretches almost a decade and is 40 fights deep, there is no telling how the infamous Octagon jitters might affect him. And Tome's balls-out style is not immune to the risks that plague all fighters who are exclusively focused on offense -- defense is an obvious benefit, especially when squaring off with a banger like Lineker. Additionally, some semblance of strategy would pay dividends for Tome: his leg kicks could be a key weapon to pester Lineker from out on the fringe, where he's absent of range strikes, and changing levels for well-timed takedowns is the best way to take some sting out of a striker's punches and inhibit their forward movement.

This is a tough one to call. Lineker's tenure in the Octagon and more recognizable name will land him the favorite role by default. The lurking edge for Tome is his slight size advantage (5'5" vs. 5'2"), which should complement his superior diversity quite effectively. I'll take a chance on the Luta Livre veteran, thinking that his more complete style, bigger frame and comparable pace will outweigh his inexperience under the bright lights.


My Prediction: Jose Maria Tome by submission.

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