Two of the bantamweight division’s most exciting prospects go head to head as former flyweight contender John "Hands of Stone" Lineker takes on Ecuador’s Marlon "Chito" Vera at UFC Fight Night 119 in Sao Paulo on Saturday night.

Scaling up the opposition

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© Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Brazilian John Lineker was all set for a run at the UFC flyweight title, but he found the scale an even tougher proposition than his opponents and eventually took the inevitable decision to move up to bantamweight.

And, despite his relative lack of size for the division, Lineker still packs a huge punch at 135lbs.

That power will be on display once again when he returns to action at UFC Fight Night 119 in Sao Paulo, Brazil this weekend against the in-form Marlon "Chito" Vera.

Form horse

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© Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

After alternating wins and losses in his opening bouts for the UFC, Vera has gradually found his feet at the top level, and he’s currently riding a three-fight win streak – his best form under the UFC banner.

His most recent two outings in particular are worthy of note. First, he stopped British bantamweight legend Brad "One Punch" Pickett in the Londoner’s retirement fight in March.

Then "Chito" followed up with an even more impressive performance, securing a first-round submission of fellow prospect Brian Kelleher in Uniondale, New York at UFC on FOX in July.

Finding his feet at 135

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© Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Lineker will be making only his second appearance as a bantamweight this weekend, as he looks for his first UFC win at 135lbs.

After five straight wins, Lineker’s bantamweight debut was all set for October last year, but he missed weight by half a pound before edging out John Dodson.

He made the bantamweight limit in his last outing, however, but lost out to former world champion T.J. Dillashaw.

Now Lineker is looking to fire himself toward the top contenders in the division with a victory over Vera.

Clash of styles

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© Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

There’s very little nuance to Lineker’s fighting style. He walks forward throwing huge power shots and tries to knock your head off. It’s pretty effective, too – the Brazilian knockout artist has won half his UFC wins by KO.

Vera is somewhat more well-rounded, however. He is pretty rangy for a bantamweight – he’ll have a five-inch height advantage and a three-inch reach advantage – and he’s happy striking or working things on the mat.

Indeed, Vera’s mat skills probably give him the best chance of victory here. While Lineker has never been stopped by strikes, he has succumbed to submissions before in his career.

And Vera’s spontaneity and creativity on the mat might just give him the edge if he can get the fight there. To do that, however, he’ll have to walk through the fire in the form of Lineker’s heavy-handed punches.

Finding the value

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© Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Lineker’s knockout power can almost lead you into a false sense of security here. His reputation as a concussive puncher is well known – and the bookies’ odds reflect that fact, with the Brazilian a -400 favorite to prevail on fight night.

But a closer look at the matchup suggests those odds are too short, and the odds on Vera (as big as +350 with some UK bookmakers) are too long.

Vera is in the best form of his career and has never been stopped by strikes. Weighing everything up, Vera has a significantly better chance of victory than his odds suggest.

Vera is +900 to take the win via decision and +1000 to win via submission. Both selections offer superb value in a matchup that is much closer than the bookmakers would have us believe.

Lineker may turn around and win by KO, but at -117, there’s little to be interested in there. Vera has more than a sporting chance here, and with +900 and +1000 offered for his most likely routes to victory, chasing the value on this occasion could bring a healthy reward.

PICKS

Marlon Vera by decision +900

Marlon Vera by submission +1000

[Main image credit: © Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports]


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