In one of the most highly anticipated promotional debuts of the year and an intriguing matchup in general, newly signed John Lineker will battle Muin Gafurov in Jakarta, Indonesia, at ONE: DAWN OF VALOR on 25 October. Beyond the hype surrounding Lineker's debut with ONE Championship, this bout also could have title ramifications.
Gafurov is a promising 23-year-old who could be just a win away from challenging for the ONE Bantamweight World Title. It's been more than a year since he last competed. Back in October 2018, Gafurov destroyed veteran Brazilian grappler Leandro Issa in just 2:24. Gafurov will be looking to do something similar to Issa's countryman in Jakarta.
Lineker is one of the most feared men in his weight region. He has made a living gaining stoppage victories, but the 29-year-old will be competing against a new set of opponents with ONE. Here is a break down of the upcoming matchup.
As usual, Lineker will be giving up a lot of height to his opponent. Gafurov is listed at 5'7" compared to just 5'3" for Lineker. Gafurov will likely want to take advantage of his length if possible, but because of some of Lineker's strengths, that can be far easier said than done.
Without question, Lineker has the edge when it comes to experience. While he's only six years older than Gafurov, he has more than twice as many professional bouts. Lineker carries a record of 31-9 into Jakarta. Gafurov is just 15-2, and he's had some significant layoffs during his career.
Gafurov is a good athlete and usually sharp. He'll need to be as Lineker is one of the last opponents you'd want to face while rusty.
Gafurov has proven himself to be a prolific finisher in his career. All 15 of his wins have come by the finish with eight knockouts and seven submission victories. Even with that proven finishing prowess, there is no athlete within the bantamweight region that could have an edge in striking over Lineker.
It's not that Lineker is excessively quick, though his speed can be deceptive. Mostly, the respect for Lineker boils down to two things: savage power and level-changing shots. Lineker's nickname is "Hands of Stone," and that's not lip service. He might be the hardest pound-for-pound puncher in mixed martial arts. All it takes is one shot, to the head or body, and Lineker can shut an opponent off.
Chin and Durability
Strikes have never stopped either man, so if that happens in Jakarta to Lineker or Gafurov, it'll be a first. Even though Gafurov hasn't been finished, it's hard to imagine him being as durable as the granite tough Lineker. The Brazilian is one of those athletes whose offense is part of their defense. However, at the same time, the times when opponents have connected with Lineker, he has shaken the strikes off without a problem.
With all due respect to Gafurov's toughness, Lineker gets the vote for best chin and durability.
While Lineker is sufficient as a grappler, he has just one submission win in the past eight-plus years. He does possess strong takedown defense as his low center of gravity, and fierce striking serves as a deterrent for opponents who seek to take the battle to the mat.
Gafurov's seven wins by submission suggest he'll have the advantage if and when the battle goes to the ground. However, he hasn't faced an opponent who is as physically strong as Lineker. The Brazilian veteran could be a problem for Gafurov on the ground despite a perceived advantage.
Gafurov performs with an exceptional level of confidence. He's one of those athletes who has the kind of athleticism that makes others believe in him. However, there is a mystique and fear that can come along with facing Lineker. Most opponents who have faced the Brazilian claim he hits harder than anyone they've competed against in the careers. That respect, presence, and notoriety associated with Lineker give him an advantage from an intangible standpoint.
However, Gafurov might be the rare athlete who proves to be immune to the reputation of a more famous opponent. If he is prepared and ready for the moment, he may be able to turn the entire thing into a positive.
Keys to Victory
To win this bout, Lineker must keep Gafurov on the back foot. He has to cut off the Circle while countering the range-finding strikes. If the match goes to the ground, he would be wise to work his guard to the best of his ability. If he isn't careful, Gafurov might be able to sneak in a submission.
Gafurov must use his height to frustrate Lineker while looking for a trip or takedown that land him on top. If he can get the match to the ground, Gafurov has to take advantage of opportunities to secure a submission.