John Lineker faces Fabrício Andrade for the vacant ONE bantamweight world championship this week at ONE Fight Night 7. This is a rematch of a bout which took place at ONE on Prime Video 3 in October 2022.
Lineker was the ONE bantamweight champion heading into that fight, but was stripped of his title after missing weight. This meant that Andrade was the only fighter who was eligible to become champion. Andrade seemed to be seconds away from capturing the title in the third round, when he landed a knee which visibly hurt Lineker. He followed up with an accidental strike to the groin which rendered Lineker unable to continue. The fight was ruled a no contest, and the title remained vacant.
After losing his title on the scales, and being dominated for the majority of the fight, Lineker has an unexpected immediate opportunity to reclaim the bantamweight title. Will he make the most of his second chance?
Many fans and analysts expected the first bout between Lineker and Andrade to be a closely contested striking battle between two fighters with very different approaches. Andrade proceeded to out-strike Lineker for the majority of the bout, which was illustrated through Lineker’s right eye almost being swollen shut heading into the third round. Andrade’s jab was fast and accurate throughout and frustrated the shorter man in Lineker, who was seldom able to land his trademark hooks. Even when he was able to do so, Andrade displayed immense composure in the midst of Lineker’s attacks.
The 32-year-old did have fleeting success with his wrestling, but Andrade was able to get back to his feet without exerting too much energy. In spite of this, Lineker may benefit from employing a more grappling-heavy strategy in the rematch. While he has tremendous belief in his ability to land big shots, and knock out any opponent, this could be the more difficult path to victory against a technically proficient striker like Andrade. The 25-year-old has an excellent understanding of timing and distance management, and is skilled at evading big shots. Andrade also has an extensive kicking arsenal, which he utilized to maximum effect in the first bout with his use of push kicks, body kicks, head kicks and knees.
Mixing in takedowns could slow Andrade down, and, even if he is successful in thwarting most of Lineker’s attempts, this could still cause the younger man to fatigue. Lineker could use Andrade’s tendency for throwing knees against him by attempting take him down from these attacks.
Lineker is a physically strong individual, and, while he only has four submission victories in 35 professional wins, he does possess a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His low submission ratio is more indicative of his preference to stand, than a lack of submission threat. One of the best examples of his submission skill was when he caught Cory Sandhagen in a deep guillotine, from which the American survived, but was arguably saved by the bell.
In their first meeting, Lineker was seemingly deterred from pursuing the clinch and wrestling due to how quickly Andrade was able to create separation. In their rematch, Lineker will likely need to be persistent with the grappling in order to have success in this area. With a better weight cut, the 35-year-old should possess the conditioning to maintain a grappling-heavy approach for longer periods of time. Weaponizing his cardio could be a major factor in helping him reclaim the title. Lineker is vastly more experienced in MMA, he has fought the 15-minute distance on 18 occasions, and he once went five rounds. Perhaps more pertinently, 13 of these bouts were victories for Lineker. In comparison, Andrade only has 11 professional MMA contests to his name and has only fought the full three rounds on three occasions. The 25-year-old has gone the three-round distance multiple times in kickboxing, but these involved three-minute rounds as opposed to the five-minute rounds that are in MMA.
Andrade has an upright stance, and this made him vulnerable at times in the first fight to some of Lineker’s big hooks. Lineker could fully exploit this by feinting takedowns before he throws his big shots. If the 32-year-old is able to seamlessly combine his wrestling with his striking, he will enhance his chances of securing a knockout.
Another area where Lineker may give Andrade problems is with leg kicks. Andrade has a five-inch height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage over Lineker. This, combined with his striking skill meant that Lineker struggled to land big punches for large periods of the contest. It was notable that, when he did commit to throwing leg kicks, he landed, with Andrade often failing to check them. Damaging Andrade’s legs would help limit his mobility and reduce his ability to stay on the outside and evade Lineker’s power punches. Lineker could also benefit from targeting Andrade’s body in the rematch. In their first fight, he seemed to neglect this, despite possessing very accurate and powerful body shots.
Lineker’s ONE bantamweight title reign ended in disastrous circumstances. His failure to make weight was not a new occurrence in his career, but was still unexpected, considering he had no problem making 145 pounds against Bibiano Fernandes. Andrade’s error of judgement has given Lineker an unexpected lifeline in his quest to re-capture championship gold. If Lineker is successful in this rematch then his weight miss and subsequent lackluster performance from the first encounter will be swiftly forgotten. However, if he comes up short, he is unlikely to be in the ONE bantamweight title picture for the foreseeable future.