Matheus Nicolau will face a familiar foe in the highly charged Manel Kape, as the UFC returns for the first card of the new year.
The Apex is the destination for this highly anticipated matchup between two of the flyweight divisions very best. Both of these men are extremely talented but both have taken their licks along the way. For Manel Kape, the first of those defeats came at the hands of the current champion Alexandre Pantoja, in what was Kape’s UFC debut. The second, and last defeat Manel Kape has taken… Matheus Nicolau.
Matheus Nicolau Vs Manel Kape: The Caveat
Admittedly, there is an asterixis over Matheus Nicolau’s win. Most would concede that he was fortunate to have his hand raised. In fact, an astonishing 21 out of 21 media members scored the bout in favor of Kape. And so, we return to the scene of the crime. This time, the odds are stacked against Matheus Nicolau. Despite being previously on a four fight winning streak, the Brazilian now enters the contest off the back of a nasty knockout at the hands of Brandon Royval. A result which fired Royval into a title fight against Pantoja.
Kape, on the other hand, is on a four fight win streak himself and within touching distance of a title fight and rematch with Alexandre Pantoja. The Portuguese national will be looking to make a statement and right the wrongs of his last meeting with Nicolau, with the hope of projecting himself into either a title eliminator or a crack at the gold.
The Title Picture
Both of these men have a huge task on their hands. Their adversary is skilled, quick and hungry for the ‘W’. Yet, there is something much bigger on the line here. With the former champion Brandon Moreno & Amir Albazi facing off in Mexico in February, there is more than a good chance that the UFC will be paying particular attention to both of those fights. If I were a betting man, I would expect the winner of Moreno Vs Albazi to be next, however, this game isn’t all about what you do… it’s often about how you do it. If Moreno and Albazi battle it out to a tight decision win in a dull fight, that may not wet the appetite to see one of those guys get next.
So if that happens, where do you go next? Well… If Matheus Nicolau were to beat Manel Kape once more, he’s right there. However, it’s a bit of a hard sell. Purely based on the fact that he just got blitzed by Brandon Royval. Who just lost his title shot. In addition, you have Muhammad Mokaev. Mo is scorching his way through the rankings in double quick time and faces Alex Perez next time out.
In contrast, if Manel Kape wipes out Nicolau in destructive fashion, there is a narrative there. The narrative being… The only man to beat him without it being avenged… The current champion.
Matheus Nicolau – What We Need to See
Nicolau is talented. No doubt. He has nice offensive boxing and gets great success from his leg kicks. He’s no mug on the ground and overall, he’s a solid fighter. However, for me, there are two main weaknesses that worry me. Nicolau is easy to hit. If you’re within range, the defensive head movement isn’t always there from Nicolau. He’s suspect to attacks that aren’t prominently with the hands. What I mean by that is, on the two occasions we’ve seen him stopped in the UFC, it’s been a head-kick and a knee that have done the damage.
Sometimes, Nicolau is guilty of focusing way too much on the hands, but this ain’t boxing people. I’m a fan of Nicolau, I think he has a good style but I fear that he’s one knockout loss away from becoming the ‘nearly man’ of the division.
For Nicolau to win this fight, he needs to stay composed, maintain the distance and the use of leg kicks will absolutely be key. He needs to throw the jab constantly and keep circling Kape. The most important thing for Nicolau here is to not get greedy with success. Do not fight fire with fire and keep that chin down.
I expect a truly fantastic fight from these two men and we’ll be able to gauge how far both men have come their last meeting. Repeat of revenge? We’re about to find out.
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images