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UFC Vegas 21: Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau Fight Preview

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Flyweights Manel Kape and Matheus Nicolau will square off this weekend on the UFC Vegas 21 main card. The highly-touted Kape is looking to get into the UFC win column against a formidable foe in Nicolau – who’s making his return to the UFC.

Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau is a battle between two flyweights in big need of victories. So, it’s fair to expect them both to leave everything out there in what is a very intriguing match-up on paper.

Manel Kape (15-5, 0-1 UFC)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 11: Manel Kape poses on the scale during the UFC 256 weigh-in at UFC APEX on December 11, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Kape made his much-anticipated UFC debut against Alexandre Pantoja a little over a month ago. The former RIZIN star seemed a bit gun-shy throughout the contest – throwing just 94 total strikes. Kape’s eagerness to seek redemption is evident in his willingness to step in on short notice to fight Nicolau.

With a victory at UFC Vegas 21, “Starboy” will be the very first native of Angola to get their hand raised in the UFC. Kape already owns victories in RIZIN over former UFC veterans Ian McCall and Takeya Mizugaki.

Despite losing his debut, Kape is a very talented individual who’ll likely have a long, successful career in the UFC. However, he faces a bit of pressure this weekend – we’ll soon find out how he responds.

Matheus Nicolau (15-2-1, 3-1 UFC)

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 30: (R-L) Matheus Nicolau of Brazil punches Louis Smolka in their flyweight bout during the UFC 219 event inside T-Mobile Arena on December 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Nicolau first burst onto the scene by appearing on season four of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil in 2015. After being eliminated in the semifinals, the Brazilian received a call to fight fellow show-mate Bruno Rodrigues. Nicolau submitted Rodrigues via Japanese Necktie to secure his first UFC win.

He then went on to earn decision victories over John Moraga and Louis Smolka. Unfortunately, Nicolau was released from the UFC following a knockout loss to Dustin Ortiz.

Respectably, the 28-year-old kept grinding and grabbed two wins outside the UFC, which effectively awarded him a second opportunity with the promotion. Originally scheduled to face Tagir Ulanbekov, Nicolau now takes on the hungry Kape.

Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau Breakdown

First things first, let’s look at the advantages that each guy has over one another. For Nicolau, it’s surely his grappling. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has proven to be a big submission threat when the fight hits the mat. Meanwhile, although he didn’t show it much in his debut, Kape has power in both of his hands. The 27-year-old has the ability to drop opponents with either hand.

When it comes to the volume you’d normally lean towards Nicolau, but expect Kape to up his output this time around. The Angolan flyweight started to find a rhythm in the final minutes of his debut – and he’ll look to find that rhythm earlier this weekend. On the feet, it appears as though Nicolau owns a slight speed advantage while Kape holds the power edge.

Kape’s best shot at finishing this fight is on the feet, while Nicolau’s best bet at a finish is scoring a submission on the mat. As the fight begins, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for Nicolau to engage in grappling – if at all. Who knows, maybe he’ll come to find that he actually does own a speed advantage over Kape, and elect to stay on the feet. If he does in fact shoot for a takedown or clinch up against the cage, Kape won’t be lost. In actuality, he’s strong for a flyweight and that really helps him fend off takedowns.

Odds are the majority of Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau will be played out on the feet. As previously mentioned, Kape has what it takes to put guys out, but Nicolau might own a decisive speed advantage – especially with his jab. Expect a competitive and fairly high-action bout that probably goes the distance.

Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau Final Thoughts

If Nicolau does get Kape on his back, he’ll probably have him in serious danger. However, the former RIZIN bantamweight champ has power that isn’t commonly seen down at flyweight. The winner of this bout will find themselves knocking on the door of the top-15.

Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau is really a fascinating match-up in the flyweight division. Both guys, for their own reasons, are starving for a UFC victory. Even without a finish, this bout has bonus potential.

The UFC Vegas 21: Edwards vs Muhammad prelims are set to air on Mar. 13th, beginning at 5:00 PM (ET). The main card kicks off at 8:00 PM (ET), and that’s where you can watch Manel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau face off in their flyweight showdown. The entire card can be viewed on ESPN+.

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Ryan Truland is an experienced MMA writer for Ryan regularly conducts interviews with athletes, provides creative pieces, and whatever else is needed to keep readers up to date with the latest and greatest MMA content.