Manel Kape and Matheus Nicolau first met at UFC Fight Night 187 back in 2021. It was Kape’s second UFC fighter after being picked up from the Japanese MMA scene and RIZIN FF. Their first bout was a back-and-forth chess match, with both men adapting to one another’s adjustments, and the momentum of the fight shifted often.
Although Nicolau got the nod in the split decision, both men have come far since. After Kape, Nicloau rattled off three more victories against Tim Elliott, David Dvorak and Matt Schnell, before losing the a title eliminator against Brandon Royal last April.
Kape, on the other hand, followed the first fight with wins over Ode Osbourne, Zhalgas Zhumagulov, David Dvorak, and Felipe dos Santos. When Kape first entered the UFC many believed he was a future title contender, losing his first two fights tempered some of this hype, but now 4-0 in his last four, fans are once again calling for a potential title shot some time soon.
Before this can ever be a reality however, he must get through Nicolau, the man who has already beaten him once before.
Matheus Nicolau, despite winning their first encounter, comes in as the + 205 underdog
- Manel Kape: -225
- Matheus Nicolau: +205
The thing that made the first fight so exciting was the swaying of the tide. The fight opened up with Manuel Kape getting the better of the striking exchanges. Nicolau adjusted by countering with level changes and securing big takedowns whenever Kape would over-extend himself.
Kape’s answer to this was to shorten his strikes, mix in the uppercut and extend his combinations, forcing Nicolau to second guess shooting down the center and whether another big shot was coming behind the initial bursts.
However, Nicolau did eventually feint his way in with the threats of the takedown and manage to land his body hooks and overhands over the top, temporarily dropping Kape’s output. The fight ended with Kape earning back that respect by timing his knees to Nicolau’s dips and walking him down aggressively.
Now, the second fight is even more fascinating concerning how they adapt not only after having fought once but also in the leaps they have both progressed since. I believe the main key for Kape is to maintain a high level of aggression.
He is often an aggressive counter fighter who cannot get off if his opponents does not react, however when he does coast, it hurts him tremendously on the scorecards. He also has to find a way early to dissuade Nicolau from changing levels, whether that’s by establishing his uppercut, counter knee or, although more risky even threatening with some kind of front choke like his guillotine.
For Nicolau, it’s the complete opposite. Forcing Kape to react to his takedowns because he knows he could end up stuck on bottom is major. Not only should Nicolau look to put Kape on his back, he needs to show dominance and control. Nicolau is the slower fighter, and Kape is a counterpuncher, which makes it especially difficult. Yet, if Nicolau can draw out the wrong reactions from Kape, he can even out that disparity and win striking sequences.
This is a very tough fight to call. Many believe that Kape had not yet found his footing in the UFC when they first thought which may be true. However, both Kape and Nicolau have made leaps and bounds since 2021 becoming possible future challengers for the title.
I do believe that Kape has the ability to deny the takedowns and outstrip Nicolau, however I also think that the odds made by the matchmakers are a greater disparity than they should be. That’s why, in my opinion, I like Kape’s chances, but the value is on Nicolau by upset.
Pick: Matheus Nicolau to win