Matheus Nicolau dominated Louis Smolka over the course of three rounds to score a clear unanimous decision victory at UFC 219.
Nicolau used his exceptional boxing ability to continually frustrate and overwhelm Smolka on the feet. From the very first moments of the opening round, Nicolau’s tricky footwork and counter punching caused problems for Smolka, who was attempting to close the distance. The problem with entering the pocket with Nicolau, however, is that the Brazilian possesses very heavy hands. While his hooks might not be as powerful as those of John Lineker, for example, but his technique is exquisite. Rather than planting his feet and throwing bombs, Nicolau connects with his left hand after slipping to the outside and returning a punch over the top of a missed right hand.
This was precisely how Nicolau floored Louis Smolka 1:38 into the contest. Smolka attempted to land with a right hand, but Nicolau had slipped to the left and returned with a heavy left hook to the chin. Surprisingly, though, Nicolau followed Smolka to the mat and attempted to gain a dominant position. After defending the onslaught from Nicolau, Smolka earned half guard before Nicolau eventually decided to return to his feet.
It wasn’t long after when Nicolau crashed a devastating right hand into the face of Smolka and dropped him again. This time, Nicolau drew Smolka to him before launching the right hand and intercepting his opponent who was moving forward. Nicolau again went to the mat with the Hawaiian before attempting an arm-triangle submission. However, Smolka remained calm and pushed Nicolau’s arm upward which helped to remove some of the pressure that was being applied to his neck.
The third knockdown that occurred in the first round was a result of Nicolau’s investment in the body. After repeatedly striking the torso of Smolka, Nicolau freely went upstairs and caught an unsuspecting Smolka on the chin.
By the second round, Smolka had begun making small adjustments to limit the effectiveness of Nicolau. While still clearly losing the contest, Smolka’s kicks, especially to the right side of Nicolau, were making his opponent wary of attempting the left hook. Smolka’s toughness and durability saw him continually pressure Nicolau deep into the contest and really test the heart and will of the returning flyweight.
In the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Nicolau commented that the gameplan was to stick to his strengths.
“The gameplan was to use my weapons. I knew that he is a very tough opponent with a really solid ground game. He is taller than me, so I knew that the body shots would be a good way to get the victory, so that’s what I did.”
Nicolau also spoke of Smolka’s durability through the three rounds.
“Man, I knew that he was really, really tough, but I was really surprised. In the first round, he was knocked down a few times. And I hit him with very strong shots in the body, but he kept coming forward. Even when he got knocked down, he was still trying to submit me, but I kept to my game plan and kept going to get the victory.”
With this dominant performance against the #13 ranked flyweight in the UFC, we can be sure that Matheus Nicolau will slot right into the official rankings.