Matheus Nicolau vs. Alex Perez predictions | UFC on ESPN 55 1

Matheus Nicolau and Alex Perez go head-to-head in the main event of UFC on ESPN 55 this Saturday, April 27. Join us as we analyze the fight in detail before sharing our predictions and best bets!

Betting Odds


Braeden Arbour

Alex Perez vs. Matheus Nicolau is a fight with massive stakes. The American looks to bounce back from three straight losses without a win since 2020, and the Brazilian looks to re-enter title talks after losing a title eliminator in April.

The two are fairly well-rounded but with differing skill sets. Perez is an American boxer-wrestler primarily. He maintains a high guard and has good punch selection, and likes to get started pretty quickly from the opening bell. This is important because Nicolau does have some issues with output, especially in terms of translating to the judge’s scorecard. Nicolau often works backwards and looks to counter on the edge of the cage, this could allow Perez who already starts quick to control the center of the octagon and start racking up octagon control on top of potentially close rounds.

Nicolau does do very good body work with his striking which could work to slow Perez over five rounds, however often enough the damage done is less visible when it comes to scoring as well. That said, he does a good job of parlaying a high frequency to the body into setting up big overhand rights with KO power.

Although he has become a very good striker, Perez’s background is largely wrestling, and it’s the aspect of the game he goes to on instinct. He utilizes a wide variety of takedowns, such as single-leg dumps, high body lock slams, and trips, as well as traditional double-leg shots. From the takedown, he is not particularly concerned with passing the guard, often electing to sit within it to posture and land some ground and pound. If a scramble is initiated he may look to settle into half guard for more control and likewise punish his opponents with strikes, he has a very good way of rolling over the wrists to expose his shots and come down with no mercy.

However, Nicolau is a very well-respected black belt, and getting complacent throwing inside his guard could be trouble. He has a very effective system from deep half-guard where he attacks the leg to create space for the submission or the sweep. He has a consistent work rate in terms of grappling which will make it hard for Perez to settle and get anything off unless Niolau is already hurt. In top position Nicolau has a heavy pressure game, maintaining force on the neck to release closed guards and allowing him to pass. Unlike Perez, Nicolau likes to establish a dominant position outside of the guard before he commits to strikes and he keeps a very composed and patient approach in order to get himself there.

The oddsmakers have Nicolau a -180 favorite which seems steep but I believe it’s warranted. Although he does need to be careful about losing close rounds to volume and octagon control, I do think he is the sharper striker and the more dangerous submission threat on the ground. Perez will be difficult to takedown, but given scrambles and grappling exchanges I think that Nicolau fights better between top position and his back then Perez does and over five rounds at a high pace I think we see the two exchange from various positions.

Pick: Nicolau to win (-180 at MyBookie)

Michael Pounders

Matheus Nicolau is 31 years old, is 7-2 in the UFC, and is ranked #5 in the flyweight division. Prior to his recent 1st round knockout loss to Royval in April of 2023, Nicolau has only lost two other professional fights, also by first-round knockout.

Like most flyweights ranked in the top 10, Nicolau is exceptionally well-rounded and well-schooled. He can do everything in the cage and do everything well. Nicolau is a technical and crisp boxer who pushes an average but consistent pace for each round of the entire fight. He is accurate when he goes- landing 53% of his shots- and defensively evasive- defending 66% of opponent’s strikes. He moves forward methodically and typically feints to create openings for multi-shot combinations.

Nicolau is also a strong and reliable grappler, both offensive and defensively. He mixes in, on average, 1.5 takedown attempts per fight at a 45% clip while defending 93% of opponent shots. On paper, Nicolau is about as vanilla as a fighter can be. He doesn’t blow anyone away with volume, power, speed, or submissions. But, he also rarely makes mistakes, will be just as present in the last minute of round 5 as he is in the 1st of round 1, and he knows how to win.

Alex Perez is 32 years old, ranked #8, and is 6-4 in the UFC. Perez’s career is more infamous for his canceled bouts and weight misses than it is for his accomplishments. Perez has the markers of a perennially ranked fighter with the possibility of making a real fun. However, with the canceled fights and troubles on the scales, Perez has struggled to string together enough consistent wins to make a real climb at flyweight.

Perez is an explosive athlete who pushes a higher pace on the feet. He has a cracking calf kick, outside of Alex Pereira, possibly the best pound for pound calf kick in the UFC. He uses this calf kick, like so many others, to deal damage and immobilize his opponents. From here, he’ll look to land boxing combinations.

Recently, though, Perez threw fewer calf kicks than normal and his overall volume was lesser. It’s possible that he was worried about the suffocating wrestler he was facing, choosing to emphasize footwork and takedown defense instead of volume. If that was his game plan, he executed it well- stuffing 17 takedowns from a strong wrestler. Perez also has looked a step slow defensively in his last 3 fights. Again, it could be because of his competition rather than a decline in skills, but a flyweight who loses step is a vulnerable flyweight.

Like most ranked flyweights, this fight should be close. To be ranked at 125, all fighters have to be good strikers and grapplers, have good durability and cardio, and be able to mix all martial arts together. Therefore, I initially leaned toward Perez as the underdog. I expect a close fight and prefer plus money in close fights that are likely to go the distance. Additionally, Nicolau doesn’t present anything overly scary or dangerous.

However, after looking more deeply into it, I’m on Nicolau’s side here. Perez hasn’t beaten anyone who is still in the UFC, is by far the less consistent fighter; and, typically, needs an opponent to make a mistake. Meanwhile, Nicolau is about as defensively sound as a fighter can get, outside of round 1, and rarely makes mistakes. If Nicolau can avoid a flash knockout early in the fight, I expect him to be a step faster, a bit cleaner, and mix in his grappling just a bit more effectively than Perez.

Perez round 1 finish is an interesting long shot prop though as Perez’s last 2 wins came in round 1 while all 3 of Nicolau’s losses have come in the same way. Nevertheless, I’ll take the more consistent fighter to get the win.

Best Bet: Nicolau to win (-180 at MyBookie)

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