Flyweights Tim Elliot and Matheus Nicolau will meet on the main card at UFC Fight Night 194. Both men share a similar road, having first found themselves competing in the UFC young in their careers, finding average success, and having to work their way back after being cut. After winning the 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Tim Elliot was granted a shot at then-champion Demetrius Johnson, losing the belt but taking the opportunity to showcase his skills and putting the dominant champion in a world of trouble.
From there, his profile soared as one of the best lighter-weight fighters out there. He would have a tough time from there, being matched up with some other of the world’s best in Brandon Royval, Askar Askarov, and future champ Deiveson Figueiredo. However, following these would be a pair of victories over Ryan Benoit and Jordan Espinosa. A win over Nicolau this weekend would spell a three-fight run for Elliot.
For Matheus Nicolau, his one year away from the UFC Roster seems to have invigorated the prospect. Back-to-back fights in Future FC and Brave CF, set Nicolau on a two-fight win streak into his return to the UFC against the highly touted Manel Kape. The former Rizin champion came into the bout with a ton of hype having recently come from RIZIN, and losing a controversial fight in his debut. Therefore it was a shock to many but not those in the know when Nicolau stole his thunder, beating him to a tough three-round decision, making it three in a row going into this Saturday.
Elliot vs. Nicolau Betting Odds
Elliot vs. Nicolau Breakdown
Tim Elliot’s best aspect of his game is by far his wrestling. He can hold his own in any area however more potential holes lay in his stand up and much of his technique is ultimately used to find that takedown he usually wants.
He stands primarily orthodox and kind of has a flat-footed fencing approach, meaning he likes to poke and prod his way at range with his jab and a variety of front leg techniques. Most often this is in the form of a short left leg kick, he will dip off to the right and snap that kick onto the inside of his opponent’s thigh or calf. He will also look to use his front leg teep and occasionally a side kick in order to maintain his work rate and keep his opponent at bay. He will switch to southpaw at which point his left side dominant attack will continue, only instead of poking and prodding the rear punch or kick will be thrown with worse intention.
However, usually, Elliot holds a grappling advantage over his foes, most notably in terms of wrestling. Eliot likes to set a high pace from the start and get his opponents pressed to the cage where excels in smothering his opponent with head pressure. Look for Elliot to dig his forehead underneath his opponent’s chin, secure the underhooks and look for trips and reaps against the fence.
On the mat, Elliot best works inside control, where he can go over-under position and continue to press with his head or put his head across and bare down with his shoulder. By doing so he will often be able to cause enough pressure and discomfort to draw his opponent away from mounting much of an ability to chase the stand-up or any submission.
The two areas where you could perceivably find holes in Elliot’s games are transitional. When he is at his range, and at his pace he happily trades jabs and kicks, however when he is looking to find his range he does often end up walking forward into shots. In order to keep his work rate up and because his style depends on not allowing his opponents to find moments to recover, he does find himself chasing, and being countered when he moves in. Likewise, although once he establishes top control he is very dangerous, the sequences beforehand are where he has seen the most trouble. Against some high-level black belts in the past, Elliot has found himself both reversed or defending submissions when he shoots for the takedown blindly.
Matheus Nicolau is the kind of fighter to take advantage of these transitional areas. Standing, Nicolau likes to circle the perimeter of the cage and snipe rather than walk his opponents down. Compared to Elliot he is the far more patient fighter, but that also means he can sometimes be outworked. He stands orthodox and rips a heavy right kick as well as a good straight right, best landed when he hides it behind a double jab.
He also utilizes a stabbing thrust kick of the rear leg and when he eventually gets into the groove he has good boxing, most notably the 6-3 combination or the rear uppercut to lead hook. He will dip in his already low stance to draw out the takedown defense reaction, and drill his opponent into the uppercut on the way. Although he is often circling, he typically explodes forward in a straight line when he does find the timing to attack.
Grappling wise Nicolau doesn’t have the takedown ability of Elliot, or the pacing to consistently shoot as many times over 15 minutes, however when Elliot shoots he will have to be extremely cautious of Nicolau both in transition and off his back. In transition, Nicolau is very wild and he will scramble for position and look for sweeps and reversals immediately. If he does land on his back given space he has a wicked upkick that almost knocked out Felipe Efrain just a couple fights ago, and he will readily tie up the legs in pursuit of leg locks or sweeps. If he does find himself fully flattened down with guard, he is good at minimizing damage until he can create the room he needs.
Elliot vs. Nicolau Prediction
Essentially Elliot’s pressure could spell the story of the fight, it’s whether or not Nicolau can find his moments to hurt Elliot and do enough significant damage to win the bout. Elliot’s striking, while effective, don’t necessarily have the most finishing ability behind them, so shot-for-shot Elliot may be the worst for wear, and unlike in his last couple fights his wrestling cannot be used as a trump card.
Both men have educated grappling, so whoever can establish control early will have a definite advantage, however overall I see Nicolau winning in more areas that the fight could potentially go.
Prediction: Matheus Nicolau wins via decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.