UFC on ESPN 31 Prediction: Manel Kape vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov breakdown, betting odds 1

Manel Kape entered the UFC with an immense amount of hype and expectation, but, the 28-year-old prospect is now 1-2 in the promotion. His sole win was a highlight reel flying knee knockout and both of his losses have come by decision. Zhalgas Zhumagulov has less luster around his name; but, is gaining momentum after starting his UFC career with back-to-back losses.

Kape vs. Zhumagulov betting odds

Manel Kape is a sizeable favorite over Zhalgas Zhumagulov at UFC on ESPN 31 this weekend.

  • Kape: -250
  • Zhumagulov: +195

Kape vs. Zhumagulov breakdown

When Kape is on, he looks great; but, when he struggles, he can look surprisingly bad for someone with his talent. When Kape is rolling, he is fast, strong, and athletic. He is a high-end boxer with good power and lightning-quick hands. However, when he’s off, Kape has struggled with consistent volume, defending the takedown, and landing with the intent to finish fights. Kape is a fighter who has all facets of a well-rounded mixed martial artist and a danger factor with his boxing; but, when his opponent can force him out of rhythm, Kape becomes concerned with defense rather than his own offense. When Kape is leading the dance and enters his flow state, he is the one moving forward, landing the cleaner shots, and has the skill to put his opponent out. Prior to his highlight reel knockout, last fight, Kape landed an impressive 65% of his strikes and was unleashing a high volume. His fights are less a question of which Kape will show up and more of a question of if his opponent can put Kape off balance.

Step one to making an opponent fight off balance is to keep the pressure on; Zhumagulov pressures from start to finish in each fight. He is a burst fighter who explodes forward in sudden rushes where he throws combinations that often end in a takedown attempt. He tends to swing with his full body, leaning forward, almost while running. This might look like a sloppy approach to some; but, his rushing style is strategical. By rushing and leaning forward, Zhumagulov accomplishes two key things: power shots and closing the distance. He has a solid chin and real heat behind his strikes, so, Zhumagulov is often happy to take a shot to land one, or several, in return. Further, Zhumagulov is a gritty wrestler who does well in clinch situations where he can grind his opponent down. In either case, his rushing style is designed to make the fight a test of chins or get him close enough for a takedown.

Kape vs. Zhumagulov prediction

This is a much closer fight than the odds suggest. Kape has the skills to stick and move around Zhumagulov’s rushes; but, we haven’t seen Kape be able to achieve that in the UFC often. Therefore, I lean with the value here. Kape likes and excels in clean kickboxing matches; but, Zhumagulov will likely force Kape into a dirty and gritty war. I’ll take the dog who will have higher volume and keep coming forward in that fight.

Prediction: Zhumagulov by decision

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