Just five weeks after his less than spectacular debut, Manel Kape is back in the Octagon on short notice to fight Matheus Nicolau this Saturday at UFC Vegas 21.
Many people were very eager to see Kape coming in to compete at the elite level of MMA when his signing was announced last year, but were left pretty deflated and disappointed by his performance against Alexandre Pantoja.
The former Rizin champion was all movement and no action for almost the entire 15 minutes. The volume of strikes from Pantoja were far greater than Kape’s, which swayed the judges to give the decision to the Brazilian as neither fighter looked like they wanted to commit to a finish.
A let down in his debut, however Kape has got fans excited to see him again after taking this fight with under two weeks notice and showing he wants to right the wrongs from that debut loss. It’s the exact sort of attitude that we love to see in fighters.
His opponent Nicolau was due to fight Tagir Ulanbekov until he pulled out for unconfirmed reasons which is the second time this has happened. The Brazilian is another up and coming fighter and they have similar records, both winning 15 fights with five losses for Kape and three for Nicolau.
After being released following a knockout defeat by Dustin Ortiz back in 2018, Nicolau will make his return to the organisation following consecutive wins outside the company.
This fight is a much better stylistic match up for Kape than his debut was against Pantoja. Despite being a champion at Rizin, putting him straight in against the UFC’s number five ranked flyweight in hindsight may have been too early. He can take some confidence from the fact he did stay the distance and wasn’t ever in too much danger and the fact that the UFC thought highly enough of him to put him in there in the first place.
Both fighters have a lot to prove and will want to show Dana White he wasn’t wrong in giving them a UFC contract. Kape will need to show a huge improvement in his activity in the cage as well as the urgency he shows in fights. Waiting around for opportunities won’t go well for him when he gets to the top end of the division, so he should use these moments and fights to get into the right habits.
Kape was on the list of fighters who are expected to have a good year in 2021, so the fact he’s getting back in as soon as the opportunity has arose give him ample opportunity to make that true. A win this weekend will put the debut loss at a distant memory and he can look forward to fighting a ranked opponent again in the summer.
‘Starboy’ has shown he has the right attitude for the UFC, now he needs to show he has the skills.