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Manel Kape to make UFC debut against Alexandre Pantoja on December 19th

The former RIZIN champ is not getting an easy matchup for his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 17.

RIZIN.20 Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Manel Kape’s UFC debut should’ve happened by now, but if all goes well then fans won’t have to wait too much longer for him to jump into the Octagon.

MMA Junkie reported on Tuesday that the former RIZIN FF champion is set to face #5 ranked flyweight contender Alexandre Pantoja in the promotion’s 2020 finale on December 19th. Kape was supposed to face Rogerio Bontorin at UFC 252, but Bontorin suffered an injury and Kape later withdrew with his own injury.

Kape (15-4) won the vacant RIZIN bantamweight title with a KO of Kai Asakura on New Year’s Eve 2019. After a 3-3 start with the Japanese promotion, including a prior loss to Asakura and a stoppage defeat vs. Kyoji Horiguchi, Kape has won three straight (all by finish) and figures to be a serious contender in the UFC’s flyweight division.

Pantoja (22-5) came up just short in a fun scrap with Askar Askarov back in July. The Brazilian is 8-3 in the UFC and has never been finished. His biggest wins have come against former title challenger Wilson Reis and Brandon Moreno, while he’s notably lost to champion Deiveson Figueiredo and ex-UFC contender Dustin Ortiz.

The UFC’s December 19th card is expected to feature a five-round welterweight bout between #3 ranked Leon Edwards and rising star Khamzat Chimaev, in what is by far Chimaev’s biggest and toughest test to date.