Matheus Nicolau knew he did just enough to defeat Manel Kape at UFC Vegas 21 last Saturday night, so he was a bit confused to see and hear the negative reaction to his hand being raised at the end of the fight.
Nicolau had a solid start against Kape, who he took down several times and attempted to submit with a guillotine choke in the first round. He did not find the same success in the second round, however, as Kape started to pressure Nicolau more and back him up with combinations. At this point, it was clear that the fight would come down to the third round if a finish did not emerge.
The final round was close as Nicolau attempted to get Kape down to the canvas again, but his opponent defended well, so he opted to finish the fight standing. At the end of 15 minutes, Nicolau was declared the winner by way of split decision much to the chagrin of Kape.
Nicolau was and still is certain that was the right call and he explained why to Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting in a recent interview.
“The third round, if you watch it, I beat him for four minutes and he landed two good knees in the end of the round, and I took them well, and then I landed a spinning elbow,” Nicolau said. “Watching the third round all five times, it’s pretty clear I won, man. He wasn’t landing anything, I was landing, in and out, scoring well and hurting him. I kicked his leg and he went down, I landed several punches to the body, many crosses to the head.”
While there was an argument to be made for Nicolau winning the fight, he could not escape continuous claims that it was “robbed” from Kape. Nicolau obviously disagrees with this notion and believes he has pinpointed the reason why so many may feel this way.
Repeated watching of the fight made Nicolau aware of some of the commentary coming from the broadcast booth, and he took issue with what was being said by former two-division champion turned analyst, Daniel Cormier. Nicolau said he was baffled by how the narrative changed from him unquestionably winning the third round to it being anyone’s fight.
“‘DC’ is from his team, and it seemed cleared to me that he was kind of in his favor, rooting for him,” Nicolau said. “Man, I beat him for four minutes, they said that during the commentary, ‘Matheus is landing, he came better in round three,’ and then, with a minute left, they start saying the fight is wide open. It makes no sense based on their own commentary, I think it was a little contradictory.”
The win over Kape marks a successful return to the Octagon for Nicolau, who spent more than two and a half years competing in other promotions after he was cut from the UFC in 2018 following a knockout loss to Dustin Ortiz.