Welcome to the UFC: Manel Kape

Manel Kape weighing in at UFC 256, as a backup
Manel Kape, UFC 256 Weigh-In Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

After a successful third stint in Abu Dhabi last month, the UFC is back at the Apex in Las Vegas. On fight Island, we saw Dustin Poirier knock out Conor McGregor, a huge welcome to the UFC from former Bellator champion Michael Chandler, an incredible fight with Mike Davis and Mason Jones, and a career performance by Max Holloway battering Calvin Kattar for five rounds, and much more. UFC Vegas 18 this Saturday will feature Alistar Overeem and Alexander Volkov in a pivotal heavyweight fight in the main event. In the co-main event, it’s Frankie Edgar vs. Cory Sandhagen. With a stacked card there are a couple of debuts to consider. One of those debuts is former Rizin bantamweight champion Manel Kape. He will be taking on Alexandre Pantoja (22-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC).

Manel “Prodígio” Kape
Oporto, Portugal
AKA Thailand
5 Submissions’

How will Kape fare in the UFC:

Kape is an excellent fighter and one of the best signings in 2020 by the UFC. Kape has been in the cage with the likes of Kai Asakura (twice), Ian McCall, Daniel Barez, Kyoji Horiguchi, Takeya Mizugaki, and Ulka Sasaki. He’s on a three-fight win streak beating Kai Asakura in their rematch for the vacant RIZIN title in his last fight.

Kape is well-rounded but better on the feet. Though from time to time, Kape will engage in takedowns. On the mat, Kape does hold five submission victories. Along with being a submission threat, Kape scrambles very well. Even off his back, Kape is good at getting back to his feet being able to generate space and separate, or even attack with submissions off his back. On the feet, Kape displays athleticism, speed, explosiveness, and diversity. Starting on the outside, Kape will use a lot of feints before blitzing in with explosiveness and combinations with his hands. He’s really good at digging into the body mixing it up. He’s finished with a head kick before and is good at implementing kicks to control the pace of his style.

Kape is a scrappy dude and that comes along with his chin being tested along the way. He goes shot to shot with opponents at times. And through it all, Kape has been wobbled, shaken, and stunned but never put away. Kape has shown to be more powerful and his chin has held up compared to the opposition he’s beat. Defensively he does need tuning everywhere but it’s tough to outwork the “Starboy.” Although he has an iron chin he still gets hit too much and his takedown defense needs some improvement.

While Kape is good off his back, as noted above, there are grapplers that can neutralize him like Ulka Sasaki was able to. That said, I only see Kape losing to top-level guys. I don’t see him as a champion but I see him as a top ten flyweight in the UFC.

  • Striking: A
  • Kickboxing: B-
  • Clinch: C+
  • Wrestling: C+
  • Grappling: B
  • Striking Defense: C+
  • Takedown Defense: C+
  • Cardio: B+
  • Biggest Strength: On the feet
  • Biggest Weakness: Striking defense

How does Kape match up with Pantoja:

Pantoja is one of the best flyweights on the roster. His only losses in the UFC are to Dustin Ortiz, Askar Askarov, and the champ Deiveson Figueiredo. On the other end, he’s beat Matt Schnell, Brandon Moreno, Kai Kara-France, Wilson Reis, and Ulka Sasaki.

Stylistically this is a perfect fight for Kape. Pantoja is a brawler and the type a scrapper like Kape really likes. Pantoja hits hard but is extremely wild. Kape is far more technical and he also hits harder and is a whole lot faster. Pantoja has excellent jiu-jitsu but Kape is no slouch on the mat and I’m not sure he can take Kape down. Even if Pantoja gets Kape down I just think Kape is too explosive. I like this fight for Kape and I believe is will be a great bout.