After several false starts and a stint as the back-up fighter for the UFC 256 main event, former RIZIN FF champion Manel Kape finally arrived in the UFC on Saturday. At UFC Vegas 18, Kape made his promotional debut against Alexandre Pantoja — a sign of just how highly UFC officials view the Angolan talent.
But in the end, Pantoja was more than ready to play spoiler. Although the end result came down to volume more than anything else.
Right away, Pantoja went after Kape, getting right in Kape’s face. Kape did a good job moving laterally getting out of the way. Pantoja was not closing the distance well but landing a lot of kicks from the outside to the legs and body. Kape was very accurate but Pantoja was far busier in the opening round.
Pantoja kept attacking with leg kicks in round two and was really leading the dance. Kape was using a lot of feints but just wasn’t committing on really anything significant. A chess match for the large part of the second round is what played out. Kape had some urgency in the final seconds trying for the takedown. Pantoja did a good job staying up-right but Kape did well attempting to make something happen.
In round three Kape was still looking to be the counter striker. Pantoja was staying true to his game and fighting well using his kicks. Kape had a significant speed advantage and it showed when he let his hands go. Which wasn’t nearly often enough. Kape picked it up again in the final seconds of the round. He tried again to get Pantoja down but Pantoja scrambled very well. Such a weird fight to score, and one that the judges gave entirely to Alexandre Pantoja.
Official Result: Alexandre Pantoja def. Manel Kape by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)