Matheus Nicolau will stay on UFC Vegas 21 after all.
First reported by MMA DNA, promotion officials confirmed Wednesday via press release that Manel Kape will replace Tagir Ulanbekov against Nicolau on March 13.
Nicolau (15-2) is making his return to the UFC where he quite frankly should have been all along. The Brazilian was released in 2018 after losing one fight to Dustin Ortiz. The release was eyebrow-raising at the time and was most likely because the organization was unsure about the future of the flyweight division. During his time away, Nicolau has gone 2-0. He was originally supposed to return at UFC 257 against Tagir Ulanbekov but his opponent withdrew due to undisclosed reasons. The bout was rebooked to March 13, only for Ulanbekov to withdraw again..
Kape (15-5) lost his long-awaited promotional debut last month against Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Volkov. The former RIZIN champion seemed gun shy and tentative and in doing so lost a unanimous decision. “Starboy” steps in on short notice as he tries to get back on track against another tough Brazilian.
With the late addition of Nicolau vs. Kape, the March 13 Fight Night card now looks like this:
Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad
Misha Cirkunov vs. Ryan Spann
Ashley Yoder vs. Angela Hill
Ricardo Ramos vs. Zubaira Tukhugov
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Gloria de Paula
Davey Grant vs. Jonathan Martinez
Ray Rodriguez vs. Rani Yahya
Jason Witt vs. Matthew Semelsberger
Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart
Don Madge vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Ben Rothwell vs. Philipe Lins
Dan Ige vs. Gavin Tucker
Charles Jourdain vs. Marcelo Rojo
UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs. Muhammad (UFC Vegas 21 / UFC Fight Night 187) takes place at the UFC Apex in Vegas and can be streamed on ESPN +.