Bet: Risking 3 units @ -120 on Alexandre Pantoja to win versus Manel Kape
The implied odds I made for this fight are -233/70% Alexandre Pantoja to win. Let’s discuss why!
Manel Kape is a top 15 UFC flyweight, and it shows how highly the UFC thinks of him by matching him up with the #5 ranked Pantoja in the division. Though Kape is very powerful, athletic, fast, and exciting, I believe Pantoja wins this fight and potentially by a decent margin.
As touched on above, Kape is very athletic, fast, and powerful, but he also manages distance well (i.e., similar to Deiveson Figueiredo). He will likely try to land the big shot on the feet to hurt Pantoja and win the standup exchanges, which is possible (i.e., Pantoja was rocked by Schnell and Figueiredo). That said, I slightly favor Pantoja to win the aggregate of the striking exchanges due to the higher tempo he pushes (i.e., throws in combination often and comes forward) and utilization of kicks (i.e., Kape has shown to stand heavy on his lead leg making him susceptible to low kicks). These exchanges will be determined by power and athleticism (Kape) versus volume and diversity at kicking range (Pantoja), where I slightly favor Pantoja.
Pantoja has a significant advantage here. Manel Kape has been taken down and controlled in several of his RIZIN fights (i.e., against Asakura in round 2 of the first fight, Horiguchi in rounds 1 & 3, Sasaki in all 3 rounds). Though he prefers to strike, Pantoja is willing to pursue a few takedowns over the course of 15 minutes, in which case I believe he will get Kape down. Kape relies a lot on his athleticism to work his way back up after getting taken down, but as he fatigues and/or gets put flat on his back, he struggles to work back up. As a result, Kape was mounted and submitted by Horiguchi, controlled for the majority of round 2 against Asakura (i.e., the first fight), and nearly finished by Sasaki in rounds 2 & 3 (i.e., was in the mounted crucifix and threatened with a couple of serious RNC attempts).
Pantoja is an excellent submission grappler and scrambler (i.e., very threatening guard, excellent ability to take the opposition’s back, good guard passer in the top position, and is a submission threat), so I trust he has a significant advantage in this matchup. Pantoja’s wrestling is also capable of (i.e., TD ability off a low kick, duck under double leg with the ability to transition to back and pull the opposition down, and good entries on below the waist takedowns). Once in the top position, Pantoja can control Kape for the remainder of the round or get a finish as Pantoja is the much better grappler.
All in all, I like Pantoja stylistically, but he is also the more proven UFC fighter as he has much more experience. Kape will bring many exciting fights in the UFC, so regardless of this fight’s result, I am glad the UFC signed him.
I am betting Alexandre Pantoja because he can win the aggregate of the striking exchanges, dominate the grappling exchanges, and is the more proven UFC fighter.