UFC on ESPN 55 Betting Preview: Matheus Nicolau Hopes to Reestablish Himself as a Flyweight Title Contender

April 24, 2024
1 month

Matheus Nicolau was likely one win away from challenging Alexandre Pantoja for the UFC flyweight belt. But Nicolau’s championship trajectory was interrupted in Kansas City, Missouri, by Brandon Royval. Royval scored an emphatic knockout with stiff knees and followed up with elbows in the first round of what was essentially a UFC flyweight title eliminator.

Pantoja ultimately has gone on to make a mess of the division’s title picture. Royval did earn a title shot following the win over Pantoja but lost that bout by decision. Now, Pantoja has two wins over the No. 1 and 2 ranked contenders, Brandon Moreno and Royval. 

MMAfighting latest news shows that Pantoja will next defend against No. 10 ranked Steve Erceg. Nicolau, who is ranked fifth in the division, hopes a win against former title challenger Alex Perez, who is ranked eighth, can propel him to the total.

Perez took nearly two years off from the octagon before returning in March 2024. He wrestled well against Muhammad Mokaev but wasn’t able to do enough to earn a win. Perez is on a three-fight losing streak and is vulnerable to being submitted.

Five of Perez’s eight career losses have come via submission. Nicolau is a black belt that has five career wins by submission. However, Nicolau hasn’t submitted an opponent in the UFC since his debut with the promotion in 2015. While Nicolau did wrap up another submission against Alan Gabriel on the regional circuit in 2019, his grappling isn’t typically what he relies on to win fights. Nicolau will get back on track in this fight and hand Perez another tough defeat.

Bets to consider: Under 3.5 rounds (-118), Nicolau to win by finish (+150)

Guskov, Spann Will Provide Fireworks

Bogdan Guskov has shown no fear during his first few fights in the UFC. Last time out, Guskov made quick work of Zac Pauga, scoring a first-round knockout for his first career win in the promotion. What will be intriguing for the best MMA news sites to follow is how Guskov will handle fighting more veteran fighters.

All 15 of Guskov’s wins have come inside the distance. Ryan Spann, 32, is on a two-fight losing streak but has spent most of his career hunting for finishes. Spann is better on the ground than Guskov and may want to try to get this down to the ground instead of banging it out in a slugfest. Spann has more diversity in his game and should be able to put the pressure on Guskov.

Bets to consider: Spann by submission +225, Span to win by finish -148

Dirty Bird Ages Like Fine Wine

There are several veteran gatekeepers in the UFC who all younger fighters need to be on their toes for. Tim Means has been fighting professionally since 2004. Since making his debut in the UFC in 2012, Means has put together a 15-12 record with one no contest.

While Means is nearing the end of his career, he isn’t done fighting just yet. Means stopped a three-fight losing skid in his last fight with an impressive win over Andre Fialho. Means’ opponent this Saturday, Uroš Medić, has seen his UFC career get off to a rocky start. 

Medić is 3-2 and lost his last fight by submission. All 11 of Medić’s career fights have ended inside the distance. Both of Medić’s losses came by submission. This is a dangerous fight for him.

Bets to consider: Under 2.5 rounds (-186)

Karine Silva Readies for Queen of Violence

Karine Silva has the career Ariane Lipski would have preferred to have. Lipski came into the UFC in 2019 as a hot prospect out of Brazil. Lipski struggled to find a style that worked for her, and she lost five of her first eight fights in the UFC.

Lipski has finally started putting all the pieces together. She has won three straight fights and climbed to the No. 12 ranking in the flyweight division. Silva, 30, is the same age as Lipski. But unlike Lipski, whose nickname is the “Queen of Violence,” Silva has consistently brought pain to her opponents in the UFC.

Silva is 3-0 in the promotion since breaking in as a contestant on Dana White’s Contender Series. She has finished all three of her opponents during Silva’s three fights on the main roster. Lipski is a long-time veteran who has faced plenty of adversity.

Silva will have to prove her toughness. This should be a fun fight.

Bets to consider: Under 2.5 rounds -150, Silva by finish +143

Diniz Under Pressure for Debut

Jhonata Diniz, 32, made his debut on the kickboxing circuit. Much like UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira, Diniz has found that his skills translate well to the world of MMA. Diniz collected five knockout victories before being invited for a spot on Dana White’s Contender series last year.

Diniz showed his striking prowess would translate to the next level by knocking out Eduardo Neves in the first round. Now, Diniz will take on Austen Lane, a former NFL player who is coming off a knockout loss to Justin Tafa.

While Lane has built a nice MMA career as a durable fighter, this will be a big test of his skills. But this is striking on a different level. Lane may not have much of a chance in this one if he can’t adjust to Diniz’s speed quickly.

Bets to consider: Diniz by KO/TKO/DQ -190, Diniz Round 1 -110

Here are quick picks for the rest of the fights on the card not mentioned above:

  • Featherweight, Jonathan Pearce (-166)  vs David Onama (+140)
  • Bantamweight, Rani Yahya (+320) vs Victor Henry (-410)
  • Lightweight, Austin Hubbard (+145) vs Michal Figlak (-175)
  • Heavyweight, Don’Tale Mayes (-105) vs Caio Machado (-115)
  • Women’s strawweight, Marnic Mann (+270) vs Ketlen Souza (-340)
  • Women’s flyweight, Ivana Petrovic (-470) vs Liang Na (+360)
  • Lightweight, Gabriel Benitez (+164) vs Maheshate Hayisaer (-198)

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By Dean McHugh.

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