Matheus Nicolau (top) (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Nicolau vs. Perez Preview and Predictions

After a week off, the UFC gets back to action from their home at the Apex in Las Vegas. Headlining the card is a flyweight scrap between Alex Perez and Matheus Nicolau. Perez is on a three fight losing streak and he needs a victory in the worst way. He came up short in his bid for a flyweight title against Deiveson Figueiredo and has not regained the form that earned him that title shot. His opponent, Nicolau, had rattled off six wins in a row before being knocked out by Brandon Royval in his last bout. Both men can make a statement about where they stand at 125 lbs. with an impressive performance this weekend.

In the co-main event, veteran contender Ryan Spann meets surging prospect Bogdan Guskov in a light heavyweight battle. Spann comes into the bout having lost two straight, though his last fight was a controversial and close split-decision loss to Anthony Smith. As someone who once showed championship level potential, Spann needs to score an impressive win to maintain his relevance in the light heavyweight division. Guskov has fought just twice inside the UFC and already finds himself in a pretty high profile stop on a fight card. He is 1-1 with the promotion so far but his resume reads like a horror movie. He has a total of 13 career wins by knockout, out of 15 total wins. If he can come in and knock out Spann, it will announce the arrival of a new contender in one of the flagship divisions inside the biggest fight promotion in the world.

UFC Fight Night: Nicolau vs. Perez airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Timothy Wheaton and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.


The fighters in the main event have lost their combined last four fights; which flyweight will cement himself as a contender and get back in the win column?

Wheaton: Alex Perez is a heavy hitter, looking to control the center, land leg kicks, and heavy punches. He has one of the highest takedown defense ratings in the flyweight division. One of his issues is that he loves getting drawn into brawls and taking strikes when he does not need to. While he is coming off three losses, there is no shame in two of these being to former or current champions.

Brazil’s Matheus Nicolau is a striker who moved on the back foot to draw his opponent into his counterstriking game. If someone is willing to move forward into him, he is happy to land on the inside. Nicolau is likely to get back in the win column after his first-round KO loss this time last year.

Petela: The flyweights are fun. The worst part about watching a flyweight fight is that it makes you feel like you’re way out of shape because of the pace that they keep and keep it seemingly effortlessly.

This one isn’t going the distance, I’m in full agreement with that. Hopefully we get more than just a single round because that would rob fans of a lot of fun. The styles matchup nicely, with the forward marching Perez taking on the back foot counter striker in Nicolau. There will be a bit of a bull vs. matador feel and while Tim sees Nicolau being the one to land the finishing blow I think it will be the other way around. Perez ends this fight as he charges forward and times a left hand that rocks Nicolau and stops him from getting off a clean counter shot. A few more punches will be all it takes and Alex Perez will get his hand raised.

In only his third UFC appearance Bogdan Guskov finds himself in a co-main event against a well known veteran; can the Uzbek fighter score the biggest win of his career and defeat Ryan Spann?

Petela: My first thought when I saw that this fight was the co-main event was that the UFC is putting on too many shows and watering down the product. After a minute or two, I realized that while this fight card probably won’t draw in the casual fan it could surprise many skeptics by being a festival of mollywhoppery from start to finish. This co-main event is the perfect example of that.

This is the proverbial unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Spann has shown that he can compete, if not beat, top tier fighters and he has devastating power in his hands to complement his underrated submission skills. Guskov is an absolute destroyer. He has thirteen wins by knockout and as I’ve watched or rewatched each one of them there was at least one moment where I had to turn my head from the screen as I watched his poor opponent take what seemed like life altering damage. Ultimately, like the Volkan Oezdemir fight, I think this one is a bridge too far for Guskov and that he will likely get finished by the better fighter I could be wrong in an instant and Ryan Spann could find himself looking up at the lights in the UFC Apex not knowing what just happened.

Wheaton: As Petela said, this may be a festival of mollywhoppery however how much does it matter if no one is watching? If a fighter falls in the Apex and no one is around to hear it, did they really fall? Regardless if the fights are great or not, the atmosphere and hook for viewers are nearly nil.

But Petela is entirely correct about this fight that it has the light heavyweight coin flip aspect of it. Bogdan Guskov is a heavy-handed striker who has won nearly all of his matches by KO/TKO whereas Ryan Spann will mix grappling and wrestling. You can run this fight back a few times and you will get different results every time, seems like a matter of initiative. However, Spann was able to get full mount against Johnny Walker, and then found a way to lose by knockout while going for a takedown. Unfortunately, I cannot get the image out of my head. Therefore, my official pick is Bogdan Guskov by knockout while defending a takekdown.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Wheaton: Winless in the UFC, Austen Lane is likely on the shortlist with a loss. Additionally, Austin Hubbard with a loss will have six losses in nine UFC fights. Plus, Liang Na needs a win as she has lost all three of her UFC matches by KO/TKO.

Petela: Gabriel Benitez. “Moggly” has lost three of his last four fights and five of his last seven. A loss this weekend could be disastrous for the 35 year old and he may find himself on the outside looking in at the UFC if he comes up short against Maheshate Hayisaer.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: The main card opener between Jonathan Pearce and David Onama. This has fight of the night written all over it, in my opinion. inion. Before being submitted by Joanderson Brito, Pearce had rattled off five wins in a row and was making a name for himself in the featherweight division. His opponent, Onama, is a finisher. He has won all of his professional contests before the judges’ scorecards came into play. There is no way that this fight isn’t exciting as long as it lasts.

Wheaton: Completely agree with Jonathan Pearce and David Onama. 145 is a stacked division full of talent, and I believe this fight is a battle of two future title contenders. These are both action fighters with non-stop cardio.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Wheaton: Unbeaten in the UFC, Karine Silva will continue her path of destruction and work her way up in the flyweight division. Brazil’s Silva will make it four first-round submission wins in a row against Ariane Lipski and walk away with a performance bonus.

Petela: Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling we see a vintage performance out of Tim Means. He has a dangerous showdown with Uros Medic but I see this one ending with one of those patented devastating Tim Means elbows which should score him some extra cash.

Pair this card with…

Petela: A strong internet connection. For most fight fans, this card has a number of names that might be unfamiliar. Make sure you have a laptop handy to do some pre-fight googling so you can brush up on their resumes and set your expectations on what might transpire inside the cage.

Wheaton: The main card will likely see Matheus Nicolau and Karine Silva earn victories. Hailing from Belo Horizonte and Mato Grosso do Sul respectively, these Brazilian regions are known for their cheese and beef specialties. Pão de queijo is a type of cheese bread, add to it a fresh cut of beef, and you’ve got the perfect pairing.

Fight Wheaton’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
FlyW: Matheus Nicolau vs. Alex Perez Nicolau Perez
LHW: Ryan Spann vs. Bogdan Guskov Guskov Spann
Women’s FlyW: Karine Silva vs. Ariane Lipski Silva Lipski
HW: Jhonata Diniz vs. Austen Lane Diniz Diniz
WW: Tim Means vs. Uros Medic Means Means
FW: Jonathan Pearce vs. David Onama Pearce Pearce
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
BW: Rani Yahya vs. Victor Henry Henry Henry
LW: Austin Hubbard vs. Michal Figlak Figlak Hubbard
HW: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Caio Machado Machado Mayes
Women’s StrawW: Ketlen Souza vs. Marnic Mann Souza Souza
Women’s FlyW: Ivana Petrovic vs. Na Liang Petrovic Petrovic
LW: Maheshate Hayisaer vs. Gabriel Benitez Benitez Benitez