UFC Vegas 91 Main Event Breakdown

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Two weeks ago this Saturday, the UFC welcomed north of 20,000 spectators for the landmark UFC 300 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. While the UFC Apex facility can’t hold that many people (its maximum capacity only sits at 500 spectators, though the organization has mentioned that the capacity could eventually be doubled), MMA‘s top promotion is back in action this weekend just the same.

The Apex has made news itself this week leading up to UFC Vegas 91, as Shawn Michaels, “The Heartbreak Kid”, revealed that the venue will serve as the host site for WWE‘s NXT Battleground on Sunday, June 9. It wouldn’t be the first time that the UFC Apex has played host to a non-MMA event. In October of 2022, the 2023 XFL Draft was held there.

Back to the real fights. Your back-end of a day-night doubleheader of competitive violence kicks off while the front end is still going on. You’ll need a split-screen experience for a small part of the evening.

Nicolau Battles Perez in UFC Vegas 91 Main Event

Live coverage of UFC Vegas 91 kicks off at 4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT Saturday afternoon from the Apex with the undercard seen linearly on ESPN2. Main card action follows at around 7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT on ESPN proper. Should the NFL Draft still be in progress in Detroit, ESPN will join the main card in progress once Mr. Irrelevant hears his name called.

All told, absent of any cancellations ahead of Saturday’s card, the final version of UFC Vegas 91 will feature a 13-fight slate. Highlighting the night is a key battle in the featherweight class during the UFC Vegas 91 main event.

No. 5 contender Matheus Nicolau (19-3-1 MMA, 7-2 UFC) returns to the Octagon for the first time in 54 weeks when he takes on No. 8 contender Alex Perez (24-8 MMA, 6-4 UFC). As always, this main event is an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.

UFC Vegas 91 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the UFC Vegas 91 main event on Saturday night, both of these men stand level in height at 5-foot-6. Nicolau owns a half-inch reach advantage (66 inches even to 65 1/2 inches) over Perez, while both contestants have identical 38-inch leg reaches.

Currently, the oddsmakers have Matheus Nicolau installed as a -180 favorite on the money line, while Alex Perez counters as a +150 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening in MMA this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Matheus Nicolau Readies For First Fight in More Than a Year

Matheus Nicolau enters the UFC Vegas 91 main event having gone 4-1 over his last five fights. Most recently, he saw a six-fight winning streak snapped at the hands of Brandon Royval (16-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC) during UFC Kansas City on April 15, 2023 by way of first-round TKO.

After that contest, Nicolau had been booked to face off against Manel Kape (19-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) on Jan. 13 at the Apex, but the fight was cancelled prior to the show due to the latter failing to make the nontitle maximum of 126 lbs. at the previous day’s weigh-in. A rebooked pairing with Kape was initially scheduled to happen at this week’s show, but the fight was again called off prior to the card amid the latter’s withdrawal due to a rib injury and subsequent surgery.

This topic came up during Nicolau’s media availability on Wednesday when John Morgan posed the question.

“Right now, I’m not thinking about it,” Nicolau began, “not even Manel or the belt itself. I’m completely focused on the fight. Like you said, [there’s been] more than a year that I don’t fight, so I’m really, really excited to put the great job inside the Octagon. I want to fight, I want to perform. I’m not thinking about the future no more, but honestly, after the fight, I will be looking up. That’s the direction that I’m going.”

Will Nicolau get back to his winning ways?

Alex Perez Looks to Get Back in Win Column After Quick Turnaround

In the other corner, Alex Perez has gone 2-3 in his last five fights. Last time out, he sustained a unanimous decision loss to Muhammad Mokaev (11-0, 1 NC MMA, 6-0 UFC) during UFC Vegas 87 on March 2.

Perez just accepted the main event spot for Saturday night’s card a few weeks ago. During his meeting with the press, he mentioned that he had to get approval to appear this weekend.

“I put my name in for another fight,” Perez recalled. “For the April 6 card, they were looking for somebody and I was like ‘Hey, I can make this weight.’ They didn’t get back to me, so then when Manel got hurt, they called me and I said ‘Yeah. Wait, let me call my nutritionist first,’ and then she’s like ‘Okay, we can do it'”.

Having to accept a short-notice bout with only a few weeks to go before the card is a daunting task. Can Alex Perez walk out of Vegas a winner?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC Vegas 91 main event looks to favor Matheus Nicolau, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Alex Perez’s status as a wrestler, boxer, and BJJ practitioner.

Nicolau Can Punch His Way to the Victory

On film, Matheus Nicolau has shown himself to have one-punch power, and you don’t need to travel too far back in time to find an example.

Round two of his 2022 fight against Matt Schnell saw Nicolau piece his opponent up with punches, giving him a cut on his nose. A right-handed punch put Schnell down on the cage mat, giving Nicolau an opening to finish off the fight with ground and pound shots.

If Matheus Nicolau can land a single punch square and true, it’s a wrap in the UFC Vegas 91 main event.

Look For Perez to Go to The Canvas

In the other corner, Alex Perez is vicious when it comes to submitting his opponents. This is what got him into the UFC almost seven years ago versus Kevin Gray.

Perez reversed positions on the mat in round one of a scheduled three and quickly went to work on a D’arce choke. Gray had no choice but to go to sleep.

If Alex Perez pounces on Matheus Nicolau on Saturday night, he’ll come away the victor.

Final Thoughts

While the identity of this year’s Mr. Irrelevant in the draft won’t be known until Saturday evening, the winner of the UFC Vegas 91 main event will have his relevance increased. Don’t forget to tune in.

Prediction: Matheus Nicolau by Second-Round Knockout.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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