UFC Kansas City Odds, Pick & Prediction for Brandon Royval vs. Matheus Nicolau: Take Underdog in Snubbed Fight (Saturday, April 15)

UFC Kansas City Odds, Pick & Prediction for Brandon Royval vs. Matheus Nicolau: Take Underdog in Snubbed Fight (Saturday, April 15) article feature image

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC flyweight Brandon Royval

  • Brandon Royval vs. Matheus Nicolau is one of the best fights at UFC Kansas City, but it's buried on the prelims.
  • Nevertheless, the potential Fight of the Night presents a great opportunity for MMA bettors.
  • Check out the breakdown below as Billy Ward targets an underdog in the Royval vs Nicolau flyweight fight.

Brandon Royval vs. Matheus Nicolau Odds

Royval Odds+175
Nicolau Odds-205
Over/Under2.5 (-105 / -125)
VenueT-Mobile Center
Time7:30 p.m. ET
ChannelESPN and ESPN+
UFC Kansas City odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings

Two of the UFC's top-five flyweights square off on the undercard of UFC Kansas City. This bout could easily headline most UFC Fight Night cards, but the UFC's stubborn insistence on burying the lighter weight classes has this one going off early as part of the UFC Kansas City preliminary card on Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN+).

Regardless, it has Fight of the Night potential, and the winner of this one has a strong case for the next crack at the flyweight title.

For Royval, that would mean a chance to avenge his loss to either Brandon Moreno or Alexandre Pantoja, depending on the result of their upcoming title fight at UFC 290.

Tale of the Tape

Avg. Fight Time7:1112:23
Weight (pounds)125 lbs.125 lbs.
Reach (inches)68"66"
Date of birth8/16/19921/6/1993
Sig Strikes Per Min3.323.72
SS Accuracy36%53%
SS Absorbed Per Min2.723.08
SS Defense50%67%
Take Down Avg0.701.52
TD Acc100%45%
TD Def39%93%
Submission Avg2.40.9

Royval is 4-2 in his UFC tenure, and as mentioned above, he has lost to only the current champion Moreno and No. 1 contender Pantoja. This was something I highlighted in this week's UFC Kansas City Luck Ratings, but both of those losses came with extenuating circumstances.

Royval was losing a competitive first round to Moreno when his shoulder popped out of socket. That allowed Moreno to pick up the finish via strikes while Royval attempted to pop his shoulder back into place while Moreno rained down shots.

After @brandonroyval's shoulder came out of the socket, @coachMMontoya popped it back into place 😬 #UFC255pic.twitter.com/0tfp4C1JdJ

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 22, 2020

The fight with Pantoja was arguably going Royval's way; he won the first round on one of three judges' scorecards. However, he was hit with an eye-poke in the second round that the ref missed, which led to Royval being finished on the ground.

All of which is to highlight two things: Royval has lost to only the best flyweights in the world, and he may have won one or both of those fights without some freak occurrences. Since then, he's picked up back-to-back wins, which should at least alleviate concerns over his shoulder injury.

Royval is primarily a grappler, with three of his four UFC wins coming via submission. While he's yet to lock one up in the UFC or otherwise, his biggest strength might be his leg-lock game. He's very comfortable attacking his opponents' legs from his back, frequently using the threat of these submissions to advance to dominant positions.

He's also an elite defensive striker, with an extremely low significant strike-absorbed rate. He doesn't have exceptional power – even by divisional standards – but he's capable of winning minutes on the feet by outlanding his opponents. Royval has also finished every takedown he's attempted in his UFC career, though he averages fewer than one per 15 minutes. He's comfortable enough rolling for leg locks or otherwise forcing grappling exchanges without needing a takedown.

His UFC Kansas City opponent, Nicolau, is probably the superior wrestler here, with excellent takedown defense and a 93% takedown accuracy. He also has five submission wins to his name, including one in his first UFC stint back in 2015. He's never been submitted himself, though, so this will be a compelling matchup on the ground should it end up there.

Nicolau is a solid striker as well, with 67% striking defense and the better striking volume and power of the two. He's able to carry a bit more muscle (and thus, power) on his shorter frame than Royval, which shows up in his excellent knockdown rate of 0.38 per round.

That's nearly four times the UFC average – including all weight classes.

I suspect he'll have a hard time hitting Royval, who has a few inches in height and reach, and also fights out of a southpaw stance. In two previous fights against UFC southpaws (Manel Kape and Tim Elliot), Nicolau was out-struck by volume, and he failed to pick up a knockdown in either fight.

To put that another way, Nicolau's scored at least one knockdown on every primarily right-handed fighter he's fought during this current UFC stint.

Royval vs. Nicolau Pick

With all of the difficulties presented by a taller, longer southpaw, Nicolau probably needs to win this one – or at least some minutes – on the ground.

While Nicolau's power edge gives him a puncher's chance of winning this one standing, Royval's only "knockout" loss to date was via a shoulder injury. He's been knocked down a couple of times, but my suspicion is he's playing possum a bit, attempting to draw his opponents in so he can attack the legs.

The grappling should be what decides this one, with the aggressive submission hunting of Royval going against the superior wrestling from Nicolau. While I tend to favor the superior grappler more often than not, Royval's use of submission threats to change positions is an excellent tactic. This one should be close on the mat, with a submission win from either man not a surprise.

What's not particularly close is the betting lines. Royval is a +175 underdog – in a fight that should be very competitive. Factoring in that both of his UFC losses came with extenuating circumstances, this line should be much closer to even money.

Give me the value on Royval at +175, which I'd take down to about +150.

I might take a sprinkle at his submission odds later in the week, as well, should they be sufficiently juicy.

The Pick: Brandon Royval (+175 at DraftKings)

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