Octagon Oracles: Nikolas Motta

Grade: B

After having his debut delayed by three separate fight cancellations in 2021, Nikolas Motta will finally make his first UFC appearance on Saturday night against Jim Miller.

A competitor on TUF Brazil 4 back in 2015, Motta won his first fight on the show against Alexandre Cidade before being submitted in his next bout by eventual season winner Glaico Franca. The Brazilian went 5-2 between Shooto Brasil, 864 FC, and Cage Fury FC (where he won the vacant lightweight championship) before earning a UFC contract with his win over Joseph Lowry on Contender Series in November 2020.

Motta will open bouts with a sharp jab to find his range against his opponent and start to gauge their reactions. In space he relies mainly on that jab and the occasional right hand, but once he gets in tight with his power and skill really start to shine. He loves to close the distance with a left hook, and as soon as an opponent covers up or starts to back up he’ll unleash a flurry of punches to both the head and body. The heavy-handed Brazilian has earned several knockouts using that left hook, and he also likes to mix in a rear-leg kick to the head when he starts to hurt opponents and/or get their timing.

Although he’s no slouch on the ground, Motta definitely prefers to keep things standing. Despite dropping Juan Gonzalez multiple times in the first round of their fight Motta never chased him to the ground, and instead preferred to back away and wait for Gonzalez to get up and continue exchanging on the feet.

While the drop-off isn’t anything massive, Motta’s output does tend to decrease a little bit later on in bouts. He’ll still continue throwing with power, but his overall volume will drop compared to the frequent combinations he’ll pressure opponents with in the first two rounds. Motta is also relatively heavy on his lead leg which can make him susceptible to leg kicks, and in their Contender Series fight Joe Lowry had his most significant success with punches to Motta’s body. The Brazilian can also definitely eat someshots while striking, but he typically hits so much harder than his opponents that it allows him to get the better of the exchanges.

With experience on TUF and fifteen pro bouts under his belt, the twenty-nine year old Motta doesn’t need any building up or developmental matchmaking. At this point in his career he should be able to jump right into the mix of the UFC’s lightweight division. This matchup with longtime UFC veteran Jim Miller is certainly reflective of that, and picking up a win over such a big name would allow him to hit the ground running following this debut. Motta will likely take some tough losses in a division as stacked division, but he’s also going to put on entertaining fun fights and score some impressive knockouts during his UFC run.

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