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Contender Series ‘kid’ goes from Flyweight prospect to hot commodity after short-notice UFC 293 PPV brawl

Many expected Felipe dos Santos to be nothing more than a warm body for Manel Kape to batter at UFC 293. He proved he was much more than that.

The kid has a name ... and it’s Felipe dos Santos.

Two weeks ago, dos Santos was a little known training partner of former UFC Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira. He was preparing to fight for a shot in UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series, but that bout fell apart when his opponent missed weight. Most of the time, that tale ends on a sad note: you lose out on your chance, go home without competing, and hope UFC remembers to rebook you sometime in the coming months.

Fortunately for dos Santos, UFC matchmakers were left scrambling when fellow Flyweight, Kai Kara-France, was forced to withdraw from a fight against Manel Kape at UFC 293, which took place inside Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 9, 2023.

Kape has had a pile of bad luck of his own: five of his fights have been canceled over the past 1.5 years for various reasons. UFC wanted to keep him on the card, and made an interesting choice, plucking dos Santos and slotted him on the main card of the pay-per-view (PPV) show “Down Under.”

It looked like a crazy move and borderline promotional malfeasance. Were Dana White and Co. really grabbing someone who wasn’t even in UFC yet to fight the No. 10-ranked Flyweight in the promotion? Kape was on a four-fight win streak and a win over Kara-France would have placed him in contention for the 125-pound title.

Now, he was going to fight a raw undefeated prospect (7-0) who’d never competed outside of Brazil before.

But, most Flyweights need time to get within range of hitting 125 pounds, and dos Santos was already there. That made him the most qualified opponent willing to fight for the money UFC was willing to spend. He was the warm body it needed to stand across from Kape, so he got the call.

Then a crazy thing happened on UFC 293 fight night. “Lipe Detona” came to fight, giving Kape everything he could handle across three tough rounds. While the judges saw it 30–27, 29–28 and 29–28, those scores don’t capture the grit and violence we witnessed from dos Santos as he went toe-to-toe with the 18-6 Kape. Indeed, he took everything Kape threw at him, and didn’t hesitate to fire back. At points he stunned “Starboy” with punches, although he wasn’t able to capitalize.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is great because sometimes you have a mismatch like this on paper that turns into an absolute war because one fighter refuses to go quietly into the night.

Manel Kape vs. Felipe dos Santos delivered on that.

Most of these last minute call-ups involving draftees into UFC end poorly for the new fighters. But, it’s hard to criticize UFC for the booking after witnessing the fireworks it generated. dos Santos pounced on a massive opportunity, and he capitalized on it to ensure no one watching will forget his name.

Kape repeatedly referred to his opponent as “The Kid,” and then acknowledged he’s a man. At UFC 293, Felipe dos Santos was the man.

For complete UFC 293 results, coverage and highlights click HERE.

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