UFC 266 Preview - Volkanovski v Ortega
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UFC 266 Preview - Volkanovski v Ortega

The UFC returns to Las Vegas this Saturday night for a huge UFC 266 card. The headliner features a highly-anticipated featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega following their The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Valentina Shevchenko will defend her women's flyweight crown against Lauren Murphy while Nick Diaz –that is right, Nick Diaz-- returns to action for the first time since 2015 to take on former champ Robbie Lawler. Ryan O'Leary previews what should be another thrilling night of UFC action from the octagon.


UFC 266 Prelim Card

The action kicks off with a featherweight bout between Jonathan Pearce and Omar Morales. It’s a close fight, but the favorite is the Venezuelan Morales to kickstart another winning streak.

Welterweights Matthew Semelsberger and Martin Sano are also competing on the early prelims. Despite coming off a loss to Khaos Williams in June, Semelsberger is the overwhelming favorite over the more inexperienced Sano.

Karl Roberson returns to action against Nick Maximov in a middleweight duel. Roberson has lost his last two, but Babay K is still slightly favored to edge the debuting Maximov.

Women’s flyweights are also in action as France’s Manon Fiorot and Brazilian Mayra Bueno Silva compete against each other. Expect a win for Fiorot who is currently on a seven-fight winning streak including five finishes.

Uros Medic collides with Jalin Turner in a lightweight contest. Although less experienced, the undefeated Serbian Medic, fighting out of Alasksa, should just about come out on top over the Tarantula.

Roxanne Modafferi and Taila Santos compete in women's flyweight action during the prelims. Modafferri is the well-liked veteran that is still improving, but it’s hard to see how the younger and more athletic Santos -- who is 17-1 – will not come out on top.

Heavyweights collide as Shamil Adburakhimov takes on Chris Daukaus. This should be a very entertaining contest with Daukaus only going the distance one time in his14 pro bouts. “Abrek” is a 40-year old vet that turned pro in 2008.  With solid wins over Marcin Tybura, Andrei Arlovski, and Walt Harris, the Dagestani fighter will be looking to add another solid win to his resume.

An intriguing lightweight encounter takes place as Dan Hooker meets Nasrat Haqparast. The hot prospect Hooker has cooled a bit… coming off losses to Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler. Haqparast is looking for a marque win over the “hangman” to make a name for himself as a real contender in the lightweight division.

The featured prelim sees former title challenger Marlon Moraes taking on Merab Dvalishvili in a ranked bantamweight encounter. Moraes has lost three of his last four by knockout and it’s hard to bet against the wrestling game of Dvalishvili that has seen him win his last six in a row.

UFC 266 Main Card

Jessica Andrade (21-9) v Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1)

Powerhouse Jessica Andrade will look to return to the win column when she faces Cynthia Calvillo in women’s flyweight action. Andrade last suffered a second-round TKO defeat to current champion Valentina Shevchenko in their title fight earlier this year. The setback came following her successful flyweight debut against Katlyn Chookagian.

Calvillo, meanwhile, is also looking to return to the win column and enter title contention having last lost in a stand-up bout to Chookagian. She was undefeated in her last four meetings prior. That said, oddsmakers seem confident in the power and all-round game of Andrade who should come out on top, but Calvillo is never to be underestimated.

Curtis Blaydes (14-3, 1NC) v Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2)

Curtis Blaydes takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik in heavyweight action. Blaydes is coming off an unfortunate brutal knockout defeat at the hands of Derrick Lewis. It halted a four-fight winning streak for the wrestling-focused fighter that hasn’t able to march his way to a title shot.

Rozenstruik, meanwhile, returned to the win column with a TKO win over Augusto Sakai. He was previously outpointed by Ciryl Gane in what was just his second professional defeat. However, Blaydes is heavily favored to come out on top and that shouldn’t be a surprise given how Rozenstruik has struggled with wrestling in the past.

Nick Diaz (26-9, 2NC) v Robbie Lawler (28-15, 1NC)

Arguably the most anticipated fight of the night (or year) is a five-round welterweight battle between former champion Robbie Lawler and the returning Nick Diaz. Lawler is currently on a four-fight losing streak, having been outpointed by Neil Magny in his last outing in August last year.

Diaz, on the other hand, hasn’t competed since a no contest against Anderson Silva back in 2015. For that reason, it’s extremely hard to call this fight as the long near-seven year layoff could play a major factor for Diaz. Fight-week interviews are showing Nick to be stable and in a good space to step back into the cage.

Lawler, however, seems to be well past his prime at this stage. That said, he could benefit from not facing a wrestler in Diaz. “Ruthless” is just about favored to get the win, just as he was in his first fight against the Stockton-based fighter… but we all know not to be “surprised” by either of the Diaz brothers.  Get ready for anything in this 5-round middleweight bout.

Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) v Lauren Murphy (15-4)

Valentina Shevchenko will look to defend her women’s flyweight title for a sixth time when she faces Lauren Murphy in the UFC 266 co-main event. Shevchenko last competed in April when she delivered a dominant performance to TKO the aforementioned Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. Much like the rest of her flyweight fights, there was very little adversity faced for “Bullet” who seems a level above the rest of the competition.

Murphy will look to prove that wrong as she currently rides a five-fight winning streak, having most recently outpointed Joanne Calderwood to get the title shot, and will look to make it six in a row. That said, there is no indication that the “Bullet” won’t will win and defend her 125-pound title successfully once again.

Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) v Brian Ortega (15-1, 1NC)

The headliner sees an enticing featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. Volkanovski last competed at UFC 251 in July last year when he outpointed former champion Max Holloway for the second time in a row to defend his title for the first time. Overall, he has won his last nine outings since signing for the UFC and has become a tough puzzle for fighters to solve.

Ortega, meanwhile, will be looking to win the featherweight title in his second attempt. Of course, “T-City” lost his first attempt in a one-sided beatdown against Holloway back in December 2018. It took nearly two years for Ortega to return, but he did so in style with an impressive unanimous decision victory over the Korean Zombie in October last year.  Ortega has shown gains in his striking, adding to his already deadly ground game.

This should be a very intriguing stylistic matchup which will likely remain on the feet. Ortega has shown that despite his ground game, he is more than adept at winning in the standup and he certainly has a chance at inflicting Volkanovski’s first defeat in the UFC with his long reach and power. 

However, Volkanovski is a more well-rounded fighter that is training at one of the best camps in the world at City Kickboxing. “The Great” is a slight favorite to defend his 145-pound crown for the second time, but a play on Ortega to get a stoppage before the 25-minute bout is also a good play if you want to roll the dice.




About Ryan O’Leary

Ryan O’Leary is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist and commentator. The Swedish-based writer is the founder and editor at MMAViking.com, which is the premier source for Nordic mixed martial arts news since 2008.

V: 1.22.1 All rights reserved. August 2021