The UFC returns to PPV on September 25th, live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, for UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega. This PPV main card features two world title fights, five bouts with ranked fighters, and the return of an MMA cult hero.
The main event is a featherweight world title fight as the champ Alexander Volkanovski defends his belt against the #2 ranked Brian Ortega.
The co-main event is a women’s flyweight title bout as champion Valentina Shevchenko defends her title against the #3 ranked Lauren Murphy.
Also on the card is a Top 6 heavyweight clash, a Top 5 women’s flyweight battle, and the return of Nick Diaz for the first time since January 2015.
Calvillo is a large underdog despite being ranked #3 in the division and having gone 6-2-1 in the UFC. She started off 3-0 before losing to Carla Esparza in December 2017.
Following that loss, Calvillo defeated Poliana Botelho, Cortney Casey and Jessica Eye. She fought to a Draw with Rodriguez as well. Cynthia’s most recent bout came in November 2020 where he lost via decision to Katlyn Choogakian.
Five of her nine pro wins have come via stoppage with three by way of submission. She’s 4-1-2 when going the distance.
Calvillo recognizes how dangerous this fight is:
“She’s a really dangerous fighter, and that excites me. I like to do things that scare me, and I really feel like she possesses the danger of you can just get knocked out if she clips you, so you have to be really smart. I think it’s a really good fight for me. I think I have really good footwork. I’m gonna be able to have some really smart engagements and get done what I want to get done, which is basically get her down and choke her out or ground and pound.”
Andrade remains the #1 ranked women’s flyweight, but she’s coming off a 2nd round TKO loss to Shevchenko in April 2021.
She’s now 1-3 in her last four bouts. In addition to the Shevchenko fight, Andrade has also lost to Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas. Jessica is 12-7 inside the octagon.
15 of her 21 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of TKO/KO. She’s 6-3 when going the distance.
There’s certainly a chance that Andrade wins this fight inside the distance, but I like for it to go Over 2.5 rounds (-170) and the full 15 minutes (-130).
For Andrade, she’s gone the distance in five of her last nine bouts. Calvillo has gone the distance in six of her last seven fights including four in a row.
I don’t see Andrade’s time near the top of the division being over with yet. Instead, “Bate Estaca” will defend her position in the rankings with a convincing unanimous decision victory.
Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo –Andrade (-240)
Over 2.5 rounds (-170)
Fight goes the distance (-130)
Andrade wins via decision (+175)
Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Curtis Blaydes (-310)
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+260)
Over (-160)/Under (+130) 1.5 rounds
Despite losing two of his last four bouts, Rozenstruik remains in the Top 10 of the heavyweight division with a #6 ranking.
He’s 6-2 in the UFC with both losses coming against top ranked heavyweights Francis Ngannou in May 2020 and Ciryl Gane in February 2021.
However, he does have some solid wins on his resume as well with victories over Andrei Alrovski, Alistair Overeem, and Junior dos Santos.
11 of his 12 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 1-1 when going the distance.
The 4th ranked Blaydes remains near the top of the division, but can’t seem to get a title fight. He ends up getting one fight away from a title shot, but then loses and has to climb back up the ladder.
This Has Happened Twice in the Last Three Years
In November 2018, Blaydes lost via TKO to Ngannou. That dropped him down a peg or two, but then he put together a four fight winning streak with victories over Willis, Abdurakhimov, dos Santos and Volkov. The last three were ranked opponents.
Unfortunately, as Blaydes was poised to earn a title shot, he suffered another loss which came against Derrick Lewis in February 2021 via 2nd round KO.
10 of his 14 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 4-0 when going the distance.
It’s pretty clear how this fight is going to go. Either Rozenstruik lands the big KO shot or Blaydes gets the fight to the mat and picks up the TKO via ground and pound.
With that said, I like Blaydes in this contest. I believe he will survive early attacks from Rozenstruik and eventually land the takedown where he will do his damage to eventually pick up the win.
The only question is whether or not this bout will go O/U 1.5 rounds. I’m leaning towards the Over as I think Rozenstruik will try to fight from a distance and pick his shots, which means it will take longer for Blaydes to get any takedowns.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik –Blaydes (-310)
Over 1.5 rounds (-160)
Fight ends inside the distance (-200)
Blaydes wins inside the distance (+105)
Blaydes wins via TKO/KO (+135)
Robbie Lawler vs. Nick Diaz
Robbie Lawler (-110)
Nick Diaz (-110)
Over (-225)/Under (+185) 2.5 rounds
The first fight between these two took place 17 years ago at UFC 47 in April 2004. Nick Diaz won that bout via 2nd round KO. Without rehashing what happened with each man’s career since then, lets fast forward to 2016.
In that year, Diaz was retired and Lawler lost his UFC welterweight title to Tyron Woodley. He bounced back with a win against Cerrone via decision in July 2017, but has proceeded to lose four fights in a row since then.
It's been 2424 days since Nick Diaz last made the walk to the UFC Octagon.
Lawler dropped decisions to Rafael dos Anjos, Colby Covington and Neil Magny along with a technical submission defeat to Ben Askren. His last bout came in August 2020 where he dropped the decision to Magny.
21 of his 28 pro wins have come via stoppage with 20 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 7-7 when going the distance.
Nick Diaz will fight for the first time in 2,430 days. It’s hard to imagine what form or fight shape Diaz is in considering how long he’s been off. At 38 years old, Diaz has remained connected to martial arts just not as a fighter.
Diaz’s last three fights ended in losses and all via decision to Carlos Condit, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. However, the fight against Silva was eventually overturned as both fighters failed drug tests.
21 of his 26 pro wins have come via stoppage with 13 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 5-7 when going the distance.
Diaz has stated that this time around, he will go out there and show good sportsmanship with Lawler unlike their first fight:
“I’m not going out there to call him names or, y’know, I’m going to be a lot more sportsmanlike, I think, out there. But that’s not what won me the fight last time. That surprised him a little bit, but I would have won the fight anyways.”
The safe play here is to go with the Over 2.5 rounds (-225) and for the fight to go the distance (-135). I’m not sure that either fighter has the knockout power anymore. Additionally, Diaz’s last four bouts went to a decision and four of Lawler’s last five contests went the distance.
Once with the judges, I’m taking Diaz for the win at UFC betting sites. This is a fight he can win even though Diaz has been retired for 6 ½ years. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good story like this one.
Robbie Lawler vs. Nick Diaz –Diaz (-110)
Over 2.5 rounds (-225)
Fight goes the distance (-135)
Diaz wins via decision (+175)
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy
Valentina Shevchenko (-1700)
Lauren Murphy (+1000)
Over (-115)/Under (-115) 2.5 rounds
The co-main event is a women’s flyweight world title bout. It also has the largest betting disparity for the entire UFC 266 lineup as Shevchenko is a monstrous favorite.
Murphy is ranked 3rd in the division and enters on a five fight winning streak. She’s turned her career around after starting out in the UFC going 2-4.
Murphy’s wins have come against Mara Romero Borella, Andrea Lee, Roxanne Modafferi, Liliya Shakirova and most recently via split decision against Joanne Calderwood in June 2021.
Nine of her 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of TKO/KO. She’s 6-4 when going the distance.
Shevchenko is on a seven fight winning streak since her last loss which was against Nunes four years ago. Valentina has been impressive in every win over that seven fight streak including vicious TKO/KOs against Eye, Choogakian, and Andrade.
Her most recent title defense came against Jessica Andrade five months ago and she won via 2nd round TKO.
14 of her 21 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven apiece for TKO/KO and submission. She’s 7-2 when going the distance.
The champion is very confident heading into this title defense on Saturday as she made the following comments:
“I will go there, break my opponent, take the belt, and go back home. That’s what I am preparing to do. That is what I will do. I know this level of competition is the top level. There are no easy or weak opponents, and everyone brings danger to the fights. I train to be capable to stop my opponent and do what I have to do to win the fight. I know my opponent will be strong, but I am going to destroy her.”
I have absolutely no reason to doubt Shevchenko. She’s simply incredible. The only question is whether or not she will get the finish. With that quote there, I’m going with the TKO/KO finish.
Yes, Murphy hasn’t been stopped in her career, but she also hasn’t fought anyone like Shevchenko before. If Valentina can TKO Andrade then she can TKO Murphy.
I think Murphy will put up some solid competition but, she’s never gone deep into a five round bout before. I can see Murphy going Over 2.5 rounds (-115), but she will eventually eat a nasty shot that will end the fight inside the 25 minute time limit.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy –Shevchenko (-1700)
Over 2.5 rounds (-115)
Fight ends inside the distance (-290)
Shevchenko wins inside the distance (-250)
Shevchenko wins via TKO/KO (-120)
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega
Alexander Volkanovski (-170)
Brian Ortega (+150)
Over (-140)/Under (+110) 4.5 rounds
Ortega joined the UFC in the summer of 2014 and since that NC result, he’s gone 7-1 inside the octagon. His lone loss came against Max Holloway in December 2018 via TKO in the 4th due to a doctor’s stoppage.
Ortega would love to get a rematch with Holloway. In fact, he’s already calling for it if he can get past Volkanovski this weekend:
“I’m not trying to speak ahead or get past Volkanovski because he beat Max twice, so I’m not here to already start celebrating but that would be ideal. I’m a better person, better fighter than I was when I fought him and watching his last fight, so is he. You always want that. As a fighter, as a competitor, you always want to make that sh*t square.”
It would be nearly two years before Ortega fought again as he would take on the “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in October 2020. Ortega won via unanimous decision in a fantastic five round battle. That was also his last fight. Since then, he was coaching TUF against Volkanovski.
10 of his 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of submission. He’s 5-0 when going the distance.
Volkanovski did beat Holloway twice, but the last fight I still maintain that Holloway won. Instead, they gave the champ the split decision.
“The Great” has won 19 straight fights including winning nine in a row with the UFC.
Volkanovski has his eyes on more than just a win over Ortega this weekend. He’s aiming to become the pound for pound best fighter and to be the GOAT of the featherweight division:
“I always said when I was champion I was going to go, ‘Whoever is next in line, bring him to me. I do want to be pound-for-pound, No. 1 in the world. I want to be ‘The G.O.A.T.’ of the featherweight division, and I am interested in that stuff, but I take it each fight at a time.”
14 of his 22 pro wins have come via stoppage with 11 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 8-0 when going the distance.
I respect Volkanovski’s skills and body of work, but I will be rooting for Ortega to win. Not because I like Ortega, but I want to see the rematch against Holloway and then Max win the belt back. Then we can have the trilogy fight with Volkanovski and hopefully decide who’s the best in the division.
Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening. Look for Volkanovski to do plenty of damage to Ortega in the standup while stuffing takedown attempts. If he doesn’t finish Ortega late in the fight then I expect him to win via unanimous decision without any doubts about his performance.
Six of Volkanovksi’s last eight bouts have gone the distance including three in a row.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega –Volkanovski (-170)
Over 4.5 rounds (-140)
Fight goes the distance (-140)
Volkanovski wins via decision (+135)
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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