On September 25th, UFC 266 is going to take place in T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada. The headlining of the evens is going to be a featherweight title fight between current champion Alexandre Volkanovski and Former title challenger Brian Ortega. This is not going to be the only five-rounder battle on this card. MMA fans will also enjoy watching another title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Lauren Murphy and a non-title but a five-rounder battle between Diaz Army's leader, Nick Diaz, and former players welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.
This card is one of the most highly anticipated events of 2021 because the whole card is stuck with great matchups.
UFC 266 Main Event: Alexandre "The Great" Volkanovski vs. Brian "T-City" Ortega.
This is going to be the second title defense for the current Champion and a second chance for Brian Ortega to win his desired belt.
Alexandre is undefeated in the UFC and suffered loss only once in his professional MMA career. He is on his 9 winning streaks in the UFC and 19 in his professional MMA career. He defeated Max Holloway twice in his last 5 contests, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, and Darren Elkins. His primary sport is Greco-Roman Wrestling, but he spends most of his teen ages playing Rugby as a Semi-Professional.
Alexandre is a great wrestler, and it is always a significant advantage to have excellent wrestling skills. Still, he also earned skills in striking during training in one of the best striking gym called "City Kickboxing," where he trains Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Alexandre is very strong physically; when he was playing Rugby, he was 97 KG; he started his MMA career as a middleweight, but soon he participated in welterweight, lightweight, and finally, he became Champion in the featherweight division.
11 out of his 22 victories are via TKO/KO. Mostly his TKO wins are coming from Ground and Pound skills and not striking, but he has fast and dangerous hands, so he can easily KO anyone. In addition to that, Alexander has an excellent Fighting IQ. He did not use his wrestling; he used leg kicks to restrict Holloway's incredible footwork and earned victories in both battles.
Just like his rival, Brian Ortega has suffered loss once in his professional MMA career, but unlikely "The Great," Ortega Suffered it in the UFC, against former featherweight champion Max Holloway.
Ortega is one of the most dangerous BJJ guys in the UFC. Except for fighting with Mike De La Torre, he won 6 fights in the UFC before facing Holloway for the belt. He defeated guys like Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, Renato Carneiro, Clay Guida, and Diego Brandao via KO or submission.
After being defeated against Max Holloway, it took 2 years for Ortega to recover physically and psychologically. On October 17 of 2020, he faced Korean Zombie and defeated him via unanimous decision. In this fight, he showed how improved his striking is and proved that he is not only a "BJJ guy." 7 out of his 15 victories are via submissions, 3 via KO, and 5 via unanimous decision.
On the paper, it looks like that both fighters are stronger on the ground, but as usual, when two grapplers are facing each other, they are comparing their striking skills.
From my point of view, they are equal on the striking, but Ortega should have an advantage on the ground. Since Ortega is a BJJ guy, he knows how to fight on the ground but does not have great takedowns. Alexandre is way better in takedowns and defending takedowns, too. So if this fight will go on the ground, it will be Alexandre's incentive or the continuation of someone's knockdown.
Co-Main Event- Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy
Valentina Shevchenko is one of the most dominant champions in the UFC. She has fantastic striking skills, incredible ground game, great Cardio, and a fight IQ. Her only losses in the UFC are against Amanda Nunes, who is considered the best female fighter in the world.
IN her Career, Valentina showed that she could defeat any fighter. She defeated names like Jessica Andrade, Jennifer Maia (incredible BJJ girl), Katlyn Chookagian, Jessica Eye, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (one of the best strikers), Holy Holm, and many others. She earned 21 victories via a perfect balance of 7 submissions, 7 TKO/KO, and 7 decision wins.
Lauren had not a great start in the UFC. From 2014 to 2016, he suffered 3 losses and only 1 defeat in the UFC. The promotion was going to cut her, but she started winning the fights. She is on 5 winning streaks. We have to say that she has never shared the cage with this level fighter. Also, Murphy does not have 5 experiences of 5 round battle, and her cardio might be under the question mark. She is a more likely striker since 8 victories out of 15 are via KO, but Valentina's kickboxing skills look way better.
Usually, Valentina will be considered a huge favorite in this bout, and it will be very logical. Valentina looks way better in any aspect on the paper, but since this is the fight where anything can happen, we should not be surprised if Murphy will make it 6 in a row in the UFC.
Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler 2
This will be the second 5-rounder fight in UFC history, which will not be a non-title and non-main event. The first was between Nick's younger Brother Nate's and Leon Edwards's battle at UFC 263.
Firstly, Nick and Robbie shared the Octagon back in 2004. By that time, both fighters were considered rising stars. Nick defeated Robbie via Brutal KO in the second round, but both fighters archived a lot in their professional careers after that. Robbie became UFC welterweight champion, and Nick won his belt in Strikeforce, WEC, and IFC.
MMA community respects these fighters because of their attitude during the fight. They were used to keep moving forward no matter what. Nick and Nate Diaz are famous for their unbreakable jaw and fantastic cardio. They can be losing the fight for 3 rounds but find the way to finish their rival.
Robbie is famous for his great battle with Rory MacDonald. Some people say that both fighters left part of their spirits in the cage that night, which might be true.
Nick has not been fighting for 5-6 years, but Robbie does not look for several fights already.
In his last 6 contests, he suffered a loss 5 times against Tyron Woodley, who dethroned him, Rafael Dos Anjos, Ben Askren, Colby Covington, and the last one against Neil Magny. In the bout with Magny. Probably, his worst performance was in his previous bout against Magny, where he was not able to do anything. Both fighters need a way back in the Octagon, the loser will lose anything, and the winner will be back to the big stage. Both fighters will give their best to stay in business and win this bout.
Curtis Blades vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Another stylistic matchup between outstanding wrestler and striker.
Jairzinho was undefeated before getting his shot against current heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou. As soon as the fight started, Ngannou threw huge punches and earned KO at the 20 seconds of the first round. Even though, suffering defeat in such a brutal way, Jairzinho managed to be back to the Octagon and earned an amazing victory against former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. After being back in the winning column, he suffered another loss against current interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane. Still, soon after, he won another fight against young prospect Augusto Sakai, just 1 second before the first-round belt.
Rozenstruik is a true finisher. 11 out of his 12 victories are via KO. His punches are always dangerous. Overeem was winning all the rounds during fighting with Rozenstruik. Still, before 4 seconds on the clock before the 5th round bell, Rozenstruik landed a huge punch and earned another KO victory. He also defeated another former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC 244 via brutal KO.
Curtis Blades is one of the most dangerous wrestlers, with the massive ground and pound skills. 10 out of 14 victories are via TKO/KO, but mostly he is finishing his rivals on the ground.
He made his UFC debut against current Champion Francis Ngannou and suffered his first-ever loss. After that, he won 5 winnings in a row. He defeated Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem and earned his rematch against Francis. Unfortunately for him, Francis managed to earn victory under 45 seconds of the first round. It did not break his spirit, and Curtis kept moving forward. He earned another 4 wins in a row against fighters like Junior Dos Santos and Alexander Volkov but suffered a Brutal KO loss against Derrick Lewis in the second round. From my point of view, if Blaydes is psychologically recovered, he has everything to defeat Rozenstruik, but don't forget this is heavyweight; any punch might be fatal, and ROzenstruik is living proof of it.
Marlon Moraes vs. Merab Dvalishvili
American Top Team's Brazilian student, Moraes, has suffered loss 3 times in his last 5 contests. He is the #6 ranked contender in the bantamweight division and will try to defend his position against The Machine.
Moraes has excellent striking and BJJ, too. He is the man who served current Champion Aljo Sterling, his first-ever KO loss in his professional MMA career. He also defeated guys like Jimmie Rivera, Raphael Assuncao, John Dodson, and Jose Aldo.
5 out of his 8 losses are via TKO/KO, which means his chin condition is not in the best shape.
Merab Dvalishvili has been sparring partner of current Champion, Aljo, for a while. Serra-Longo fight team's student has impressive takedown. He is breaking all the records with his great takedowns and winning the fights via unanimous decisions. His most significant advantage is his fighting spirit and fantastic cardio. He is on his 6 winning streaks, but to be fair, we have to say that he won all the rounds against Ricky Simons and survived Ricky's Guillotine choke, but because of some misunderstandings, Merab lost that fight. Being a sparring partner of Sterling means a lot already, but Moraes thinks that he can KO Merab.
From my point of view, Moraes will have an opportunity of winning this fight in the early rounds. Otherwise, he will not be able to follow the speed and pressure of Merab's fighting style.
There also will be many other "Must Watch" fighters. Dan Hooker will be back to the Octagon after suffering defeats against Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier. 2 undefeated fighters will fight in the prelims, Uros Medic, with the record 7-0-0 earned 1 victory in the UFC and 1 in DWCS.
Another undefeated fighter is Nick Maximov, with a record 6-0-0 as a pro. Nick will make his UFC debut against experienced Karl Roberson, who fought in the UFC 8 times but earned victories only in half of them. Uros Medic will face Jalin Turner, who is on 2 winning streaks in the UFC and has 3 victories and 2 defeats in the promotion.
In a word, rising prospects will face experienced UFC fighters and test their abilities against them.
Check out full UFC 266 fight card down below:
A. Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega 145 lbs
V. Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy 125 lbs
Robbie Lawler vs. Nick Diaz 170 lbs
Curtis Blaydes vs. J. Rozenstruik 265 lbs
Jéssica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo 125 lbs
Marlon Moraes vs. Merab Dvalishvili 135 lbs
Dan Hooker vs. Nasrat Haqparast 155 lbs
S. Abdurakhimov vs. Chris Daukaus 265 lbs
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Taila Santos 125 lbs
Manon Fiorot vs. Mayra Bueno Silva 125 lbs
Nick Maximov vs. Karl Roberson 185 lbs
Uros Medic vs. Jalin Turner 155 lb s
Matt Semelsberger vs. Martin Sano 170 lbs
Omar Morales vs. Jonathan Pearce 145 lbs