UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega Odds, Predictions and Pre-Weigh-in Hype
Two fights with UFC gold on the line will anchor the UFC 266 card from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with a featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega serving as the main course.
The title defense for the champion Volkanovski will be the first time he's fighting with a title on the line against someone other than Max Holloway. He originally won the belt from the Hawaiian at UFC 245 before defending it in a rematch at UFC 251 in July 2020.
Now, more than a year later, he will meet Ortega, whose only career loss came at the hands of Holloway.
Rounding out the double title feature is the latest title defense from Valentina Shevchenko in the women's flyweight division. While Volkanovski is relatively new to being a champion, Bullet has reigned over her division since late 2018 and has five successful title defenses to her name.
Lauren Murphy will be in pursuit of the big upset with a five-fight winning streak to her name.
Here's a look at what else the card has to offer and the early talk from some of the biggest fights on the card.
Fight Card, Schedule and Odds
Main Card (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV)
- Alexander Volkanovski (c) (-170; bet $170 to win $100) vs. Brian Ortega (+150; $100 bet wins $150)
- Valentina Shevchenko (c) (-1500) vs. Lauren Murphy (+850)
- Nick Diaz (+115) vs. Robbie Lawler (-135)
- Curtis Blaydes (-310) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+245)
- Jessica Andrade (-265) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+215)
Prelims (ESPN News/ESPN+)
- Marlon Moraes (+210) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (-260)
- Dan Hooker (-145) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (+125)
- Shamil Abdurakhimov (+170) vs. Chris Daukaus (-200)
- Roxanne Modafferi (+320) vs. Taila Santos (-425)
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass)
- Uros Medic (-125) vs. Jalin Turner (+105)
- Cody Brundage vs. Nick Maximov
- Matthew Semelsberger (-475) vs. Martin Sano (+350)
- Jonathan Pearce (+135) vs. Omar Antonio Morales Ferrer (-155)
Odds via DraftKings Sportbook
Volkanovski Annoyed by Ortega After Ultimate Fighter Stint
There's nothing quite like The Ultimate Fighter to build up some tension in a fight. Being forced to be around your future opponent for several weeks while participating in a show trying to create drama is bound to reach its goal at some point.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that even Volkanovski, who isn't the biggest trash talker in the world, is getting tired of his opponent heading into their title fight.
"It's not the baddest blood you'll ever see, but I don't like the guy and I'm sure he doesn't like me. The more and more I hear him talk, the more and more I want to punch him in the face," Volkanovski said of his coaching counterpart from the return of the UFC reality series, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports.
Ortega, who took nearly two years off after losing a title fight to Holloway, has felt the hate from the champion but insists he's just focused on the fight ahead.
"I think he dislikes me and I don't know why. I have an idea but, nevertheless, I have to do my job. If I go in there and do my job, I will have let him know exactly how I feel about him," he said, per Brian Campbell of CBS Sports. "He's so short, his words can't even come up to me."
The war of words is a little fun, but the fight promises to be even more so. Ortega took the time off after his loss to work on his striking, but we've only seen him once since then in a decision win over Chan Sung Jung.
He did score two knockdowns in that fight, but Volkanovski is another beast when it comes to striking. Until Ortega goes out and does it, it's hard to believe that he'll be able to keep up with the champ on the feet.
Prediction: Volkanovski via unanimous decision
Murphy Feels "Lucky" to Be Fighting Shevchenko
There was a time when Lauren Murphy was probably fighting for her job in the UFC. When she made the transition from Invicta, where she was the bantamweight champion, she looked like anything but a sure thing to stay on the roster, much less fight for a title.
Murphy dropped her first two fights in the UFC—back-to-back decision losses to Sara McMann and Liz Carmouche—before finishing Kelly Faszholz in the first round.
That momentum was quickly soured by losses in two of her three next fights, with her only win coming by split decision against Barb Honchak.
But Murphy once again bounced back and has now ripped off five straight wins. So it shouldn't come as a surprise she feels fortunate to be getting this shot after working hard to prove herself for years.
"I do feel lucky to fight Valentina," she told Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. "All fighters dream of fighting the best and there are a million fighters who dream of being in the position I’m in now.”
The opportunity to fight for a title may be a dream, but actually fighting Shevchenko is anything but. The champ is quicker, stronger and more powerful than Murphy. There's a reason she's one of the biggest underdogs on the card.
Prediction: Shevchenko via decision
Diaz Keeping Things Real Ahead of Return
After more than six years away from the Octagon, Nick Diaz is back, and not a whole lot has changed has about his pre-fight interviews since 2015.
The older Diaz brother has never been one to hold back and doesn't necessarily have a filter. So while most fighters spend the week before the fight doing everything they can to hype a fight, Diaz has been open about the fact that he doesn't like the opponent he's been given for his comeback fight.
"I'll have a better shot against Usman than I do Lawler, just because I already beat Lawler. This doesn't make sense for me to go in and fight Robbie Lawler again," he told Brett Okamoto of ESPN. "I don't know why I'm doing this. ... This should not happen. Whoever set this up is an idiot. I don't know why I'm doing this. I don't know why this happened. I should be fighting Kamaru Usman—and that's it."
While Diaz is no stranger to saying some outlandish things, this should be cause for concern for anyone backing him. The fight was also moved up from 170 pounds to 185 pounds at Diaz's request, which could suggest that his heart wasn't even in it enough for him to cut weight.
Even before Diaz walked away from the sport he was on a three-fight winless streak.
Lawler himself has deteriorated quite a bit. The 39-year-old is on a four-fight skid, but that has at least come against top competition that is young and in shape.
The same might not be said for his opponent on Saturday.
Prediction: Lawler via decision
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