UFC 266 Fight Card: PPV Schedule, Odds, Predictions for Volkanovski vs. Ortega
Alexander Volkanovski will fight someone other than Max Holloway for the first time in over two years when he meets Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC 266 in Las Vegas.
The featherweight champion took the belt from Blessed and then was subject to an immediate rematch with the Hawaiian. A controversial split-decision win over the former champ has cast a bit of a shadow over his title reign, but he'll have a chance to move away from that against Ortega.
T-City hasn't been the most active fighter in the division, either. After losing his own title fight against Holloway, he was inactive for two years but emerged from his hiatus victoriously over Chan Sung Jung, The Korean Zombie, in October.
The result is a fun featherweight title match with plenty of heat.
The card also features the latest title defense in the long-lasting reign of Valentina Shevchenko in the women's flyweight division. We'll also be treated to the return of Nick Diaz for the first time in over six years.
It's a night of fights that promises to be action-packed, and the stakes are high. Let's take a look at the complete card and some of the biggest questions that will be answered on Saturday night.
Fight Card, Schedule and Odds
Main Card (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV)
- Alexander Volkanovski (c) (-180; bet $180 to win $180) vs. Brian Ortega (+155; $100 bet wins $155)
- Valentina Shevchenko (c) (-1600) vs. Lauren Murphy (+900)
- Nick Diaz (+140) vs. Robbie Lawler (-160)
- Curtis Blaydes (-335) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+260)
- Jessica Andrade (-225) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+285)
Prelims (ESPN News/ESPN+)
- Marlon Moraes (+205) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (-255)
- Dan Hooker (-155) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (+135)
- Shamil Abdurakhimov (+175) vs. Chris Daukaus (-210)
- Roxanne Modafferi (+340) vs. Taila Santos (-450)
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass)
- Uros Medic (-125) vs. Jalin Turner (+105)
- Cody Brundage (+110) vs. Nick Maximov (-130)
- Matthew Semelsberger (-550) vs. Martin Sano (+400)
- Jonathan Pearce (+125) vs. Omar Antonio Morales Ferrer (-145)
Odds via DraftKings Sportbook
Will Volkanovski Be Willing to Grapple with Ortega?
Ortega has built his career on a fight pattern that shouldn't be easily replicable. Several times in his career he has taken a beating early on only to come back and win the fight via submission.
Wins over Cub Swanson and Renato Moicano stand out as examples. In both fights, he was routinely losing the striking exchanges before turning it around and getting the submission.
Ortega's lengthy absence from the cage could have given him time to fine-tune his striking. But without seeing too much of it in his win over The Korean Zombie, it's hard to say he's going to have the advantage in that department against Volkanovski.
The champion may be short, but he makes up for it with powerful leg kicks and a willingness to turn the pressure up on everyone. Ortega hasn't always been the best to deal with pressure. So the central question here is whether Volkanovski is willing to tango with Ortega on the mat.
If he does, that's where things will get interesting. However, Volkanovski has shown good fight IQ to this point in his career, and that should carry him here.
Prediction: Volkanovski via decision
Can Murphy Do Anything to Hurt Shevchenko?
The central question for the Shevchenko-Murphy matchup isn't who is going to win, but rather if Murphy can even make it competitive.
Shevchenko can win fights in a variety of ways. She's fully capable of winning an all-out kickboxing matchup with quick and violent striking from the outside. She also has the best dirty boxing and muay thai in close quarters.
Then there's her grappling. It's the least celebrated part of her arsenal, but then you remember that she took down Jennifer Maia and Jessica Andrade a combined 12 times in her last two bouts.
So while Murphy has done her part to get here with five straight wins, the fact that two of those are split decisions says a lot. The 38-year-old is by all accounts a hard-working fighter who has paid her dues.
But those dues are likely to pay for a one-sided championship fight. The question is whether Shevchenko can continue to be motivated and put in top performances. At this point, she's the only one who can get in her way.
Prediction: Shevchenko via decision
Does Diaz Have Anything to Offer?
Diaz hasn't graced the Octagon since 2015. In that fight, he was coming off a nearly two-year layoff to fight Anderson Silva. He was outstruck 108-77 and dropped a unanimous decision that was ultimately overturned after both fighters tested positive for banned substances.
Diaz hasn't won a fight since October 2011, when he beat BJ Penn.
Diaz doesn't seem to be too thrilled about the matchup not being with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. He told Brett Okamoto of ESPN of fighting Lawler, "I don't know why I'm doing this."
Maybe that's just Diaz being Diaz. He's always been a straight shooter and has infamously had a love-hate relationship with fighting.
But Lawler has stayed relatively active, and Diaz's 2004 win over Lawler doesn't have much relevance here.
In other words, prepare for a bizarre fight, but don't expect a classic performance from the elder Diaz brother.
Prediction: Lawler via decision
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