It took an incredible force of will to escape multiple submission attempts, but Alexander Volkanovski capped an action-packed UFC 266 card with a unanimous decision win over Brian Ortega.
The featherweight title fight that saw Volkanovski earn his second successful title defense had a little bit of everything. The two kept things standing in the first and second rounds, with the champ holding a slight advantage in the exchanges thanks to his quickness.
But when the two threw some grappling in the middle rounds, the chaos began. Multiple choke attempts from Ortega had the champ in trouble, but he didn't panic and eventually worked his way out of three attempts that were tight to varying degrees.
Although the cage-side doctor had to examine Ortega's eye multiple times, he was allowed to continue and kept showcasing his toughness by marching forward.
In the end, it was an excellent main event that brings even more legitimacy to Volkanovski's status as champion and sets up another meeting between these two guys down the line.
It was a fitting conclusion to a night that featured a couple of dominant performances and spectacular finishes.
- Alexander Volkanovski def. Brian Ortega via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-44)
- Valentina Shevchenko def. Lauren Murphy by TKO (Round 4, 4:00)
- Robbie Lawler def. Nick Diaz via TKO (Round 3, 0:44)
- Curtis Blaydes def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik via unanimous decision
- Jessica Andrade def. Cynthia Calvillo via TKO (Round 1, 4:54)
- Merab Dvalishvili def. Marlon Moraes via TKO (Round 2, 4:25)
- Dan Hooker def. Nasrat Haqparast via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
- Chris Daukaus def. Shamil Abdurakhimov via TKO (Round 2, 1:23)
- Taila Santos def. Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Jalin Turner def. Uros Medic via submission (rear-naked choke) (Round 1, 4:01)
- Nick Maximov def. Cody Brundage via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Matthew Semelsberger def. Martin Sano via KO (Round 1, 0:15)
- Jonathan Pearce def. Omar Morales via submission (rear-naked choke) (Round 2, 3:31)
Valentina Shevchenko def. Lauren Murphy
It was six up, six down for Valentina Shevchenko. Six women have tried to take away her flyweight title, but Bullet once again overwhelmed a challenger to notch the sixth consecutive defense of her belt.
Murphy was a massive underdog in this fight, and Shevchenko showed why before finding the finish in the fourth round. No matter where the fight went she held the upper hand. She was too quick for Murphy on the outside, too strong on the inside, and when it went to the mat, she was in top control.
In short, Shevchenko is the most dominant woman in the sport outside of Amanda Nunes.
At this point, the biggest issue for Shevchenko is a lack of interesting competition. She has lost twice to Amanda Nunes, so moving up in weight to take on the reigning bantamweight champ isn't an attractive option, but she has dispatched of nearly every challenger in her division.
As one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport, there just aren't many matchups on paper that seem worth making.
Robbie Lawler def. Nick Diaz
The rematch 17 years in the making saw Robbie Lawler get some redemption in the people's main event. Diaz's comeback after six years away from the Octagon was ruined by a motivated Lawler, who looked much sharper than he has in recent fights.
Lawler came out aggressive from the jump and overwhelmed Diaz in the early going.
However, Diaz did eventually settle in and put forth the kind of boxing-heavy high-volume approach we are used to seeing from the Stockton native.
But Lawler's early work to the body and willingness to absorb Diaz's combos to land his own power strikes eventually became too much for Diaz. Lawler floored him with a clean right hook and walked to the center of the Octagon to get his opponent to meet him for more striking.
Diaz refused to oblige, and the fight was called in the third round.
After this performance, it would be tough to see Diaz get back in the cage again. Of course, the same may be said for Lawler, who now has 20 years invested and could walk away with a win.
Curtis Blaydes def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Curtis Blaydes continues to be a serious problem for anyone who doesn't hit like a truck. He once again wrestled his way to a win with a unanimous decision over Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Rozenstruik is a dangerous striker, but Blaydes is exceptional at negating that advantage for everyone except Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. He landed a massive flying knee that swelled Blaydes' eye and gave him a chance:
However, it was quickly met with yet another takedown from Blaydes.
According to ESPN, Blaydes held control for a little over six minutes of the 15-minute fight, but it was enough to take the clean sweep of all three rounds from all three judges.
The 30-year-old continues to show that his takedowns and ground-and-pound are among the best in the division. It won't be long before he gets a crack at the title, and his skill set is going to make him a tough out for whoever has the belt when that day arrives.
Jessica Andrade def. Cynthia Calvillo
Jessica Andrade was all about getting the finish to kick off the main card, and she accomplished her mission with ease.
From the outset the Brazilian was the aggressor. She backed Calvillo against the cage with her forward movement and put the 34-year-old on the defensive. While Calvillo was able to score some counters, the cracks in the defense began to show early.
Calvillo is typically a strong wrestler, but the few times she attempted to clinch or take down Andrade, she was shrugged off.
This was a strong bounce-back performance for Andrade. After losing to Valentina Shevchenko by second-round TKO it would have been easy for her to have a letdown performance.
Making short work of her opponent is a strong statement that she'll be back in contention sooner rather than later.