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PREVIEW: UFC 266 Prelims/Main Card

Joshua Gaillard and Chad Nagel preview UFC 266.

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Joshua Gaillard and Chad Nagel previews this weekends UFC 266.

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Main Card

Alexander Volkanovski 53/100 | Brian Ortega 13/10 (Featherweight)

The flash and charisma from featherweight title challenger Brian “T-City” Ortega who can finish fights in the blink of an eye takes on the man who brings well-rounded dominance to the octagon and is the king of the 145lb division Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski. The heat on the main event is turned all the way up after Volkanovski and Ortega got into it on the Ultimate Fighter Season 29 in more ways than one.

The man who mixes it all together like nobody else, Volkanovski (22-1-0) makes his first appearance in over a year. After fighting Max Holloway twice over a two-year period, he makes his first title defence against someone other than the former featherweight champion. His three prior bouts were wins over Darren Elkins, Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo. The Great Volkanovski is on a nine-fight win streak in the UFC and 19 fight win streak overall.

Ortega (15-1-0) made his first showing after being defeated by Holloway in a promising way, defeating The Korean Zombie via the most dominant unanimous decision victories you’re likely to see. Other than his recent victory, in which he knocked down his opponent, Ortega has finished every one of his previous seven UFC victories with names like Clay Guida, Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar on his resume.

Verdict: Ortega 13/10

Alexander Volkanovski utilizes and mixes up his attacks so well, but his most trusted weapon is his overall power and driving takedowns which he will surely try to utilize after Ortega showed how dangerous his stand up game is against Holloway. The only problem with taking Ortega down is if there’s anyone who you don’t want to be down there with, it’s the jiu-jitsu black belt T-City aka Triangle City. While Alexander has all the tools at his disposal, Brian possesses the killer instinct and is more lethal on his feet and the ground and for me, the fight will end with Ortega bagging the win.

Valentina Shevchenko 1/16 | Lauren Murphy 13/2 (Women’s Flyweight)

Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) is rightfully the heavy favourite against Lauren Murphy (15-4) at the co-main event of UFC 266 on Sunday.

The 33-year-old UFC Flyweight Champion is on an incredible seven-fight winning streak since making the move from bantamweight to flyweight in December 2018.

After losing her last fight in the women’s bantamweight division to Amanda Nunes at UFC 215 in September 2017, she has stormed her way through everyone she’s faced in the 125-pound division, with victories over Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Priscila Cachoeira, Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia and Jessica Andrade.

On the other side of the cage, Murphy is ranked third in the division and brings a five-bout winning streak with her. She has beaten ranked opponents in Joanne Calderwood, Roxanne Modafferi and Andrea Lee. But realistically, at the age of 38, the former Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion is well past her prime.

Verdict: Shevchenko 1/16

Both are coming into this fight with major momentum, but there’s only one way this ends – Shevchenko’s arm raised in victory. Although her nickname is “Lucky,” Murphy is going to need a lot more than luck when she steps into the octagon with Bullet.

Nick Diaz 94/100 | Robbie Lawler 77/100 (Welterweight)

To truly understand the up and coming five-round fight between Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler we must turn back the clock 17 years. The rise of two of the sport’s biggest stars saw them clash for the first time at UFC 47 in April of 2004 with Diaz finding his first UFC KO. Young and reckless, now mature and calculated, who will take the victory when they are locked inside the octagon for the second time?

Diaz (26-9-0, 2 NC) has had a layoff of six years, and to every fight fan’s joy, makes the walk yet again. The last three times Diaz stepped into the octagon was against UFC Champions Anderson Silva, which was later declared a no contest, the legend that is George Saint Pierre and recently retired Carlos Condit. Nick has always maintained excellent conditioning over the years and will come into this matchup in fine physical shape hoping to his experience to find an opening. Stockton California’s very own is here again, and against the fighter who skyrocketed his fame in the promotion.

After losing to Diaz, Robbie Lawler (28-15-0) fought 18 times across seven different promotions before making his way back into the UFC octagon. “Ruthless” went on to find UFC gold upon his return. Lawler returned to the promotion in style, claiming UFC Welterweight gold for his own. His recent results are nothing to rave about, losing four of his last five in a row to Rafael dos Anjos, a controversial stoppage to Ben Askren and two unanimous decisions to Colby Covington and Neil Magny in August of last year. He knows this is his final hoorah and it is the grudge match I am sure he so longed for.

Verdict: Lawler 77/100

Diaz will look to pick up where he left off with the same pressure style and the same mental tactics he uses to get under his opponent’s skin. Do not be fooled, the conditioning and skill of Diaz will be some his biggest weapons. A step back right hook caught a young and reckless Lawler in their first encounter, but you can expect the ruthlessness and the experience with less ego in his fighting style this time around. Despite the last four of five being a loss, the recent time in the octagon will prove vital Lawler taking the win this time around.

Curtis Blaydes 2/7 | Jairzinho Rozenstruik 47/20 (Heavyweight)

This will certainly be an exciting heavyweight matchup between two top ranked fighters.

Curtis Blaydes (14-3, 1 NC) will be seeking a return to the win column following a knockout defeat against Derrick Lewis in February, while Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2) comes into this contest off a first-round TKO win against Augusto Sakai back in June.

Blaydes has fought all the big names at heavyweight; from Aleksei Oleinik and Mark Hunt to Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou. He’s seen them in the cage. He can even claim wins over a few of them, having knocked out Oleinik and Overeem and defeated Hunt via unanimous decision.

Prior to defeat against Lewis, Razor was on a four-win streak with victories over Shamil Abdurakhimov, Justin Willis, Junior dos Santos and Alexander Volkov.

On the other side, Rozenstruik is a feared striker who has won five of his seven fights in the UFC, all by knockout. He has wins over Allen Crowder, Andrei Arlovski, Overeem and Dos Santos, while his two defeats came against the two top guys in the division, Ngannou and Ciryl Gane.

Verdict: Blaydes 2/7

With a height, age, weight and reach advantage, Blaydes will be full of confidence coming into this one. As long as he avoids Rozenstruik’s power shots – which will be easier said than done – Razor should be able to utilize his superior ground game and end up convincing the judges across all three rounds.

Jessica Andrade 7/20 | Cynthia Calvillo 39/20 (Women’s Flyweight)

After losing to the flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko in April of this year, Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade faces off with No. 5 ranked Cynthia Calvillo in the opening bout of the main card.

Andrade (21-9-0) desperately needs to get back to winning ways after losing three of her last five. Losses to Weili Zhang by TKO stoppage, a rematch loss to Rose Namajunas in a split decision and most recently elbows via the crucifix position to the current flyweight champion. Her last win came via a TKO following a powerful hook to the body of Katlyn Chookagian in the first round of that fight. Andrade was an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with and a couple of losses might have slowed down her momentum.

After putting together a decent three-fight win streak to the start of her UFC career, Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) picked up her first loss of her career to Carla Esparza in 2017. She picked herself up and dusted herself off to put together another three-fight win streak, with her last win in June 2020 over Jessica Eye, only to see the streak broken again at the hands of Chookagian. She showed great improvements in her stand up against Chookagian but got picked apart from the outside, losing via unanimous decision.

Verdict: Andrade 7/20

Andrade has more in the tank, more skill, and more driving power, but don’t expect her to win comfortably.

Full card predictions:

Main Card: 04:00 CAT
  • Alexander Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega: Brian Ortega (13/10)
  • Valentina Shevchenko vs Lauren Murphy: Valentina Shevchenko to win by KO, TKO, DQ or SUB. (4/10)
  • Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler: Robbie Lawler (77/100)
  • Curtis Blaydes vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik: Curtis Blaydes (2/7)
  • Jessica Andrade vs Cynthia Calvillo: Jessica Andrade (7/20)
Prelims: 02:00 CAT
  • Marlon Moraes (39/20) vs Merab Dvalishvili (7/20): Marlon Moraes
  • Dan Hooker (63/100) vs Nasrat Haqparast (11/10): Dan Hooker
  • Shamil Abdurakhimov (15/10) vs Chirs Daukaus (46/100): Chris Daukaus
  • Roxanne Modafferi (28/10) vs Taila Santos (2/9): Talia Santos
Early Prelims: 00:00 CAT
  • Uros Medic (7/8) vs Jalin Turner (21/20): Uros Medic
  • Manon Fiorot (2/5) vs Mayra Silva (9/4): Manon Fiorot
  • Karl Roberson (10/11) vs Nick Maximov (19/20): Nick Maximov
  • Matthew Semelsberger (1/4) vs Martin Sano (18/5): Matt Semelsberger
  • Jonathan Pearce (23/20) vs Omar Morales (61/100): Omar Morales

 Previewed by Chad Nagel and Joshua Gaillard

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