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A Look Ahead to UFC 266

Come 15:00 on Saturday, September 25th and the warriors of the cage will be hitting the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas, to do battle at UFC 266. Two titles are on the line as fighters in the men’s featherweight division and women’s flyweight division will meet in the center of the Octagon to contest the championship. Below is a look ahead to some of the action to come.

Main card clashes

In the co-main event, “Bullet” Valentina Shevchenko will defend her flyweight belt against challenger “Lucky” Laura Murphy. The queen of flyweight put on a dominant performance against the tough Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. However, underdog Laura Murphy (+750) will prove no pushover. Murphy’s solid boxing and habit of winning decisions means Shevchenko will have to go for the knockout to make victory certain. The champ enjoys flattering odds of -1250.

Diaz vs Lawler

Much anticipated is this matchup taking place between UFC bad body Nick Diaz, who makes a return to the Octagon, and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. You may well want to put some money down on this one after considering the UFC 266 betting odds. Diaz’s absence from the cage makes him the underdog with betting line odds of +100 compared to Lawler’s -120. Since Diaz defeated Lawler by knockout way back in 2004 at UFC 47, these two have history, so it’s going to be an interesting matchup.

Blades vs Rozenstruik

Before Diaz and Lawler go to war, however, Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik will be clashing in the heavyweight division. Blaydes is the favorite in this one, enjoying betting line odds of +210 versus Rozenstruik’s +245. According to a report on the website of BJ Penn, Blaydes feels he can get the stoppage and doesn’t seem to rate his opponent too highly.

Andrade vs Calvillo

The Shevchenko vs Murphy matchup isn’t the only women’s flyweight clash of the night. Jessica Andrade will take on Cynthia Calvillo as a heavy favorite, with betting line odds of -280, whereas an upset would see Calvillo come good on odds of +225. Andrade will be looking to get her loss to Shevchenko off her back, and Calvillo will also be entering the Octagon off the back of a loss, although she’s won one and drew in her last three fights. This one could go either way.

Volkanovski versus Ortega for the featherweight title

In the second of the two main events, Brian “T City” Ortega will challenge featherweight champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski, the two coaches on this season’s “The Ultimate Fighter” meeting up as per the formula of the series. Odds from the sportsbooks operators make Volkanovski a heavy favorite. His betting lines odds are -170. If Ortega brings home the belt, he’ll do so on odds of +150.

Ortega, the challenger, laid his hands on the title shot after beating “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Yung in October 2020 by unanimous decision. Ortega had cracked Yung with a brutal spinning elbow in the second round that gradually sent the fight downhill for the Korean. The fact the fight had become personal made his defeat even worse, and Ortega’s victory broke Yung.

Ortega might have broken Yung’s spirit with the victory, but his own spirit seems stronger. He’d entered the fight off the back of a loss to Max Holloway. Ortega has put that loss out of his mind and is now focused firmly on the task ahead: defeating Volkanovski.

Can he beat Volkanovski?

Beating Volkanovski isn’t a task anyone else will envy him. “The Great” has absorbed fewer strikes per minute, built a higher takedown average per 15 minutes and appears more capable of snuffing out takedowns. He’s also on an incredible 19-fight winning streak and will be looking to make it to 20 with a win over “T City.”

To add to all this, Volkanovski has defended his championship successfully against Holloway twice, who Ortega has failed to put away in the past. Holloway has been “The Great”’s opponent the last two fights, but his second victory, which was by split decision, was somewhat controversial. Holloway had taken the first two rounds, he remained consistent and delivered some strong kicks to the body in the third despite taking some real punishment from the champ.

The controversy may have been over the third round, but some feel it was the final round that was decisive and where the dispute should be. Volkanovski picked up steam as the two went into the fifth round, but some observers felt each man gave as good as he got. Neither seemed able to gain a clear advantage, and it looks as if the two will have to return for a rematch, which could then push the affair to a best of five if Holloway was to win — making it an unofficial one win apiece —rather than end as 2-1 to Volkanovski.

What isn’t in dispute is that Volkanovski demonstrated the spirit of a champ, having withstood as much punishment as he’d dished out. The win by split decision, however, may have T City feeling he could take him. “The Great” might have displayed grit and toughness, but a split decision isn’t a convincing win. A knockout, meanwhile, is a statement.

Make no mistake about it. On Saturday, September 25, the Octagon will transform into a war zone, as some of the toughest fighters on the planet square off. Fans could even see two titles change hands in one evening.