A blockbuster UFC PPV is upon us as two title fights headline a stacked fight card from top to bottom.
Boasting a preliminary card that is stronger than any whole event the UFC has put on recently, UFC 266 is a must-watch.
From Roxanne Modafferi making history for the most pro fights in women’s MMA history to the return of Nick Diaz on the main card, UFC 266 has all-important intrigue throughout the night before an excellent headline act.
Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) vs. Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC)
Is it possible for a UFC champion to be underrated? If so, I’d say that Volkanovski certainly doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
The Australian is a great general in the ring and follows his instructions to a tee. Whether it be operating off of his excellent jab and low kicks to working in the pocket, Volkanovski has competed with the best in the game and it’s no coincidence that he is unbeaten in his last 19.
Where Ortega could get some success however is in his ability to finish fights quickly. Whether he snatches up a submission with his excellent jiu-jitsu or with the power in his hands, Ortega only needs a moment to change the course of a fight.
‘T-City’ will need to stay in the fight to keep his openings there though as his fight against Max Holloway quickly got away from him and left him helpless with Holloway’s famed output.
It should make for a fascinating technical showpiece, and a bad case of COVID for the champion does loom over this contest, but I think you have to side with the fighter who can win over long periods as opposed to one who perhaps looks for big moments.
Pick: Alexander Volkanovski
Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) vs. Lauren Murphy (15-4)
Murphy comes into this on an impressive late-career run but I can’t see Shevchenko losing to anyone at flyweight at the moment.
She’s quicker than pretty much everyone, more technical on the feet and the mat and has more tools to draw upon than anyone.
Murphy’s toughness will likely see her stay in the fight for a couple of rounds but Shevchenko’s skill gap is still far too large for anyone else at 125 lbs.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko
Nick Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) vs. Robbie Lawler (28-15, 1 NC)
Diaz’s style always relied on conditioning and timing, things that don’t particularly wane with age, but six years is a long time away from competition and it’s 10 years since his last victory.
I don’t think Lawler is in the best condition these days either but his level of readiness and competitiveness is otherworldly than what Diaz will enter this bout with.
Hopefully this fight isn’t as sad as what it looks like it will be but I can’t see anything other than a Lawler victory – whether it be decisive or unassuming.
Pick: Robbie Lawler
Curtis Blaydes (14-3, 1 NC) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2)
Blaydes’ chin will likely remain a question mark hanging over him and he does tend to get caught on his entries for takedowns.
That lack of fluidity could very well spell disaster against someone as heavy-handed as Rozenstruik but I don’t think ‘Bigi Boy’ has faced a relentless wrestler like Blaydes before or felt that top pressure.
It’s a tough one thanks to the heavyweight power lottery but I think if Blaydes can get Rozenstruik down, he’ll keep him there and offload his trademark ground-and-pound.
Pick: Curtis Blaydes
Jessica Andrade (21-9) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1)
I think Calvillo’s best chance here is through her wrestling but I’m not sure she can overpower Andrade to get her down to the mat.
Perhaps Calvillo can counter Andrade’s aggression on the feet to shoot under but with the Brazilian being a talented grappler in her own right, I believe ‘Bate Estaca’ should dictate this contest and where it takes place.
Pick: Jessica Andrade
(Last Predictions: 4/6, Total: 89/160, 56% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%, 20′: 67%)