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UFC 266: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega - MMA Bets, Picks, Predictions

A featherweight title bout featuring two of the division's dominating fighters headlines this event's main card

UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega

#UFC266 MMA Betting Preview

We got ourselves an outstanding card lined up Saturday night with not one but two title fights in the main and co-main events. The card is built around featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski (22-1), looking to make his second title defense when he faces #2 Brian Ortega (15-1). This one is a long time coming, and both men have been building towards this match for some time now after facing off as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: Season 29.

The co-main event brings us well-known Valentina Shevchenko (21-3), looking to make his sixth title defense against the next flyweight challenger #3 Lauren Murphy (15-4), who's been on a little heater as of late, winning her last five fights. This puts her next in line against one of the world’s best female fighters in Shevchenko.

If that isn't enough, the return of fan-favorite Nick Diaz (26-9) will commence, as he takes on former champ #15 Robbie Lawler (28-15) in a rematch 17 years in the making.

Thirteen fights make up the card with an eight-fight prelim available on ESPN+ and ESPN, rolling right into the usual five-fight main card on Pay Per View. Prelims kick off at 6 p.m. ET with the main card at 10 p.m. ET. One thing we know, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will be rockin’ for this one.

EVENT DETAILS

  • DATE: SATURDAY 09/25/21
  • BROADCAST: Pay Per View – Prelims: ESPN
  • VENUE: T-Mobile Arena
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • # of MATCHES: 13

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MAIN CARD HOT TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS

FEATHERWEIGHT TITLE BOUT (145 LBS): (C) ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI (22-1) VS #2 BRIAN ORTEGA (15-1)

With a successful title defense Saturday night, Alexander Volkanovski will make it 20 straight wins, having not tasted defeat since 2013 in his lone loss in his professional career. The champ has some added emotional investment in this one after going back and forth with Ortega as coaches on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, and he’s vocalized his intents of making a statement when he faces Ortega in this spot. Volk has looked game-ready this fight week, heading into this one after the original matchup was scratched back in March due to a positive COVID-19 test. 

Volkanovski comes in after defeating Max Holloway to win the featherweight strap in December of 2019 and followed it up with a successful title defense against Max again in July of 2020. Speaking of Max Holloway, he happens to own the only defeat on Brian Ortega’s resume. Holloway completely owned Ortega on the feet for four rounds back in 2018 until the doctors finally stepped in to keep Ortega from absorbing any further unnecessary damage in a fight he just wasn't going to win. In a clear decision win, Ortega took some time off and returned much improved and walked down the Korean Zombie for five rounds last October. In that fight, Ortega landed more strikes (127) than in previous fights, showing some much-needed volume changes while on the feet, which proved to be a difference-maker.

In this fight, it's tough to see Ortega doing more of the same against a guy like Volkanovski. The champ’s striking advantages and movement on the feet, combined with his wrestling abilities, should be visibly apparent as we watch the two square off. Ortega has submissions he can pull at any moment, but his history of rarely using wrestling to get into position won't bode well as the two stand-and-trade the majority of the fight. As long as Volkanovski stays the course, he should dictate where this fight occurs, and his striking skill set will outshine Ortega’s attempts to trade.

Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski

Bet: Volkanovski -170

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT TITLE BOUT (125 LBS): (C) VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO (21-3) VS #3 LAUREN MURPHY (15-4)

Here we are again with Valentina Shevchenko positioned up and over a 10:1 favorite as she was in her previous three fights. In those fights, she won via TKO against Jessica Andrade and Katlyn Chookagian and a clear decision win over Jennifer Maia. In all three fights, she looked levels above her challengers. I always get flashbacks of Matt Serra KO’ing Georges St. Pierre when I see matchups like this, but in this spot, I just don’t see Lauren Murphy shocking the world as Serra did. 

Shevchenko will have the advantage everywhere, plus she’s no stranger to five-round fights or the bright lights of these title fights, with five straight title defenses coming into this one. It's obvious we will get a very prepared challenger in Murphy in this spot. This is the biggest fight of her career, and an honest effort with the proper homework could get her at least 7.5 minutes into this fight. She’s never been finished in 19 fights, so if I were to take any position on this fight, it would have to be the over 1.5 rounds at a very fair price.

Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko

Bet: Shevchenko/Murphy OVER 2.5 rds -125

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 LBS): #15 ROBBIE LAWLER (28-15) VS NICK DIAZ (26-9)

The fact that this rematch is 17 years in the making tells you just how much past their prime these two legends are. Back at UFC 47, Nick Diaz knocked out Robbie Lawler early in the second after the two traded on the feet, with Diaz being the slightly more active of the two with strikes. Statistically, when looking at the historical data for these two, Diaz typically has twice the output on the feet as Lawler while absorbing much less across their careers, though having comparable 60% striking defense. Over the last few years, Diaz has been absent from the sport, not fighting since 2015, though he has stayed in tremendous shape while competing in triathlons. Lawler has absorbed considerable damage during that same period, as he’s been in some wars with some of the world’s best, taking eight fights since Diaz’s no contest versus Anderson Silva. 

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With the volume and grappling advantages, all Diaz has to do is avoid the big power shots from Lawler, and he should be able to score enough to get the judge's nod in at least two of the three rounds. This isn’t a lock by any means with the absence from Diaz for over six years, but his past resume and fresh restart into the game have me leaning in his favor. Based on his ability to take fights deep and accumulate shots on his opponents while showing his durability, +100 is fair. Diaz is a huge fan favorite as well. Expect tons of noise from the crowd with every shot that lands from Diaz, which could also sway the judges. Rumors circled social media that Diaz is coming in injured after getting knocked out in training. His coach Cesar Gracie has since posted, “Nick Diaz is not injured and has never been KOed in sparring, ever. #wolftickets.” This matchup has been moved from 170lbs to 185lbs.

Prediction: Nick Diaz

Bet: Fight Goes to a Decision -125

(Pending possible play on Diaz post weigh-ins. Got to see more)

HEAVYWEIGHT (265 LBS): #4 CURTIS BLAYDES (14-3) VS #6 JAIRZINHO ROZENSTRUIK (12-2)

Two of the heavyweight division's best square off in a classic striker vs. grappler pairing. Blaydes looks to get back on track after getting upset by Derrick Lewis via KO as a -300 favorite in that fight. He has a very comparable line against another fairly one-dimensional but powerful striker in Rozenstruik. Before making the transition to MMA, he had over 100 combat sports matches, including his impressive kickboxing record (85-8, 64 KOs). 

Knowing this, Blaydes will get back to his strength and shoot for takedown after takedown while avoiding the big shots from Rozenstruik. While Blaydes will look to hit the mat, it’s no secret Rozenstruik will look to stand and trade as he has in every fight, attempting zero takedowns now eight fights into his UFC career. Rozenstruik is typically a slow starter, and this should give Blaydes some time out of the shoots to get this one to the mat where he’s more at home in a fight, spending 45%+ of his fight time controlling his opponents. Blaydes by decision at +220 is catching my eye.

Prediction: Curtis Blaydes

Bet: Pass

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT (125 LBS): #1 JESSICA ANDRADE (21-9) VS #5 CYNTHIA CALVILLO (9-2-1)

Although Calvillo will have some size, Andrade should walk her down as she did against Katlyn Chookagian, where she won via KO with punches to the body inside of one round. Calvillo is coming off a loss to Chookagian, where she hung in there but wasn’t as busy on the feet, which ultimately cost her the decision. Calvillo’s path to victory will be via takedowns and control in this one, but you’d have to think Andrade has patched up some of her defense after getting taken down by Shevchenko seven times in their fight in April.

Prediction: Jessica Andrade

Bet: Pass

PRELIMS PREDICTIONS

  • Merab Dvalishvili DEFEATS Marlon Moraes
  • Dan Hooker DEFEATS Nasrat Haqparast
  • Chris Daukaus DEFEATS Shamil Abdurakhimov
  • Taila Santos DEFEATS Roxanne Modafferi
  • Uros Medic DEFEATS Jalin Turner
  • Nick Maximov DEFEATS Cody Brundage
  • Matthew Semelsberger DEFEATS Martin Sano
  • Jonathan Pearce DEFEATS Omar Morales

EVENT BETTING RECAP

  • Volkanovski -170
  • Shevchenko/Murphy OVER 2.5 rounds -125
  • Diaz/Lawler: Fight goes to a decision -125
  • Hooker -145
  • Daukaus (look via TKO/KO +120)
  • Medic -125
  • Pearce +135
  • Pending: Nick Diaz, depending on post weigh-ins.

UFC PREDICTION & BET SUMMARY

2021 predictions: 195-135-6 (59%)
2021 wagers: 101-87-2 (54%)

Overall record

Predictions: 576-334-17 (63%)
Wagers: 311-174-8 (64%)

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