Tag Archives: Alexander Volkanovski

UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier – Main card predictions

The UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena for UFC 276 for a double-header title fight event in what looks like one of the best cards of the year.

In the main event middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defends his title against ‘Tha Killa Gorilla’ Jared Cannonier, while Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway go head-to-head for a third time for the featherweight title in the co-main event.

We’ll also see the likes of Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira face off, while all of Robbie Lawler, Sean O’Malley, Maycee Barber, Brad Riddell, Jalin Turner and Dricus Du Plessis will all fight too.

We’ve had a few weeks off for picks due to a holiday, but our last time out at UFC 275 saw us go 7/11 with five perfect picks, moving us to 635/987 (64.33%) with 273 perfect picks (42.99%). You can view our full picks record here.

We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and picking the rest of the prelims here, we move on to our main card picks now.


Pedro Munhoz (19-7) vs Sean O’Malley (15-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

Absolute banger to open up the main card in the bantamweight division. Veteran Munhoz has lost four of his last five fights, including close bouts against Jose Aldo (UFC 265) and Dominick Cruz (UFC 269) in his last two. O’Malley on the other hand is continuing his rise as one of the most popular athletes in the sport, with three KO’s in his last three fights including a stunning finish over Raulian Paiva last time out.

Munhoz has got a nasty low kick and great wrestling, while also having some decent power in his hands when it comes to striking. His iron chin means he has never been KO’d before, but he’s not as mobile as he once was and his lack of speed sees him struggle against the elite. O’Malley alternatively is one of the fastest fighters in the entire UFC, with unbelievable striking skills and stunning power to go with his movement. He’s also an excellent grappler and will have a huge size advantage in this bout.

If Munhoz lands hard low kicks and hurts the legs of O’Malley to the point where he effects his movement then he has a chance. But O’Malley is likely to stand just far enough away that he can smash Munhoz with his combinations without getting caught himself. His experience should see him make this fight difficult for O’Malley, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see the ‘Suga Show’ make a statement here.
PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 2

Robbie Lawler (29-15) vs Bryan Barbarena (17-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A banger at welterweight between two iron fisted scrappers. Lawler snapped a four-fight losing streak when he earned a TKO win over Nick Diaz at UFC 266 in his most recent bout, while Barbarena has earned back-to-back decision wins against Darian Weeks and Matt Brown in his most recent fights.

Lawler is an all-rounder, with heavy-handed strikes, excellent wrestling and the heart of a lion in the cage. Barbarena is a similar type of fighter, who is more than willing to bite down on his mouth-piece and swing away to earn a big win. If they’re both at their best then it’s not even close and Lawler wins, but where they are right now in their careers this is a close fight.

Barbarena’s career takedown defence isn’t great and Lawler will likely look to use that to open up his striking more than to actually wrestle. Barbarena will be ready to crack with him though and it could be a wild fight. Barbarena’s volume could be key, but I lean towards Lawler doing enough to earn a judge’s decision.
PICK – Robbie Lawler via Decision

Sean Strickland (25-3) vs Alex Pereira (5-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A very interesting middleweight fight in what could potentially be a number one contender fight for the belt. Strickland has won six fights in a row and been running riot in the 185lbs division, defeating Uriah Hall and Jack Hermansson in his two most recent bouts. Pereira on the other hand is 2-0 in the UFC after switching over from kickboxing to MMA, knocking out Andreas Michailidis before taking Bruno Silva to a decision.

Strickland is a brilliant boxer who has got a terrific jab and unrelenting cardio, while his offensive wrestling is also excellent. He is capable of taking fights to the ground and inflicting plenty of damage from top position, with very heavy hips keeping his opponent down. Pereira is a former world champion kickboxer and is the only man whose striking can compare to the champion’s. He’s also shown great ability to defend takedowns up to this point and his chin has held up too.

This looks like a step too far, too soon for Pereira to me. The UFC are clearly trying to build towards a rematch between Adesanya and Pereira, but Strickland is simply not a walkover. “Tarzan” is a maniac and he will do everything he can to stop this fight with damage. Pereira will have his moments, undoubtedly, but I expect Strickland to take him down and dominate him on the mat to potentially even get a finish and claim next for the title shot.
PICK – Sean Strickland via Knockout, Round 2



Alexander Volkanovski (24-1) vs Max Holloway (23-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

It’s not often we get a trilogy of fights that are all title fights, especially when the first two fights were won by the same guy – but that’s what this is. Volkanovski is on a 21-fight win streak including two wins over Holloway (UFC 245 & UFC 251), before big wins against Brian Ortega (UFC 266) and Korean Zombie most recently. Holloway has won his last two though, with incredible performances against Calvin Kattar (UFC Fight Island 7) and Yair Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 42).

Volkanovski is a complete all-rounder, with terrific wrestling to go with his sharp striking and cardio for days. Holloway is the opposite, with unbelievable striking and some of the best boxing in the company with some solid wrestling and cardio for days. This fight is razor close and could legitimately go either way. Volkanovski clearly won the first fight between the two, but many people – myself included – though Holloway won the second.

Since then though Volkanovski has got better and better while Holloway showed against Rodriguez that he’s not the untouchable guy he once was. The aura has gone, and while he’s still one of the best ever, that matters. Volkanovski has the blueprint to win and while I would love Holloway to get his belt back as one of my personal favs, I think history repeats itself in a more concrete fashion this time around and Volkanovski retains.
PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Decision

Israel Adesanya (22-1) vs Jared Cannonier (15-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

The middleweight championship is on the line here and Adesanya is the man with everything to lose. The champion has won his last two against Marvin Vettori (UFC 263) and Robert Whittaker (UFC 271), and remains undefeated in the division with his only loss coming up a weight class. Cannonier has won his last two in a row too, earning a decision against Kelvin Gastelum before knocking out Derek Brunson.

‘The Last Stylebender’ is regarded as the best pure striker in the UFC today, with sharp counters and scintillating speed while his takedown defence has held up against everyone at 185-pounds. Cannonier is a power-puncher with some decent wrestling in his back pocket, but this seems like quite a lopsided match up.

Adesanya is too quick, too sharp and too well-rounded for Cannonier. He knows that the only way that Cannonier can really win this is by landing a big shot clean, and he is the absolute best when it comes to evading that and making his opponents look like amateurs. Cannonier must stay patient or he’ll get countered into an oblivion, but if he isn’t active enough the Adesanya will pick him off from range. Neither fighter has an issue with cardio, so expect it to go to the latter rounds before Adesanya catches a desperate Cannonier with a counter or a head-kick for a big KO win.
PICK – Israel Adesanya via Knockout, Round 4

UFC 273: Volkanovski vs Korean Zombie – Main card predictions

The UFC returns after a two-week break with a huge pay-per-view card headlined by two massive title fights.

Alexander Volkanovski makes the third defence of his featherweight title when he takes on Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, in the main event.

In the co-main event we get the long awaited rematch at the top of the bantamweight division as Aljamain Sterling makes his first defence of the belt against Petr Yan, a little over a year after he won it via disqualification.

We’ll also see an incredible welterweight fight between Gilbert Burns and the freight-train that is Khamzat Chimaev before that, to see just how real the hype is.

Last time at UFC Columbus we went 7/12 with four perfect picks, which moves us to 585/903 (64.78%) with 248 perfect picks (42.39%).

We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims picks and finishing off the rest of the prelims here, we move on to our main card picks here.


Vinc Pichel (14-2) vs Mark O Madsen (11-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A really interesting lightweight fight opens up the main card here. Pichel has won seven of his last eight including his last three in a row against Roosevelt Roberts, Jim Miller and Austin Hubbard all via decision. Madsen is an undefeated fighter, going 3-0 in the UFC including a split decision win over Clay Guida last time out.

Pichel is a well-rounded fighter, with some crisp striking and good power that has earned him eight knockout wins in his career. Madsen is an Olympic wrestler, who tends to fight behind his jab and walk forward. While the takedown will be there all day for Madsen, Pichel is very good at getting up and tends to get stronger as the fight goes on.

Madsen has had a problem with his cardio in the past and if he tries to fight like he did against Guida here, it won’t be enough to earn a win because he has more power and a far better gas tank. Madsen will likely start well and could even win the first round, but eventually Pichel should be able to turn the tide and land enough on the feet while tiring Madsen out to earn a tight decision win.
PICK – Vinc Pichel via Decision

Mackenzie Dern (11-2) vs Tecia Torres (13-5) – (Strawweight/125lbs)

A really fun women’s strawweight fight up next. Dern was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into a main event against Marina Rodriguez, who out-struck her to earn a decision win. Torres on the other hand snapped a four-fight losing streak and is now on a run of three wins in a row, defeating Angela Hill at UFC 265 most recently.

Dern is one of the very best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters on the planet, male or female, and looks to get fights down to the ground as quickly as possible to work that submission game. She does struggle with takedowns, but her striking has improved in recent fights too. Torres on the other hand is a bulldog who uses great forward pressure and boxing skills, while her defensive wrestling is pretty good too. This is a battle entirely about whether or not Dern can get the fight down, and her size advantage leans me to think she can.

Torres is only 5ft 1 tall and while Dern isn’t the biggest at 5ft 4, she’s got a two inch reach advantage. Dern will likely kick from distance and try to clinch to be able drag Torres down, who will need to get in and out with her boxing. I just can’t see her doing that for 15 minutes, so I expect Dern to be able to get her down, find her way to an arm or the back and sink in a submission to get back on the winning trail.
PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2



Gilbert Burns (20-4) vs Khamzat Chimaev (10-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

One of the most highly anticipated fights of the year so far takes place in the welterweight division. Burns went on a huge six-fight win streak before falling to Kamaru Usman in a title fight at UFC 258 last year. He returned to the win column by dominating Stephen Thompson at UFC 264 in his last fight. Chimaev is the most exciting fighter in the UFC right now, winning all four of his bouts while absorbing a combined total of just one strike. His most recent win against Li Jingliang at UFC 267 saw him choke him unconscious in the first round while talking to Dana White.

Burns is a wrestle-boxer who has got legitimate world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills too, with good knockout power and some brilliant cardio too. Chimaev is an absolute man mountain, who either knocks your lights out early or just launches in for a takedown and dominates you until the referee pulls him off. This is such a hard fight to call, because it’s by far the toughest fight of Chimaev’s career but you cannot ignore what he’s done so far in the octagon.

It’s highly unlikely that Chimaev will dominate Burns in the same way he has won all his previous fights in the UFC, but I do think he will win. He has got a huge size advantage, having fought at middleweight in the past too and his wrestling was good enough to dominant Jack Hermansson in a wrestling match not too long ago. He has great power in his hands, amazing control and while Burns could definitely cause an upset, I can’t look past Chimaev to earn the victory.
PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Decision

Aljamain Sterling (20-3) vs Petr Yan (16-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

The rematch we’ve all been waiting for, is finally upon us. Aljamain Sterling hasn’t fought since the first bout back at UFC 259, where Yan kneed him in the head illegally and was disqualified which put Sterling on a six-fight win streak. Yan bounced back from that disappointment to defeat Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 to become the interim champion and means he’s now won 11 of his last 12.

Sterling is a fantastic wrestler and jiu-jitsu fighter, with unorthodox striking on the feet and a very rangy style. Yan is the most well-rounded fighter in MMA right now, with no real weaknesses and some of the best boxing and defensive wrestling in the world. In the original fight I picked Sterling to score a submission win, but after watching the fight it’s pretty clear that Yan has his number.

The Russian was able to stuff takedowns regularly, box him up from the inside and outside and his cardio held up much better than Sterling’s too. With the added bad blood now involved, expect Yan to really turn it up in the later rounds and pour on the pressure to score a late finish and reclaim his championship.
PICK – Petr Yan via Knockout, Round 4

Alexander Volkanovski (23-1) vs Korean Zombie (17-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

The featherweight king returns against a new opponent and has a chance to further cement himself as the best in the world here. Volkanovski has won 20 fights in a row, including consecutive bouts over Max Holloway and then most recently Brian Ortega at UFC 266. Korean Zombie has won three of his last four, getting dominated by Ortega at UFC Fight Island 6 but bouncing back with a dominant win over Dan Ige at UFC Vegas 29 last time out. He gets this fight after Holloway withdrew due to injury.

Volkanovski runs Yan close for being the most complete fighter in the world right now. He has got unbelievable cardio, is an accomplished striker with good power and also some excellent wrestling skills to go with it. Zombie earned his nickname because of his ability to take damage and keep coming forward, but Ortega really showed the holes in his game in their fight.

The champion has got plenty of avenues to victory, because he has the edge everywhere. Jung definitely has the power to land clean and hurt Volkanovski, but I’ll be incredibly surprised if that happens. Volkanovski is cerebral enough to take a decision win if he needs too, but I expect him to lay claim to some big ground and pound after landing a takedown and earn his first finish since beating Chad Mendes back in 2018.
PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Knockout, Round 3

Who will be a male UFC champion at the end of 2022?

The UFC returns to title fights this weekend at UFC 270 when the heavyweights and flyweight strap is on the line.

Both of those belts changed hands in 2021, as Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 and Brandon Moreno submitted Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263.

We also saw a new bantamweight, lightweight and light heavyweight champion crowned during the year, so how will 2022 pan out? Lets take a look.



Flyweight (125lbs) – Askar Askarov

Flyweight is one of the better divisions in the UFC right now and I think we’ll once again see a new champion crowned at some point in 2022.

Askar Askarov has been undefeated throughout his career with a 14-0-1 record, with the only draw coming in his UFC debut against… Brandon Moreno. Askarov will get his title shot by the end of the year, and his wrestling is too good for anyone to be able to navigate past him so I think he holds the belt come 2023.

Bantamweight (135lbs) – Petr Yan

The only reason Yan isn’t the champion right now is because he got over excited and threw a knee to a downed Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. He was winning the first fight quite comfortably at the time, so the fight was re-made for later in the year.

Sterling was forced to withdraw and it’s now set for UFC 273 in April, which means Yan will head into the summer as champ. He’ll likely defend the strap at the end of the year against TJ Dillashaw in a brilliant fight, but I think he edges that and takes a huge boost in credibility this year.

Featherweight (145lbs) – Max Holloway

What a division, and what a title fight that awaits us later this year.

Alexander Volkanovski defended the belt successfully in 2021 with a dominant win over Brian Ortega at UFC 266 and was set to fight Max Holloway at UFC 272 until the Hawaiian got injured and saw it get cancelled.

If Volk can see off the Korean Zombie at UFC 273 now in the new bout, he will face off against Holloway at some point in 2022 and I think ‘Blessed’ finally gets his win over the Aussie to reclaim the title.

Lightweight (155lbs) – Islam Makhachev

Arguably the most exciting division in the company right now when it comes to the title picture, I’m predicting yet another new champion at lightweight.

Charles Oliveira claimed the crown at UFC 262 when he beat Michael Chandler, then defended it successfully when he submitted Dustin Poirier at UFC 269. He’ll now fight Justin Gaethje at some point in 2022, and the winner will fight the winner of Beneil Dariush vs Islam Makhachev at UFC Vegas 49 in February.

I think Makhachev gets the victory there, then gets the victory in the title fight too to fulfil Khabib Nurmagomedov’s prophecy that he will become champion and rule over the division for a long time to come.

Kamaru Usman of Nigeria reacts after his victory over Gilbert Burns of Brazil in their UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 258 event...

Welterweight (170lbs) – Kamaru Usman

The best in the world right now pound-for-pound, and I don’t see that changing in 2022.

Usman went 3-0 in 2021 with wins over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 and Colby Covington at UFC 268 and is now not expected to return to the cage until the summer.

That means one or two fights at most this year, with Leon Edwards certainly one of them, and I don’t see him losing to anyone so soon so I think he holds onto the belt yet again.

Middleweight (185lbs) – Israel Adesanya

The best middleweight in the world and one of the best of all-time, Israel Adesanya will be the 185-pound champion when we enter 2023.

His biggest test will come in February when he faces Robert Whittaker in a rematch at UFC 271, which I think he’ll win again. With that said though, a loss will almost certainly result in a rematch later in the year with their personal series set at 1-1 and he’d then reclaim the belt there.

Either way, ‘The Last Stylebender’ will be the champ when 2022 closes.

Light Heavyweight (205lbs) – Jiri Prochazka

This division isn’t particularly stacked at the top end but one thing it does have is a pathway for the title picture.

Glover Teixeira dethroned Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267 to finally claim the strap, but it feels short-lived because he’s due to take on the killing machine that is Jiri Prochazka next and that means he probably gets violently finished.

Aleksandar Rakic and Magomed Ankalaev are likely to find themselves in contention too by the end of the year, but stylistically none of them suit a fight with ‘Denisa’ and he holds the throne until 2023.

Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic poses on the scale during the UFC 267 official weigh-in at Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island on October 29, 2021 in...

Heavyweight (265lbs) – Ciryl Gane

The big boys are in the best shape they’ve been in, maybe ever, in the UFC right now and it’s created arguably an amazing year in the division in 2022.

Ciryl Gane will take on Francis Ngannou this weekend and a fight with Jon Jones seemingly awaits the winner. Stipe Miocic is likely to return at some point this year too and head for the title once again.

With Miocic back as well as Jones and Ngannou’s contract situations there are plenty of routes to the title this year, but ultimately they all end with ‘Bon Gamin’ as the heavyweight champion of the world heading into 2023.

Major UFC 272 update, new non-title main event in works – report

The UFC is working on a brand-new non-title main event for UFC 272 between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal.

The two welterweight superstars have been going back and forth on social media for a while after a public fall-out between Covington and the American Top Team gym they trained at together for years.

It now seems as though the two will meet in a huge pay-per-view main event on March 5th to settle their differences in the octagon.



The card has already seen changes to the main event, after it was announced that the card would play host to a double-header of title fights with Alexander Volkanovski fighting Max Holloway for the featherweight belt, and Aljamain Sterling fighting Petr Yan in the bantamweight division.

However just days after that announcement, Holloway was forced to withdraw from the fight after re-aggravating a previous injury in training.

All signs point to Chan Sung Jung (The Korean Zombie) stepping into the fight in his place, although this is yet to be confirmed.

It’s now been claimed by MMA Fighting journalist Ariel Helwani that those title fights are set to be moved to April at UFC 273 though, with TKZ recovering from an injury. There is some concern that Sterling would have issues getting cleared to compete in New York though, where UFC 273 is due to be held.

According to the highly reliable Helwani, the UFC 272 card is due to take place in Las Vegas and with the 3/5 date, the UFC have seen it as a marketing dream to have Masvidal fight on the card.

While nothing is confirmed yet and Helwani says “there are a lot of moving parts” he is usually right when it comes to these things.

Covington and Masvidal have both gone 1-2 in their last three fights, with all their defeats coming to champion Kamaru Usman in title fights.

Covington was stopped by Usman back in December 2019 at UFC 245 before being well beaten in a decision rematch at UFC 268 most recently. He beat Tyron Woodley via a fifth-round TKO when Woodley injured his rib at UFC Vegas 11 in between.

Masvidal smashed through Nate Diaz to become BMF champion at UFC 244, before consecutive losses to Usman at UFC 251 on short-notice and then at UFC 261 via second-round knockout – one of the best KO’s of the year.

UFC 272 is due to take place on March 5th 2022, while UFC 273 will take place on April 9th 2022.

Max Holloway forced to withdraw from UFC 272 just days after announcement

Max Holloway has been forced to withdraw from his UFC 272 main event fight against Alexander Volkanovski just days after it was announced.

The Hawaiian featherweight was due to take on the champion in a trilogy bout after going 2-0 in 2021 with dominant wins over Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7 and Yair Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 42.

However it has now been announced that Holloway has re-aggravated a previous injury and been forced to withdraw from the bout.



While it’s unclear what the injury is to Holloway, it’s clearly severe enough with the fight being scheduled for March 5th and him having to withdraw this early.

According to Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting, the UFC are looking into ‘Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung-Jung to step into the slot and challenge Volkanovski for the title in March.

Jung bounced back from a decision loss against Brian Ortega at UFC Fight Island 6 in October 2020 by beating up Dan Ige at UFC Vegas 29 and earning a dominant decision win.

It would be the second title shot of his career, after previously losing to Jose Aldo at UFC 163 when he dislocated his shoulder and got TKO’d by the legendary Brazilian.

Another name that has been thrown into the hat is former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, who has been calling out the Australian champ for several months now.

Cejudo took to Twitter to shoot his shot at stepping into the fight, telling Dana White to call him while posting a mock poster of a fight between the two.

UFC 272 is due to take place on March 5th 2022 live from Las Vegas, Nevada.

The featherweight championship fight is expected to headline the card, while a bantamweight title fight rematch between champion Aljamain Sterling and interim champ Petr Yan will be the co-main event.

Two title fights announced to headline UFC 272

The UFC has announced a double dose of title fights for UFC 272 in March to headline the event in Las Vegas.

Alexander Volkanovski will defend his featherweight championship for a third time when he takes on Max Holloway in their trilogy bout in the main event, in a highly anticipated 145-pound bout.

The co-main event will see the long awaited rematch between bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling as he takes on interim champ Petr Yan after their first bout in March 2021 at UFC 259.



The featherweight title fight will pit the two best 145-pounders in the world against each other for a third time in a little over two years.

Volkanovski won their first encounter via unanimous decision, using his wrestling to nullify Holloway’s excellent striking and claim a deserved victory. Their rematch at UFC 251 saw a much closer fight, with Volkanovski controversially being rewarded the split decision victory.

He has since defeated Brian Ortega via decision at UFC 266 after one of the best rounds of the year during their five-round main event. Holloway on the other hand has bounced back with two sensational performances against Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7 and Yair Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 42 to earn another title shot.

Opponents Alexander Volkanovski of Australia and Max Holloway face off prior to their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event...

The co-main will see a highly anticipated rematch between champion Sterling and Yan, after the controversial ending to their bout at UFC 259.

Yan was comfortably winning the fight, before inexplicably landing an illegal knee to the head of Sterling which rendered him unable to continue. ‘Funkmaster’ was crowned the new champion via disqualification, the first instance of a title changing hands via DQ in the companies history.

They were supposed to meet against at UFC 267 in November, but Sterling wasn’t medically cleared following neck surgery and Yan instead fought Cory Sandhagen for the interim title.

Opponents Petr Yan of Russia and Aljamain Sterling face off prior to their UFC bantamweight championship fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX...

In one of the fights of the year, Yan was able to come through with an excellent performance and claim the title and setup a rematch with his nemesis.

The card will take place on March 5th 2022 in Las Vegas. The fights were first reported by Brett Okamoto of ESPN following confirmation from UFC president Dana White.

Max Holloway can show the world why he’s still the people’s champion at 145lbs

Once the featherweight title bout at UFC 251 came to it’s conclusion, there weren’t many people around who thought that Max Holloway would be leaving without the belt.

After winning the first three rounds in many people’s eyes, Volkanovski rallied in that bout to take the last two and allowed the judges to have a decision to make. Ultimately, they ruled that the Aussie retained.

Holloway was confused and heartbroken, but he didn’t let it stop him or hold him back.



After a short break away from the cage, ‘Blessed’ returned at Fight Island in the first card of 2021 to take on Calvin Kattar in a bout right at the top of the division.

What ensued was a clear sign that Holloway was at the peak of his powers and one of the very best 145-pound fighters that has ever existed in MMA.

It was a masterful display of striking against someone who many considered to be one of the best strikers in the division. He broke record upon record for total strikes and significant strikes in a bout and showed the world that his claim to being the best boxer in the UFC wasn’t just words.

He was set to be the next challenger for the title once again, only for the Volkanovsi vs Brian Ortega fight to get postponed due to Covid-19. Instead of waiting around and staying inactive, Holloway opted to take a fight against the ever-dangerous Yair Rodriguez instead.

Max Holloway punches Calvin Kattar in a featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021...

Holloway unfortunately got an injury and was forced to withdraw from the original date in July which has put his year out of funk, but he once again agreed to the bout for UFC Vegas 42 despite the title fight now having taken place.

The 29-year-old has maintained the attitude of ‘anyone, any time, any place’ even since losing the title. A ranking is irrelevant to the Hawaiian, because if he is truly the best in the world as he believes he is then he should win anyway.

A truly inspirational mindset and one that has kept him at the forefront of everyone’s mind when discussing the title picture.

Kattar believed a win over Holloway set him up for a title shot immediately because of the weight his name carries. Ortega revealed that if he had beaten Volkanovski then he wanted his first defence to be against Holloway not only for revenge, but because he’s still seen as the best in the world.

Max Holloway celebrates after defeating Frankie Edgar in their UFC featherweight championship bout during the UFC 240 event at Rogers Place on July...

Holloway knows that a victory confirms his place as the number one contender, but he knows a loss could potentially set him back in his quest to earn back the title he still calls his.

But that’s Holloway and that’s why he is so popular. He expects to win every fight he is in and fans love him. Now this weekend he will look to show once again why he is the people’s champion, knowing a win gets him back in the hunt to be the UFC champion.

UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Jonathan Pearce def Omar Morales via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:31)

Slow start to the fight for Pearce as Morales keeps the distance well in the opening minute and lands some nice low kicks. Pearce struggling to close the distance and Morales lets fly with some big strikes that just miss on the counter. Beautiful left hand from Morales followed by a big low kick but Pearce rushes him and goes for a takedown from the clinch, but Morales is able to get back up instantly and clinch up against the cage again. Pearce tries to drag him back down before a big trip gets him into top position, but Morales has the underhook and is able to sweep and get on top. Pearce holds on and then lands another big takedown, but Morales throws some big elbows and eventually gets back to the feet. More clinching against the cage as the round ends. Pearce didn’t do much damage but he controlled the ground game for the majority of the round, so 10-9 Pearce.

Fast start from Pearce this time as he ducks under a wild right hook and goes for the takedown immediately. Morales defends it well against the cage but Pearce is relentless with it and eventually gets him down and takes his back. Pearce slides off and Morales looks for a d’arce choke but he rolls and loses the grip, so Pearce gets up and gets on Morales’ back again. Morales is tired and Pearce has a body triangle, but Morales almost gives up full mount. Pearce landing some strikes on the ground and eventually sinks in a choke. Morales refuses to tap but passes out and the referee stops it! Big win for JSP!

Matthew Semelsberger def Martin Sano Jr via Knockout, Round 1 (0:15)

GOODNIGHT. Semelsberger throws out a couple of feeler shots, then lands a steaming right straight on the chin and Sano is out cold. Semelsberger lands one more while he’s down and this one is over.

Nick Maximov def Cody Brundage via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fun start from both guys as Brundage opens with a few strikes and knee, while Maximov shoots for a takedown but sees it get defended. Maximov lands two big strikes and Brundage starts throwing hard leg kicks to see him off. Maximov shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to the back, but Brundage defending well using a kimura grip and gets back to his feet. Maximov shoots in for another takedown and this time steps over Brundage to avoid the kimura defence and he ends up in a really positive position on top. Short strikes and Brundage just holding tight for the final 30 seconds. Maximov lands some heavy strikes and Brundage rushes back up to end the round. 10-9 Maximov.

Brundage goes in for an early takedown on Maximov but he reverses the position and ends up on top himself. Maximov takes the back and starts landing some nice ground and pound and then sinks his hooks in and takes Brundage’s back. Brundage starts working his way back up to the feet and eats a big knee, before he spins out and looks for a guillotine submission. Maximov pops his head out and is in full guard on top. He takes the back again and is looking for a choke. Brundage fights the hands and escapes but Maximov keeps his position on the back for the remainder of the round. 20-18 Maximov.

Final round and once again Maximov goes for a takedown to hold Brundage down but he defends it well. Nice right hand from Brundage changes Maximov’s balance and drops him. Maximov controlling the exchanges but Brundage now throwing big elbows from the bottom and Maximov is hurt. Some big strikes land on the ground and he ends up on top landing big strikes, but Maximov grabs a single leg and survives it. He gets back on top and holds the position for the rest of the round to hopefully secure a win. 29-28 Maximov.

Jalin Turner def Uros Medic via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1 (4:01)

Turner starts the fight by taking the centre and flicking out a jab, then landing a nice left hand down the middle. Medic responds with two hard low kicks and then a high kick that lands, but Turner catches the leg high and takes Medic down into side control. Medic tries to sweep and roll through but Turner does well to keep full guard position. Medic pushes his way back to the feet but Turner follows him up and hurts him with a nasty body shot. Turner pouring on the pressure with strikes and body shots and he puts Medic down. He piles on more strikes, Medic turns to his knees, Turner synches up a choke and Medic taps! What a performance!

PRELIMS

Taila Santos def Roxanne Modafferi via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Fast start to this one on the feet from Santos, who lands some big hooks clean early on in some exchanges. Santos charges with strikes, clinches up and then secures a takedown with a trip inside the first 90 seconds. Santos teeing off with elbows and body strikes on the ground but Modafferi is working for an armbar off her back. Santos lands a big elbow strike to escape and goes back into full guard before Modafferi works her way back to her feet against the cage. Modafferi switches positions and lands some nice knees to the body, before Santos trips her again and takes back to the mat. Modafferi pops back up and looks to take Santos down against the cage but she defends well and lands some heavy knees to the body to close out the round. 10-9 Santos.

Modafferi comes out swinging in the second round and both women connect with big shots early, before Santos has a kick caught and Modafferi takes her towards the cage. Santos defends well but Modafferi staying patient and consistent with the pressure. Santos lands a huge right hook that wobbles Modafferi and Santos charges into her and takes her down to the mat. Modafferi’s eye is swollen and cut bad as Santos lands another big ground and pound strike before wearing on her from top position. Santos takes the back of Modafferi but she works her way back up to the feet against the cage, but Santos takes her straight back down again. Santos controls the position for the final minute and takes this round too. 20-18.

Santos takes the centre to start the final round and is looking to counter Modafferi with strikes. Modafferi steps forward and lands a couple of strikes but Santos responds with two hard straights of her own. Santos lands two huge hooks and Modafferi sits down on her butt, before Santos launches on to her and starts controlling position again. Santos landing some big elbow strikes from the top and Modafferi looks completely outclassed right now. Santos advances to side control with a cradle, then switches to take her back. Santos going for a choke but Modafferi fighting against it before Santos lets her back up on the feet. 90 seconds left and Modafferi still coming forward but Santos is landing her jab at will. Modafferi goes for a clinch against the cage but Santos throws her over her hip to end the round on top. 30-27, dominant.

Chris Daukaus def Shamil Abdurakhimov via Knockout, Round 2 (1:23)

Feeling out process to open up this fight as Daukaus just misses with an uppercut. Abdurakhimov hits a nice body shot and then goes for a spinning body kick as Daukaus throws a big right hand and both just miss. Abdurakhimov getting comfortable now and landing shots, with two big left hands catching Daukaus. Abdurakhimov goes to spin and Daukaus throws a leg kick at the same time which drops him. He gets back to the feet and Daukaus is head-hunting a little, but Abdurakhimov doing well to counter and keep him from landing flush. Daukaus steps forward and lands a huge left hook that drops him! He jumps on him for the finish and lands huge elbows and strikes but runs out of time. 10-9 Daukaus.

Daukaus steps forward early but Abdurakhimov is using his experience to slow the fight all the way down as he tries to recover. Big combination from Daukaus lands and Abdurakhimov is hurt! Daukaus comes forward and lands a huge right hook that drops him again! He goes for the finish and lands two huge elbows before the referee steps in and ends it! Huge knockout from Daukaus!

Dan Hooker def Nasrat Haqparast via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)

Slow start to the bout as Hooker takes the centre early on and starts cutting the cage off early on as Haqparast circles the outside. Hooker looks for a few straight rights and body kicks, and Haqparast explodes with a big left hand that just misses. Hooker throwing some body kicks and still controlling the centre, with Haqparast still just circling on the outside and looking to explode. More of the same as we enter the final minute, where Haqparast just misses with a one-two before Hooker goes for a takedown against the cage. Haqparast defends it well as Hooker releases it, lands a one-two with a knee just as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Hooker.

Lots of kicks in the second round from Hooker as he pushes the pace and tries to attack more. Hooker goes for a takedown against the cage and throws some nice knees in the clinch against the cage, but Haqparast defending the takedown attempt well. Hooker lands a knee that knocks the mouthpiece out of Haqparast’s mouth but he’s not hurt. Hooker starting to clinch and throw knees a lot more now with Haqparast on the outside. Clinch against the cage and Hooker lands a nice body shot then right hand and he’s starting to land a lot more now. Big right hand from Hooker and then he clinches and slams Haqparast down to the mat. Hooker into side control and he’s landing knees to the body to close out the round. 20-18 Hooker.

Haqparast starts the third round with two big strikes that land nice on the chin but Hooker eats them and responds with an accidental low blow. Haqparast now coming forward and landed a big right hand again. Both guys exchange body kicks and then Hooker changes levels perfectly and secures a takedown. Hooker goes straight into side control and is landing some short shots on the ground while controlling the position. Hooker landing plenty of short strikes and then transitions to the back and lands some nice shots. Haqparast bursts back up but Hooker immediately level changes and gets the fight back down to the ground. Hooker controls the position for the rest of the round and lands some good ground and pound to end the fight. Impressive performance from Hooker. 30-27.

Merab Dvalishvili def Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:25)

Very fun start as Moraes takes the centre and starts throwing strikes and kicks out early. Two hard low kicks land and Merab didn’t like those, and he throws some hard hooks and goes wild. Moraes returns fire but Merab catches his leg and takes him down. Moraes gets back up quickly and separates well then lands some heavy strikes. Moraes lands a huge left hook that rocks Merab and goes for the finish! Some huge left hooks land heavy and Merab is literally running away across the cage to get away. Moraes follows him across and throws some big strikes that makes Merab stumble! Merab manages to shoot for a takedown and clinches against the cage, gets Moraes down and survives. Now he’s controlling the top position and he’s raining down punches from top position! Moraes is in big trouble but the buzzer goes! What a crazy round. I have no idea how to score it.

Merab comes out fired up for the second round and Moraes is still struggling. Merab launches forward with an overhand right that hurts Moraes immediately and he takes him down straight away. More huge ground and pound strikes from Merab and Moraes is in absolute agony getting pummelled. Merab keeps it going with powerful elbows and strikes and Moraes is finished. This fight could be stopped at any moment. Merab keeps going with punishing strikes and the referee FINALLY steps in. What a performance from Merab!

MAIN CARD

Jessica Andrade def Cynthia Calvillo via Knockout, Round 1 (4:54)

Patient start from Andrade who takes the centre and immediately starts walking Calvillo down against the cage. Calvillo throws a few jabs out there and some kicks, then Andrade counters with a stiff right hand that wobbles Calvillo. Calvillo firing back with some jabs and nice strikes, but Andrade is eating them and answering back with powerful shots of her own and Calvillo is feeling them. Another clean right hand from Calvillo, but Andrade lands some chopping low kicks and follows up with some short right hands. Calvillo is landing good strikes but the power behind them is lacking. Andrade charges forward and lands some big right hands clean, then follows it with an uppercut that hurts Calvillo! Andrade goes for the finish and lands several strikes to the head and the referee steps in with five seconds to go in the round to end the fight! Big win from Andrade!

Curtis Blaydes def Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Fun start to the fight as Blaydes takes the centre quickly and starts flicking out a jab. Rozenstruik immediately gets a left hand off to let Blaydes know he’s there, but Blaydes is showing lots of movement and bouncing around. Blaydes changes levels and gets the takedown with ease early on, and starts working for position with some good ground and pound strikes. Rozenstruik gets back to his feet slowly but then gets back to striking range. Blaydes has a speed advantage it seems so far and is dictating the pace of the fight with his jabs. Blaydes lands a hard low kick and Rozenstruik responds with a wild hook that hits Blaydes’ back as he turns away to escape. Round ends with a short exchange. 10-9 Blaydes.

Rozenstruik comes forward with a nice left hand early on but Blaydes back to using his jab and dictating the pace of the fight. Rozenstruik explodes with a combination but gets nowhere near Blaydes, who is just popping the jab and throwing out low kicks. Blaydes goes for a takedown but missed it and Rozenstruik just missed with an uppercut. Not much action in this round as we enter the final 90 seconds. Rozenstruik goes for a huge flying knee that connects and then lands a big one-two on Blaydes! Blaydes immediately changes levels and gets a takedown, then advances straight to half-guard to start opening some ground and pound and end the round. 20-18 Blaydes.

Final round and Blaydes keeping calm on the feet and dictating the range once again with his jab. A couple of low kicks and Rozenstruik comes back with a right hand that just misses. Blaydes lands two nice jabs and a left straight, then changes levels and secures the takedown once again. Rozenstruik tries to kick Blaydes off him, but Blaydes stays calm and goes straight back to the ground and lands some big ground and pound elbows. Blaydes dominating position from the top as Rozenstruik just can’t get up and the round comes to an end. Comfortable decision win for Blaydes here. 30-27.

Robbie Lawler def Nick Diaz via Knockout, Round 3 (0:44)

Fast start to the fight from Lawler as he comes forward and immediately starts throwing bombs and body shots to Diaz. Lawler much faster and looks much more physically strong, but Diaz throwing some nice combos down the middle too. Lawler still coming forward and trying to chop the legs but Diaz starting to land more strikes now. Diaz stringing together some beautiful combinations but Lawler eating them well and coming forward with some shots of his own. Some big body shots from Diaz landing but Lawler looks a lot more powerful. Could argue a 10-9 either way, but I’d go Diaz.

Fast start again from Lawler in the second round as he comes forward and looks to impose himself on Diaz. Nice elbow lands from Lawler and then a big body kick lands that hurts Diaz! Diaz steps away and Lawler throws a big leg kick, but Diaz responds again with some more beautiful boxing combinations including four left uppercuts in a row. Lawler goes back to the body and Diaz steps away again, but Lawler is right on top of him and in his face. Diaz not fading at all though and landing lots of strikes, although there isn’t much behind them. Lawler lands his left hand well and is hunting Diaz down, but eats a body kick. Diaz lands a big right hand but Lawler eats it and comes forward again with some more body work that has Diaz looking to move away as the round ends. 19-19.

Third round and Lawler coming out aggressive once again, pushing Diaz to the cage and throwing big bombs. Lawler lands a big body shot and follows it up with a big right hook that hurts Diaz! Diaz goes down to one knee, Lawler smashes him again on the chin and he falls to his back. Lawler tells him to get up and Diaz says he can’t continue so this one is over! Wow!

Valentina Shevchenko def Lauren Murphy via Knockout, Round 4 (4:00)

Tense start from both ladies in this one, with both women just feeling each other out for the opening minute. Shevchenko lands a nice body kick and then just misses with a left hand. Shevchenko goes for another kick and Murphy catches it and looks to clinch, but Shevchenko steps away and lands a right hand on the break. Shevchenko looking to land hard with her left hand but just missing, before a nice right hand and low kick combo followed by a spinning side kick to the body. Left hand followed by a low kick again by Shevchenko before a big right hand starts some swelling on Murphy’s eye. Head kick from Shevchenko lands, followed by a right hand and a takedown to close out the round. Dominant from the champ, 10-9.

More of the same to start the second round from Shevchenko as she starts to dominate the striking exchanges again. Shevchenko goes to engage in a takedown but Murphy reverses it and tries to get a takedown of her own, only for the champion to deny it and step away with a big left hand. Counter right hook from Shevchenko lands again before a solid body kick and another takedown from the champion. Shevchenko laying in half-guard and controlling the position for now, with Murphy just holding on to try and avoid too much damage. Shevchenko lands some big elbows from the top as the round comes to an end. 20-18.

Shevchenko dominant again, landing her left hand and counter right hook at will essentially. Nasty body kick again and a spinning heel kick just misses. Shevchenko controlling every aspect of the fight so far, Murphy can’t get near her at all. Superman punch lands from the champion followed by a one-two and leg-kick combination again. At this point Murphy is just surviving and Shevchenko is having her way in a very one-sided affair. Murphy goes for a strike but Shevchenko changes levels and clinches against the cage to see out the round. 30-27.

Murphy trying to come forward a bit more but Shevchenko is just completely in control. Little slip from Shevchenko gets the crowd excited but she hops up and lands a big left hand down the pipe of Murphy. More kicks from Shevchenko as she starts upping the pressure a bit, and lands a nasty front kick to the face. Shevchenko lands a check right hook that wobbles Murphy and then a big head kick followed by a street-fighter like combo of strikes to the face as she goes for the finish! Murphy is still standing somehow and Shevchenko takes her down and starts looking for ground and pound with some nasty elbows and the referee steps in and ends it! As one-sided as they come!

Alexander Volkanovski def Brian Ortega via Unanimous Decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-44)

Patient start from both guys as Volkanovski takes the centre of the cage and both guys flick out some jabs. Volkanovski lands a beautiful right hand but it’s countered by Ortega who lands one of his own. Volkanovski lands another right hand over the top which opens up a small cut above his eye. Ortega looking to step in with some jabs but Volkanovski keeping distance really well and then he landed a nice flush jab and big right hand too. Ortega lands a nice jab that opens up a small gash under Volkanovski’s eye, before slipping out of the way of two big strikes from the champion. Volkanovski stepping forward and starting to up the pace, but Ortega lands a nice counter left hand that wobbles Volkanovski. Jab from Ortega who then catches a kick and lands another left to close the round. Tough to score, but I’d go 10-9 Volk.

Very even fight so far as both men go blow for blow early in the second round. Ortega landing his jab well and the left hand behind it is landing on occasion too, while Volkanovski is closing the distance well and lands a big right hand clean himself. Volk throwing some leg kicks and Ortega fakes one in return but goes high instead and just misses. Volk steps in and throws some wild hooks and a big elbow, before looking to clinch up but Ortega immediately separates from him. Nice right hook from Ortega sends Volkanovski backwards but he responds with a heavy leg kick again. Volkanovski comes forward with a good combo but Ortega just staying at enough distance to not catch it flush. 20-18 Volkanovski.

Volkanovski starting well in this round and being a bit more aggressive with his striking and low kicks. Big right hand lands flush and Ortega eats it, then Volkanovski goes in for another but misses and they clash heads. Ortega looks unsteady and Volkanovski chopping at the leg, but Ortega fires back with a big combination that just misses. Volkanovski throws a leg kick that Ortega catches and he fires a left hand down the pipe that drops him! He jumps on a mounted guillotine and it’s tightttt but Volkanovski refuses to tap out! He pops his head out and escapes and gets back on top and starts landing bombs on an exhausted Ortega! Ortega throws up a triangle and locks it in and it’s tight again! Volkanovski once again refuses to tap and he pops out again and then gets back on top and rains down punches again but the buzzer goes! What a round!

The doctor allows Ortega to continue after a check and Volkanovski comes out hunting for him. Some big right hands land again and then Ortega goes for a takedown out of exhaustion. He trips Volkanovski and gets him down and looks for a guillotine again, but Volkanovski is safe and gets back on top to start raining down more ground and pound. Volkanovski is beating him up badly on the ground but Ortega is doing just enough to survive. Volkanovski lets him get back up but just misses with some big strikes as the round ends. 40-35 at a minimum to the champion.

Final round and Volkanovski staying patient in the centre again, but Ortega is in there giving it his all. Ortega goes for a takedown but Volkanovski defends it easy and lands a big right elbow. Ortega is coming forward with strikes and Volkanovski is backing up now, before Ortega lands a one-two and Volkanovski responds with a huge right hook. Big one-two from Ortega gets a nod of approval from Volkanovski. Both guys trading in the centre of the octagon as we enter the final minute of the fight. Ortega catches a kick and goes for a knee but misses. Final seconds and Ortega lands some huge strikes but Volkanovski is still standing as the buzzer goes and it’s all over. What a fight. Big win for the champion.

UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega – Main card predictions

An absolutely stacked UFC card heads to Las Vegas this weekend as UFC 266 hosts two title fights and a huge return to the sport.

Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will finally meet for the featherweight title in their rescheduled fight from UFC 260, with ‘T-City’ looking to fulfil his destiny of becoming the top dog at 145lbs.

In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko looks to continue on her path as one of the greatest mixed martial artists ever when she defends her flyweight crown for a sixth time against Lauren Murphy before the return of Nick Diaz to the UFC when he takes on Robbie Lawler and hopes to start something special with a win.

Last week at UFC Vegas 37 we went 9/13 with one perfect pick, moving us up to 411/646 (63.62%) with 178 perfect picks (43.31%). We’ll look to add to that and improve and after predicting the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card now.


Jessica Andrade (21-9) vs Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A fight at the top end of the women’s flyweight division opens up the main card here. Andrade is coming off the back of her nasty defeat against champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 261, while Calvillo also lost her last fight against Kaitlyn Chookagian at UFC 255 last time out.

Andrade is a powerful wrestler who slams almost all her opponents at some point, and also has good striking to work her way inside too. Calvillo is a good wrestler in her own right, with some decent striking but plenty of control in the top position. Andrade seems to have found her best weight class now as has Calvillo and this is the type of fight that would usually determine a title contender.

Andrade has shown some cardio issues in the past, while Calvillo has gone a full five rounds before and still looked fresh. Her issues against Chookagian were more distance related than anything else and she won’t have those problems against the 5ft 1 Andrade. Andrade however is the more powerful fighter and when it comes to grappling I think she has the advantage too so I expect her to claim the win.
PICK – Jessica Andrade via Decision
BETTING TIP – Fight to go the distance @ 5/6 (Bet365)

Curtis Blaydes (14-3) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A huge heavyweight contender fight between two guys looking to work their way towards title contention. Blaydes was on a tear until he ran into Derrick Lewis and got flattened at UFC Vegas 19, while Rozenstruik bounced back from a beating by Ciryl Gane to earn a KO win over Augusto Sakai last time out at UFC Vegas 28.

Blaydes’ style is the same in every fight and your chances of winning against him stand on whether or not you can stop his takedowns. He shoots in with power, holds you down in position and rains down huge elbows until you can’t take it anymore. Rozenstruik on the other hand is a kickboxer with legitimate one-punch power, just like Lewis had. Rozenstruik’s wrestling defence isn’t the best, but he can learn a lot from Blaydes’ last fight of how to defend the takedowns with his striking.

It comes down to whether or not Blaydes can land the takedown without having his lights turned out again, and I think he’ll correct his issues and blast double-leg his way to a unanimous decision win.
PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Decision
BETTING TIP – Blaydes via Decision @ 11/5 (Bet365)

Nick Diaz (26-9) vs Robbie Lawler (28-15) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

Arguably the most anticipated fight on the card as Diaz makes his return after six years away to take on old rival ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. These two met all the way back in 2004, with Diaz earning a KO win in the second round. Lawler is on a big decline right now, losing each of his last four fights with the most recent coming against Neil Magny at UFC Vegas 8.

Diaz is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with brilliant boxing and one of the deepest gas tanks in MMA, while Lawler is a powerful wrestler with a solid overhand left that can put people to sleep. This is an incredibly tough fight to call because we have no idea what Diaz has been up to in the gym for the last six years. We don’t know how he’ll react in the cage after so long away or how he’ll look in action.

The fans will be behind him, because they always are, and he has a knockout win against Lawler on his CV already. On the ground we know how talented he is, but Lawler has been far more active since and has the wrestling edge. It’s due to be a wild fight and it’s a guess either way, but I have to go with Diaz to make the perfect return.
PICK – Nick Diaz via Decision

Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) vs Lauren Murphy (15-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

The first title fight of the night sees the ever-dominant Shevchenko take on the veteran Murphy in the co-main event. ‘Bullet’ has won seven in a row, with her only UFC defeats coming in razor close decisions to Amanda Nunes. Her last fight was a violent KO over Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. Murphy on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak, with her most recent win coming against Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263.

Shevchenko is an entirely complete MMA fighter with stunning striking, grappling and submission skills to go with excellent defence and a second-to-none fight IQ. Murphy is a boxer by trade with some good kickboxing skills too and some good clinch work with good grappling skills on the ground where necessary. Unfortunately for her, she’s just not on the same level as Shevchenko.

No matter where this fight goes, Shevchenko wins. It’s that simple. Unless something absolutely crazy happens, Shevchenko can pretty much pick how she wins this fight and I think she’ll use her striking to come out on top this time.
PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 3

Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) vs Brian Ortega (15-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

When the main event has the potential to be the fight of the night, you know it’s a good one. The featherweight title is on the line as Volkanovski looks to make it 20 wins in a row and 10-0 in the UFC, after wins over Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway twice in his most recent bouts. Ortega took two years out after losing to Holloway and returned with a stunning performance against Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Island 6 to earn his title shot.

Volkanovski is a brilliant all-rounder, with powerful strikes in his hands and some top-tier wrestling to allow him to decide where the fight goes. Ortega is a submission specialist with other-worldly jiu-jitsu skills but the performance against TKZ showed that he has upped his striking to a whole new level too. His jab is sharp, he has good combinations and mixes in takedowns well too. Volkanovski will have to deal with that striking threat in a different way to how he did with Holloway, because the ground is Ortega’s world.

Overall, this is a super close fight and I won’t be surprised by whoever wins this fight. Ultimately though, I back Volkanovski to retain his title. He is able to mix it up well and his game-planning has been great in the past. He has the more well-rounded skillset for me and I think he’s physically stronger, so he’ll claim the close win.
PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Decision

Can Brian Ortega fulfil his destiny and become featherweight champion?

It’s been a long time coming but Brian Ortega has the chance to fulfil his destiny and become the king of the featherweight division this weekend at UFC 266.

A long awaited title fight between Ortega and defending champion Alexander Volkanovski will headline the card in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena, six months after their initial bout was cancelled due to a positive COVID test.

But the six month delay has only added to the idea of destiny in T-City’s mind and it’s difficult to argue against his thought process.

When Ortega last had a title shot, he went into the fight against Max Holloway as the favourite. In December 2018, Ortega was an undefeated phenom with submissions and knockouts scattered throughout his fight resumΓ©.

But as he found out in that fight, there was a very big difference in skill level between himself and the champion at the time.

Ortega was pummelled for four full rounds, with the Hawaiian boxing his face off. It was so bad that not only did Holloway talk to him throughout the fight, ‘Blessed’ also helped him block strikes in the cage and then even called the finish before the round in which the doctor eventually called a halt to the bout.

He took almost two years out to hone his skillset after that, mastering his craft and becoming a much more polished striker.

He took on The Korean Zombie on Fight Island a year ago and while many expected him to try and get his opponent to the ground, with a significant striking advantage for Jung. However instead what was transpired was a boxing masterclass from Ortega on the night and a dominant decision win.

It showed that in those two years away that the work he had been doing was justified. With Volkanovski holding two wins over Holloway, albeit one is controversial, Ortega now is the man who is seemingly the biggest threat to his throne.

Volkanovski’s best moments in the UFC have come with his ground game, using his wrestling to dominate opponents and his striking to do damage. But if he takes the fight to the ground against Ortega he’s entering a world of danger and with Ortega’s improved striking, Holloway might be the only guy that can out-box him.

Many tipped Ortega as a future champion when he broke into the scene but his first chance came too early against one of the greatest of all-time. UFC 266 may be the perfect moment for him to fulfil his destiny and become the best in the world.