UFC 266: Ortega vs Volkanovski - Predictions - 9/25/21
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega
Brian Ortega got his first crack at the featherweight belt when he took on Max Holloway two fights ago. That fight went disastrously as he absorbed nearly 300 significant strikes and was completely outclassed. Holloway actually taught him some striking technique mid-fight, which was a wild clip to witness.
I don’t know what it is about Brian Ortega, but I always envision him to be a tall, rangey, fighter. And then I’m surprised when reviewing how he matches up with his opponent to see he never has a noticeable height or reach advantage. He will have two inches of height on Volkanovski but gives that up in the reach department for this one. He looked fantastic in his last fight against Jung, I’ll give him that. But he’s going to have to be even better to dethrone Volkanovski and it just seems unlikely.
Alexander “The Great” can definitely hold his own on the feet (as showcased by going 10 rounds with Holloway), and seems to have a sizable advantage in wrestling and cardio. To play devil’s advocate here, that wrestling advantage could put him on track for Ortega’s most plausible route to victory - the submission game. “T-City” is pretty lethal with his submissions which is no surprise as he holds a 1st degree black belt in BJJ (and there’s some additional oomph behind that accomplishment when your teacher has the last name of Gracie). If these two were matched up in a BJJ tournament, Ortega would win all day. But this is an MMA match so we have to use the current data we have when assessing this route to victory. And that data shows us that Volkanovski has never been submitted (or really in any danger of it from my recollection) and he typically comes in with fantastic gameplans. He has great fight IQ and listens to his coaches so I’ll be surprised if he does something to put him in submission danger.
I’d say we do see an even further improved Brian Ortega but will fail to impress enough to steal 3 rounds against the current champ. Look for Volkanovski to mix grappling and striking into a workman-like effort
PREDICTION: Alexander Volkanovski
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy
It would be easy to just say “Shevchenko by any way she wants. /fin, move on to the next breakdown”, but any time I see a matchup this lopsided (or more specifically odds that wide), I think it’s important to assess it like any other fight because if you find value, the payout is going to be substantial. After all, huge upsets do happen from time to time. I’m not going to try and build this up and act like I might pick Murphy, I’m not, Shevchenko by any way she wants for sure. BUT, I’ll offer up some info anyway in case you are considering Over/Unders or method of victory bets or even pulling for the 9 to 1 dog.
So when looking at this one, it’s pretty obvious that Shevchenko is on a different level and quite a bit better in every conceivable MMA category. However, Murphy isn’t noticeably terrible in any one of those categories so exploiting a weakness for the easy finish isn’t as likely as the bookies would have you believe. Combine that with Murphy’s solid cardio and the fact she’s never been finished and this one could end up clearing the 2.5 over.
Even though Shevchenko is the superior mixed martial artist, don’t expect her to rush out and try and put a stamp on things to justify her monster favorite status. She has impeccable fight IQ and rarely over extends herself (even with her plethora of spinning back fists). She will be more than content to run away with it on the scorecards if Murphy doesn’t provide a fight ending mistake. For Murphy to do enough to outclass Shevchenko for 25 minutes would be lotto-level unlikely so she’s going to need to score a flash KO or club n sub to win. So when we look at Murphy’s history here to see the plausibility of this route, she does have some finishing ability (I’m not counting her initial Alaska FC run but there’s been a few in the UFC over her career). But when comparing that to Shevchenko’s durability, it ends up being a non-starter as the champion has never been finished (doctor stoppage due to cut not included). “Bullet” has also been in the cage with Amanda Nunes for 40 minutes and yeah, no stoppage. I expect Shevchenko to be doing her Lezginka dance celebration about 25 minutes after the opening bell.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko
Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler
Well it’s nice to see Nick is still as delusional as ever, stating he should be fighting Usman for the title and not Lawler. But we have a fun matchup of two legendary vets instead. I’m already impressed that he has weighed in and this fight appears to be actually happening. You probably know the history here, Diaz KO’d Lawler back in 2004 and then both fighters had many ups and downs throughout their illustrious careers. Most recently, Lawler has found himself on a 4 fight skid but facing some tough stylistic matchups along that run. Diaz lost to Anderson Silva, GSP, and Carlos Condit but you’ll have to remove the word “recently” here as his last fight was 6 years ago.
There’s a couple other bizarre factors that go into this one. Mainly, Diaz requested for this fight to get changed to middleweight this week (which makes his Usman comment even better really). He also managed to get a couple guys from his crew on the card, one of which has absolutely no business fighting in the UFC. Both of these factors make it seem like he’s not fully invested in this or perhaps doing it for other reasons. Then there’s the shadow boxing clip which to be honest, does not look good. If you already bet on Diaz and haven’t seen it, don’t seek it out, you’ll be sad. It’s not on the level of Holyfield’s slo-mo training clip (hopefully you all cleaned up betting on Belfort for that one btw), but it just doesn’t look like the Diaz we know.
Stylistically though, this fight is a good matchup for Diaz. Lawler has appeared increasingly gun shy over the past while and I wouldn’t be surprised if Diaz takes a decision on output and some octagon control alone. But ultimately, I’m going to side with Lawler here. He’s been going against suffocating wrestlers during his losing streak and I think the fact that wrestling won’t be a factor in this one will help him. His cardio has been pretty solid during those grueling matches as well so he may actually have the edge in this one. That seems crazy to say considering Diaz was a marathon running, cardio machine back in the day but again, that clip.
You can never know what’s going to happen when Diaz gets in the cage, let alone 6-year removed from the sport Nick Diaz. This one could be bonkers, boring, or incredible and I’m not going to pretend to know which that is. Slight lean to the more athletic and active “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler to even the score.
Prediction: Robbie Lawler
My picks are inbold.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Jéssica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Marlon Moraes vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Dan Hooker vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Chris Daukaus
Roxanne Modafferi vs.Taila Santos
Early Preliminary Card
Uros Medic vs. Jalin Turner
Cody Brundage vs. Nick Maximov
Matthew Semelsberger vs. Martin Sano Jr.
Jonathan Pearce vs. Omar Morales