Alexander Volkanovski Dodges Disaster, Batters Brian Ortega in UFC 266 Headliner

By Brian Knapp Sep 25, 2021


Alexander Volkanovski’s great was too good for Brian Ortega.

Volkanovski (23-1, 10-0 UFC) strengthened his grip on the undisputed UFC 266 headliner on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it for the Australian: 49-46, 50-45 and 50-44.

The story was told across five grueling rounds. Volkanovski let fly with powerful two- and three-punch combinations, pestered the Californian with his jab and refused to take his foot off the accelerator. Round 3 was sensational. Ortega (15-2, 7-2 UFC) knocked the champion off-balance with a left hand, jumped on a mounted guillotine choke and appeared to be a heartbeat or two away from finishing it. Volkanovski freed himself and moved into top position, only to find himself entangled in a triangle choke—the very maneuver from which the challenger’s nickname originates. Again, the Freestyle Fighting Gym rep managed to escape. Ferocious ground-and-pound followed, and an exhausted Ortega struggled to get to his feet once the round was complete. He threatened Volkanovski’s neck again in the fourth, where he struck for a takedown and immediately clamped down on a brabo choke. Unable to involve his legs, Ortega was forced to release it and yet again absorbed savage ground strikes for his troubles, the Aussie’s spear tipped by brutal standing-to-ground punches.

Both men were visibly spent in Round 5 but never stopped firing punches at one another. Having absorbed upwards of 200 significant strikes, Ortega was barely recognizable by fight’s end.

Shevchenko Routs Overmatched Murphy


Valentina Shevchenko retained her undisputed UFC women’s flyweight championship with a fourth-round technical knockout of Lauren Murphy in the co-main event. Now on an eight-fight tear, Shevchenko (22-3, 11-2 UFC) slammed the door 4:00 into Round 4.

Murphy (15-5, 7-5 UFC) was leagues below one of the sport’s most dominant competitors. Shevchenko kept her at bay with clean counters, damaging low kicks and occasional body blows, all while mixing in takedowns at opportune times. She dazed Murphy with a counter right hook in the fourth round, followed with a head kick and gave chase with punches. Shevchenko then took down the former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder and let the elbows and punches fly until referee Keith Peterson had seen enough.

The loss halted Murphy’s five-fight winning streak.

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Lawler Stops Diaz in Rematch


Former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler brought down Nick Diaz with punches in the third round of their long-awaited rematch, this time at 185 pounds. Seventeen-plus years after their initial encounter ended in his being knocked out at UFC 47, Lawler (29-15, 14-9 UFC) drew the curtain 44 seconds into Round 3 and evened their head-to-head series at 1-1.

In his first appearance since Jan. 31, 2015, Diaz (26-10, 7-7 UFC) started strong—he pieced together some of his patented multi-punch combinations to the body and head in the first round—but appeared to simply run out of gas. Lawler appeared to wound him with a liver kick in the middle stanza, then turned up the heat in the third. He connected with a right hook that dropped Diaz to a knee and followed with a sweeping left uppercut that forced the longtime Cesar Gracie disciple to retreat to his back. When referee Jason Herzog asked Diaz if he wished to continue, he declined.

The victory was Lawler’s first in more than four years and snapped his career-worst four-fight losing streak.

Tactical Blaydes Upends Rozenstruik


Elevation Fight Team’s Curtis Blaydes rebounded from his Feb. 20 knockout loss to Derrick Lewis with a unanimous decision over Jairzinho Rozenstruik in their three-round heavyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Blaydes (15-3, 10-3 UFC).

Rozenstruik (12-3, 6-3 UFC) was content to sit back and hunt counters—a tactic that did not lend itself to sustained periods of success. Blaydes executed takedowns in all three rounds, pairing them with top control and ground-and-pound while neutralizing the Surinamese kickboxer. However, he did not escape the cage unscathed. A well-timed knee strike from Rozenstruik resulted in a small cut and significant damage under his right eye in the second round, and by the time the fight was over, it had nearly swollen shut.

Blaydes has rattled off five victories in six outings.

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Dynamic Andrade Bullies Calvillo


Parana Vale Tudo star Jessica Andrade disposed of Cynthia Calvillo with punches in the first round of their women’s flyweight feature. Calvillo (9-3-1, 6-3-1 UFC) bowed out 4:54 into Round 1, as she suffered his second straight setback.

Andrade (21-10, 12-8 UFC) showed the Californian no respect. She bullied Calvillo backward with power punches and leg kicks, then cracked with a combination. Andrade clipped her with a right hook, cut loose with uppercuts and pinned her to the fence. Calvillo turtled into a defensive shell and ate repeated punches without defending herself, prompting referee Herb Dean to act on her behalf.

The 30-year-old Andrade has won six of her past nine bouts.

Continue Reading » UFC 266 Prelims: Dvalishvili Breaks Moraes in Las Vegas
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