After a delightfully antagonistic stint as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 coaches, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, and top contender Brian Ortega will settle the score this Saturday (Sept. 25, 2021) atop UFC 266 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The evening’s other title fight sees women’s Flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko look to continue her dominant reign against Lauren Murphy, while a rematch between Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler sets the stage one bout prior.
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What Went Wrong at UFC Vegas 37?
Honestly, I can stomach the Emily Whitmire and Mandy Bohm losses; I overestimated Whitmire’s submission defense and Bohm’s wrestling. Kianzad and Gravely, on the other hand, really hurt. Both were clearly ahead after the first round, only for Kianzad to lose the plot against the fence and Gravely to get tagged. Luckily, we were far enough ahead to eat the loss, but it’s still a a headache.
UFC 266 Odds For The Under Card:
Merab Dvalishvili (-240) vs. Marlon Moraes (+200)
Dan Hooker (-140) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (+120)
Chris Daukaus (-200) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (+170)
Taila Santos (-400) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (+325)
Manon Fiorot (-245) vs. Mayra Bueno Silva (+205)
Uros Medic (-125) vs. Jalin Turner (+105)
Karl Roberson (-110) vs. Nick Maximov (-110)
Matthew Semelsberger (-485) vs. Martin Sano Jr. (+385)
Omar Morales (-152) vs. Jonathan Pearce (+132)
Thoughts: Honestly, there’s a lot to work with here: Merab Dvalishvili, Taila Santos and Manon Fiorot are solid anchors to beef up the lines on Jalin Turner, Karl Roberson and Jonathan Pearce.
Marlon Moraes clearly has the skills and physicality to keep up with virtually any Bantamweight on the planet, but it seems like no amount of setbacks will actually get him to fix his cardio. That’s unacceptable against Dvalishvili, the division’s patron saint of grind. In other words, barring some incredible improvement on “Magic’s” part, I just can’t see him standing up to more than a round of Dvalishvili’s pace before breaking. Even with the threat of Moraes’ signature quick-kill finish, bank on the Georgian.
As I mentioned in my “Prelims” piece (read it here), the only thing Roxanne Modafferi has going for her in this match up is the universe’s bizarre insistence that she never lose two in a row. Santos is a far better striker and shut down a top-notch takedown artist in Gillian Robertson last time out, leaving Modafferi with few options to turn the tables. Unless the same juju that destroyed Maycee Barber’s knee intervenes, Santos has this in the bag.
Even acknowledging that Victoria Leonardo and Tabatha Ricci are far from the cream of the crop, Fiorot’s the best addition to the Flyweight roster in some time. She’s got a clear striking edge over the vast majority of the division and some solid wrestling chops to back it up. Though Mayra Bueno Silva is the superior submission artist, Fiorot’s got the skills to run circles around her on the feet and sufficiently stout takedown defense to keep it there, making her a quality investment.
LATE EDIT: Never mind, that one’s been postponed.
The thing with Uros Medic is that UFC debut foe Aalon Cruz was the best opponent of his career, and Cruz was a longtime Featherweight coming off a brutal knockout loss. Most of Medic’s career was spent feasting on subpar competition in Alaska FC, making Jalin Turner by far the more tested of the two. Turner’s also taller and has quite a bit of reach on Medic, which is enough to earn him my recommendation.
Karl Roberson has definitely had some issues in the UFC, but it’s worth remembering that three of the men who beat him were Glover Teixeira , Marvin Vettori , and Brendan Allen . He’s still a top-notch kickboxer with solid wrestling, while Nick Maximov is a decent submission grappler with nonexistent striking. Beating a bunch of guys with losing records and a Heavyweight with no grappling skill isn’t enough to convince me that Maximov’s ready for the Octagon, and Roberson will be a rude awakening.
LATER EDIT: Never mind, Roberson’s out as well.
Jonathan Pearce might be the riskiest pick of the lot, but I can justify it. As brutally efficient as he was on the Contender Series, Omar Morales has been oddly conservative and willing to cruise during his time in the UFC. Pearce has been anything but, pushing a torrid pace and offering the best ground game Morales has yet faced in the Octagon. Though there’s a risk of Morales disabling Pearce’s lead leg early, I like Pearce to make it a dogfight and come out on top through sheer attrition.
UFC 266 Odds For The Main Card:
Alexander Volkanovski (-175) vs. Brain Ortega (+155)
Valentina Shevchenko (-1570) vs. Lauren Murphy (+1035)
Nick Diaz (-110) vs. Robbie Lawler (-110)
Curtis Blaydes (-300) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+250)
Jessica Andrade (-260) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+220)
Thoughts: Put me down as Team Volkanovski.
Yes, I regularly underestimate Brian Ortega. Yes, I often pick against him and eat crow when he snatches a submission or knockout out of nowhere. I just can’t overlook all the advantages Volkanovski has here. Not only does “The Great” boast the stronger gas tank, wrestling and one-shot power, but he’s also an extremely adept game-planner; the way he completely shut Max Holloway down in their first meeting remains one of the best single-fight performances in recent memory. His takedown defense is too good for Ortega to drag him to the mat, he’s alert enough to not shoot into Ortega’s guillotine, and he’s got the more complete striking game. He’s got my bet.
UFC 266 Best Bets:
- Parlay — Merab Dvalishvili and Alexander Volkanovski: Bet $150 to make $183.93
- Parlay — Taila Santos and Jalin Turner: Bet $100 to make $156.25
- Single bet — Jonathan Pearce: Bet $150 to make $198
UFC 266 is definitely a quality card. And if it lives up to its potential, we’ll get to enjoy some truly special highlights. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 266 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPNEWS/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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