Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight talents Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 25, 2021) at UFC 266 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Volkanovski is one of the very best fighters on the planet, a champion riding an extended win streak over absolutely top-tier competition. However, the controversy in his pair of bouts vs. Max Holloway has dampened his shine, leaving Volkanovski in need of a strong performance to remind the fighting world of his excellence. On the flip side, Ortega attempted to rise to stardom as an undefeated champion, but Holloway turned him away with a vengeance. “T-City” smartly reformulated his entire approach and strategy to combat, switching up his training and lifestyle to return an unrecognizable and far-improved talent.
Is that enough to make good on his second title shot? Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Max Holloway (UFC 251, UFC 245), Jose Aldo (UFC 237), Chad Mendes (UFC 232), Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 133), Jeremy Kennedy (UFC 221)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Volkanovski is one of the very best fighters alive. An incredible physical force with a well-rounded skill set and smart strategy behind him, Volkanovski is more of a finishing threat than fans give him credit for.
It is likely time for the return of Volkanovski’s pressure strategy. The Aussie dominated most of his early UFC opponents — and all his regional foes — by methodically getting in their faces, constantly doing damage, then dropping the overhand hammer on the counter when his opponents tried to answer back.
Often, that strategy involved lots of takedowns as well, which perhaps isn’t the best plan against “T-City.” Back the lankier man into the fence would be smart, however. From there, Volkanovski can still look to punch into the clinch, where he’s the stronger and more damaging man.
I’d really like to see Volkanovski work his low kicks and body punches in this fight. Ortega’s toughness is well-established, but attacking the base works on everyone. If Volkanovski is ripping his right hand to the ribs and digging into the calf, his likely conditioning advantage will only appear more pronounced.
Record: 15-1 (1)
Key Wins: Frankie Edgar (UFC 222), Chan Sung Jung (UFC Fight Island 6), Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 123), Renato Moicano (UFC 214), Clay Guida (UFC 199), Thiago Tavares (UFC Fight Night 68)
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 231)
Keys to Victory: Ortega is one of the most opportunistic finishers in the sport. Give him a small opening on the feet or on the mat, and Ortega will create magic to score a sudden stoppage.
For Ortega, this will be a battle of range. If Volkanovski is able to consistently work into the pocket and start punching in combination, Ortega will likely be forced back into his old boxing ways. In other words, he’s going to take a lot of damage.
Last time out, however, Ortega fought largely as a Southpaw and maintained his distance really well. Ortega will be significantly taller and longer than his opponent, and standing as a Southpaw could really accentuate that advantage. For one, the open stance engagement helps to eliminate Volkanovski’s calf kick, while making it easier for Ortega to stick his cross down the middle.
Really though, I’d like to see Ortega using his distance management to set up takedowns. If he can convince Volkanovski to swing for his head, Ortega can duck into the hips. Volkanovski’s takedown defense is very good, but Ortega has generally been able to drag all his foes down at one point or another. The Californian is a snake on the mat, and Volkanovski’s attempts to explode out of bad positions athletically could land Ortega his favorite strangles.
It may not be the most “must-see” main event of all time, but it’s an undeniably great match up.
I would love to say this is Volkanovski’s chance to move passed Holloway ... and it sort of is. Going out and crushing Ortega would be majorly impressive, and hopefully impress a few of the haters. Unfortunately, “Blessed” is seemingly next in line for a title shot anyway, so the Australian may have to deal with the Hawaiian yet again if he’s victorious here.
Ortega, meanwhile, has a chance to add his name to the shortlist of UFC Featherweight champions. In addition, a win here justifies all the transitions and changes Ortega has made in his life; it’s a perfect full circle closure to his first failed attempt at gold. Speaking of, if Ortega does leave the cage strapped with gold, a title rematch vs. Holloway is the very clear-cut next move.
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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At UFC 266, Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will go to war. Which man leaves the cage with the title?