Last night (Sat., Sept. 25, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) took a quick trip to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 266. After several weeks of entertaining but forgettable “Fight Night” events, UFC returned to its larger Las Vegas venue with a pretty stacked night of action. The big draws were the pair of title fights and return of Nick Diaz, but when names like Dan Hooker and Marlon Moraes fill up the preliminary portion of the card, you just know it’s a great event!
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Featherweight’s Fight Of The Year
Brian Ortega may not win title fights, but the man puts forth one hell of an effort.
Unfortunately for “T-City,” Volkanovski was very much a man on a mission last night, and he implemented his game plan expertly. At distance, Volkanovski’s movement, feints, and low kicks kept the challenger guessing, resulting in heavy right hand connections from pretty early in the contest. Volkanovski never managed to knock Ortega down, but repeated right hand lands across five rounds definitely added up.
Ortega managed to land some good counters to the kicks as well as some stiff jabs and leg chops of his own, but he was never able to create offense as consistently as “The Great.”
Undoubtedly the highlight of the fight was the third round. Ortega capitalized on a well-timed counter punch to take top position, immediately attacking the neck. Volkanovski was twice in very serious danger of being submitted, but when he did manage to escape and gain top position, Ortega was spent from trying to score the finish.
Volkanovski capitalized, absolutely battering his opponent from top position to nearly secure a stoppage. Though victory was already secured for his opponent, Ortega’s ability to battle back and arguably win the fifth was quite admirable.
Shevchenko Dominates ... Again
I don’t know what to say about this one. I guess I could describe Valentina Shevchenko as an assassin or technician or surgeon again, but I’ve done already in her other effortless victories. Once again, a determined contender walked into the cage, and once again, Shevchenko made it look extraordinarily easy.
Shevchenko has her set list of favorite strikes and techniques. That right hook, liver kick, 1-2-low kick combination, reactive clinch takedowns — all the favorites landed last night, pretty much whenever Shevchenko wanted them to. Murphy had practically zero success, while Shevchenko ruthlessly picker her apart en route to the eventual stoppage.
Without restating the obvious, my sole new observation is that it must be a ton of fun to fight if you’re Valentina Shevchenko. She never really gets hit and is always in complete control until finishing the fight — no wonder she wants to fight until age 50!
Lawler Scores His Revenge
Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler 2 was as good as it could be for an older legends fight, and I wrote a whole piece on that bout right HERE!
Dvalishvili Shatters His Ceiling
Merab Dvalishvili is a man who overcomes opponents through sheer force of will. His style is simple on paper, but it’s a nightmare to deal with for his opponents. “The Machine” never stops, throwing a huge amount of seemingly random strikes to occupy his opponents before transitioning to his nonstop wrestling game.
Often, this style hits a ceiling. At a certain level, veterans are less mesmerized by all the weirdness and instead see the opportunities provided by the activity. Moraes — an expert Muay Thai striker with serious knockout power — had just the experience necessary to punish Dvalishvili’s style.
For the first three minutes, he did just that. Dvalishvili would try to throw some funky combination, and Moraes would drill him with a left hook or calf kick. Quality was conquering quantity, and Moraes came within inches of scoring the first-round knockout finish.
By all rights, Dvalishvili was done. However, the Georgian fighter refused to be stopped. He kept moving through the damage, extending the fight. Eventually, he was able to hang onto a clinch and halt the bleeding. That’s about when Marlon Moraes realized his gas tank was on E.
As soon as Dvalishvili was able to begin grappling again, he took over as if the previous mauling never happened. Five minutes later, the referee was saving Moraes from Dvalishvili’s onslaught of ground strikes. “The Machine” breaks into the Top 10 in style, in large part because the man might just be unbreakable.
He’s going to run into similar sharpshooters moving forward, but if you cannot stop Dvalishvili, it’s going to be a rough night.
Early on, Shamil Abdurakhimov was doing his thing vs. Chris Daukaus. The Russian kickboxer has a weird rhythm and crafty setups, and it was keeping him ahead on points through the first half of the opening rounds. Daukaus was swinging big shots, but he was coming up short often.
Rather than continue on this path, Daukaus showed a pair of great attributes: speed and strategy. He adjusted, looking to answer Abdurakhimov’s strikes with counters rather that trade tit-for-tat. As a result of that quickness, he landed well, and the punches did huge damage.
Daukaus basically knocked his foe out twice to improve his UFC record to 4-0. Daukaus does not look that different from the average Heavyweight up-and-comer, but he’s far from the usual big hitter.
Matthew Semelsberger faced a UFC newcomer from the Diaz camp in Martin Sano last night, and he proved that his opponent probably didn’t belong. It was a perfect performance.
Semelsberger came out and poked some jabs, taking note of where his opponent’s hands moved and how Sano reacted. It didn’t look great for Sano, who showed nothing but an awkward check hook in the opening seconds. Semelsberger responded with a perfect right hand direct to the chin ... and that was it!
- Jessica Andrade defeats Cynthia Calvillo via first-round knockout: As is often the case with Andrade fights, physicality was the difference. Calvillo actually did a reasonably good job of circling the outside of the cage, picking her shots as Andrade pressed forward ... Andrade just didn’t really care! Conversely, Andrade’s punches had a clear effect, and when an uppercut snuck through the guard, she was able to swarm and force the finish just before the bell.
- Jalin Turner defeats Urso Medic via first-round rear naked choke: Man, this was a fun match up between two lanky Southpaws! Medic looked fast with his kickboxing combinations early, but Turner flipped the script with a takedown and some good control. Once the two worked back up, Turner was able to really pull momentum to his favor with a hard body kick. Medic has been criticized for his prior level of competition, and he did appear unaccustomed to the adversity, failing to rally effectively as Turner poured on the pressure. Instead, he gave up his back, and that was the end.
- Jonathan Pearce defeats Omar Morales via second-round rear naked choke: “JSP” might just be a problem at 145 lbs. Pearce looked strong and well-conditioned, taking the fight to a dangerous opponent and routinely finding entries for his takedowns. Morales initially scrambled well and even countered his foe’s offense with elbows and submission attempts, but Pearce’s pace would not be denied. Morales’ scrambles began to slow, allowing Pearce to take dominant positions and start chasing the choke.
For complete UFC 266: “Volkanovski vs. Ortega” results and play-by-play, click HERE.