UFC 266 lived up to the hype, with a banger of a rematch between Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler preceding the co-main and main event of the evening.
In the penultimate bout on the card, Valentina Shevchenko defended her flyweight title in spectacular fashion against challenger Lauren Murphy. Then, in the main event, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski went five rounds against Brian Ortega and his dangerous submissions.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy
The fighters kept their distance at first, Shevchenko throwing solitary kicks and punches while Murphy stayed primarily on defense. Then, as Shevchenko threw a body kick, Murphy caught it, closing the distance before a big right hand drove her away. The fighters stayed respectful of each other, maintaining distance in the moments between Shevchenko’s quick strikes and combos. Murphy’s left eye began to swell shut, and Shevchenko continued to fire off combinations to drive her opponent back. In the final minute of the round, Shevchenko threw a spinning elbow and then a head kick, following it up with a kick to the body. Under thirty seconds to go, and Shevchenko secured a body lock on Murphy and took her to the ground. She landed in Murphy’s half-guard and stayed there until the bell.
Round two started off with a couple of quick combo exchanges, and then the fighters closed the distance. Murphy forced Shevchenko against the cage in the clinch, and Shevchenko landed short-range punches to her opponent’s face. Though Murphy tried to force Shevchenko down with a single-leg, the latter pulled herself free. The fighters returned to the center of the octagon, with Shevchenko landing a big kick to the body and then a spinning back kick to follow up. A little over halfway into the round, and Shevchenko again pulled her opponent into a body lock and brought her to the canvas. Murphy managed to avoid too much damage from bottom half-guard, but still ended up on the receiving end of some elbows before the round ended.
Shevchenko continued to dominate in round three, battering Murphy back and landing a spinning back kick to the head. Her right hook and kicks continued to be dangerous, discouraging Murphy from coming closer. Murphy was able to land some sporadic strikes, but Shevchenko was faster and stronger, rattling her opponent with big punches and leg kicks. In the final minute of the fight, Murphy charged forward, but ended up on the receiving end of a superman punch from Shevchenko. Shevchenko finished off round three by getting another body lock, then driving her against the cage to throw a few knees to the legs and then a punch before the bell rang.
More in-and-out combos from both fighters to kick off round four. For a moment, it looked like Shevchenko might go down as she slipped trying to avoid a hit from Murphy, but she quickly recovered. Shevchenko continued to do damage with her signature kicks, landing everything from leg kicks to body kicks to front kicks. With just under two and a half minutes left in the round, she threw a right hand that sent Murphy stumbling backwards, quickly following it up with a kick and chasing her to the fence with punches. She clinched up and brought Murphy to the ground to rain down more punches, while Murphy did her best to stay in the fight. Finally, though, Shevchenko landed enough unanswered elbows to her opponent’s head to finish the fight. The referee pulled her off, and Valentina Shevchenko was declared the winner by TKO and defended her flyweight title for the sixth time.
Brian Ortega vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Both fighters focused on kicks to open the fight, Volkanovski throwing leg kicks while Ortega aimed higher. Volkanovski worked to control the center of the octagon, throwing a left hand that found its mark on Ortega’s face. The champ then landed a big right hand, which Ortega countered. Ortega landed a kick that landed soundly on his opponent’s thigh. A punch from Ortega wobbled Volkanovski, but he quickly recovered. Both fighters began to pick up the pace, Volkanovski not scared to close the distance. Ortega caught a body kick and followed it up with a big left hand, which Volkanovski countered with a combo of his own. The final minute of round one saw Ortega land another solid left that sent Volkanovski wobbling backward momentarily, and though Ortega couldn’t finish the fight there, his left hand continued to be dangerous until the end of the round.
Round two saw both fighters picking up the pace, a leg kick from Ortega spinning Volkanovski around. The fighters collided as a great right hand from Volkanovski hit its mark. Both champion and challenger went back and forth with combos, Volkanovski landing a pair of solid leg kicks before Ortega came back with a kick to the head. Volkanovski drove Ortega against the cage, rattling him with punches to the head and a big elbow before clinching up momentarily. Back in the center of the cage, Volkanovski threw another leg kick, and Ortega countered by charging forward and forcing his opponent back on his heels. Volkanovski went hard until the end of the round, throwing some big combos and leg kicks before the bell. After they were separated, the fighters appeared to exchange a bit of trash-talk before they were pulled to their separate corners.
As round three started, Volkanovski again focused on leg kicks, while Ortega worked to control the fight with his jab. During a combo exchange, the fighters appeared to knock heads, with Ortega seeming to be more affected by the impact than his opponent. Volkanovski drove him back to the cage, but Ortega beat his way out, his nose bloody from the head clash. The fighters continued to go back and forth, each landing some significant hands on their respective opponent, neither backing off for long. The fighters clashed again, and a hit from Volkanovski staggered Ortega, but the latter came forward again, catching a kick and punching Volkanovski in the face to drive him to the ground. Ortega immediately landed in mount and wrapped up a guillotine, with Volankovski on the bottom trying to thrash his way out of danger. For a moment, it looked like Ortega might finish the fight there, but his grip broke, and Volkanovski worked his way to half-guard to come up and reverse the position. Volkanovski landed a hammerfist from side control before Ortega got his guard back. From closed guard, Volkanovski rained down punches on Ortega’s bloody face, but Ortega managed to throw up a triangle. Again, there was a moment when it looked like the fight might end there, but Volkanovski broke free, getting back to his feet and battering Ortega with punches from above while Ortega barely managed to hang on until the end of the round. It was uncertain whether Ortega would be able to continue, but after the fight doctor checked to make sure he could still see through his swollen eyes, he was allowed to get back in for round four.
Though visibly fatigued, the fighters got right back to it in round four, exchanging strikes until Ortega managed to wrap up Volkanovski in a body lock, driving him against the cage and taking him down. He wrapped up Volkanovski’s head and arm, walking along the cage to try to tighten the choke, but it wasn’t enough to finish the fight. Volkanovski escaped the submission and again got on top, throwing punches and elbows even as Ortega worked his way back to guard. Ortega did just enough to defend himself, and for a moment, it looked like he might not get back up after Volkanovski’s onslaught, but he returned to his feet and managed to keep Herb Dean from stopping the fight until round five began.
Hurt and exhausted but not down and out, Ortega came forward with a head kick in round five. Volkanovski, though, was relentless, putting the pressure and pain on his opponent with more strikes. A takedown attempt from Ortega was respectable, but ultimately ineffective, with Volkanovski easily defending and clinching up to force Ortega into the fence. Ortega wasn’t done, though, and he continued to swing at his opponent. Another accidental head knock momentarily paused the action. Ortega was quick and still effective with his jabs, letting Volkanovski know that he was still in the game. Ortega caught another leg kick from Volkanovski and nearly managed to drive him to the canvas again, but Volkanovski recovered and got to his feet while Ortega pushed him against the fence. With two minutes left in the fight, both fighters were giving it their all, trading big combos back and forth. Volkanovski clinched up with his opponent, and Ortega quickly managed to escape the champion’s clutches. Ortega then caught a kick from Volkanovski, following it up with a punch and driving him back to the fence again. Thirty seconds to go, and Volkanovski them caught a kick from Ortega. Ortega went all-out in the final ten seconds of the fight, and though a right hand made Volkanovski stumble, it wasn’t enough to end the fight in his favor.
Alexander Volkanovski was declared the winner by unanimous decision and retained his featherweight title.
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- Matthew Semelsberger def. Martin Sano via knockout (Round 1)
- Nick Maximov def. Cody Brundage via decision
- Jalin Turner def. Uroš Medić via rear naked choke (Round 1)
- Taila Santos def. Roxanne Modafferi via decision
- Chris Daukaus def. Shamil Abdurakhimov via TKO (Round 2)
- Dan Hooker def. Nasrat Haqparast via decision
- Merab Dvalishvili def. Marlon Moraes via TKO (Round 2)
- Jéssica Andrade def. Cynthia Calvillo via TKO (Round 1)
- Curtis Blaydes def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik via decision
- Robbie Lawler def. Nick Diaz via TKO (Round 3)
- Valentina Shevchenko def. Lauren Murphy via TKO (Round 4)
- Alexander Volkanovski def. Brian Ortega via decision