With UFC 266 now in the rearview, fans were treated to an absolute thrill ride. Not least of which being the main event, where Alexander Volkanovski defended his championship in a five-round blood and guts thriller against Brian Ortega. In a fight that arguably could have been stopped at the end of the third round, this match lasted all 5 rounds, with the champion retaining his title via unanimous decision.
As expected by many, Volkanovski used his superior striking prowess to his advantage. With a combination of speed, timing, footwork, and misdirection, Volkanoski was able to numerically outstrike his opponent by 229 to 101 according to UFC fight metric. Yet, in spite of that, challenger Brian Ortega displayed a superhuman level of grit. A clash of heads in the third round resulted in what appeared to be a broken nose on Ortega. Nevertheless, the challenger was able to get the fight on the ground, where he nearly finished Volkanoski twice, first with a guillotine choke, and then with a triangle choke (the triangle choke being his signature submission, hence his nickname ‘T city’).
However, the champion's resilience was on full display, breaking free of both submission attempts and mounting his own offensive attack, landing devastating ground and pound before the end of the round. It was the conclusion of this round when the ringside physician came to examine an overtly damaged Ortega, where, despite questionable body language being displayed, was cleared to continue.
This competition demonstrated not only the unbelievable level of technical talent that exists atop the UFC men’s featherweight division, but the level of grit and determination required to achieve such status.
The co-main event featured the women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko retaining her title in a dominant, one sided victory over challenger Lauren Murphy. Overwhelmed by the aggressive offense of the champion, Murphy was unable to mount any meaningful offence of her own, resulting in a 4th round TKO victory for Shevchenko. Coming in as the largest favorite of the event, this was not a particularly shocking result. Shevchenko remains undefeated in her championship tenure, and to many, this will most likely remain the case indefinitely.
Returning after a nearly 7 year layoff, Nick Diaz made his way back to the UFC to compete in a rematch 17 years passed against Robbie Lawler. At ages 38 and 39 respectively, both fighters are no stranger to competition. In a fight that lasted till the third round, a wave of offense was exchanged by both men, ultimately resulting in a TKO finish for Lawler, avenging his defeat at the hands of Diaz all those years prior.
Despite his defeat, the crowd was unable to contain their excitement for Diaz. A fan favorite for years, his attitude and aggressive fighting style lends itself to a level of fan devotion most fighters will never achieve.
Other notable wins on the main card include heavyweight Curtis Blaydes defeating Jairzinho Rozenstruik via unanimous decision, and women’s flyweight Jessica Andrade finishing Cynthia Calvillo in the very first round via TKO.
On the preliminary card, Merab Dvalishvili narrowly escaped defeat by the hands of Marlon Moraes. Absorbing enormous shots and nearly being knocked out in the first Dvalishvili, was able to maintain his composure and turn the tide by taking Moraes down, ending the round with heavy ground and pound, resulting in one of the most thrilling rounds of the event. The second round contained much less dramatic turns, with Dvalishvili wasting no time taking it to the ground and finishing the fight.
To the delight of fans, UFC 266 certainly delivered upon promises of action. Not all events can live up to relative anticipation, but on this night, we were treated to something special.