UFC 266 takes place this weekend out of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the card are TUF coaches Alexander Volkanovski, who will look to defend his title against Brian Ortega. In the co-main Valentina Shevchenko aims to add another title defense to her record when she faces veteran Lauren Murphy and Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler square off in a rematch over a decade in the making. All that and more on this weeks Pay-Per View card.
Alexander Volkanovksi faces his second title defense here against a jiu jitsu star who has greatly improved his striking since being dismantled by former title holder Max Holloway. I truly believe Ortega has the tools to win this fight yet feel like he will have all sorts of trouble with Volkanovski’s kicks. If you watch Ortega’s last fight against The Korean Zombie you would see that he is a far superior fighter to what he was when he last fought for the title. However, in that fight he was able to utilize his reach to catch Zombie coming in and he completely dictated the pace of the fight.
What Volkanovski does well is being able to mix up strikes from the legs to the body to the head. I also am yet to see a fight where he hasn’t controlled the pace and style of the fight. That for mine is why he is the champion and why I see him winning this fight. Ortega simply wants this fought at close range, yet Volkanovski has the wrestling and heavy hands to turn that area from an Ortega advantage to a danger zone. Ortega’s stance in his last fight also will leave him open to be punished by Volkanovski’s leg kicks which are notoriously brutal. This will limit the movement of Ortega and make him a stationary target as the fight goes on. I’m backing the Australian to retain his title and get a knockout finish over the battered and bruised Ortega in the championship rounds.
At this point there isn’t much left to be said about Valentina Shevchenko. She is the complete package who is absolutely miles ahead of the rest of the Women’s Flyweight division and she has been well clear for many years. The only legitimate challenge for her would be to again move up to face Amanda Nunes. In saying that, I believe Lauren Murphy is the hardest challenge for Shevchenko since Nunes. The 38-year-old is almightily tough and durable, hits hard and has some smart jiu jitsu. Murphy has never been finished in her professional career and although if there is anyone to do it, Shevchenko is likely it, I believe she can tough it out here. I personally don’t see her able to beat Shevchenko but I also don’t see her getting completely steamrolled. So therefore, I am backing the fight to go into the championship rounds. I expect Shevchenko to come out victorious but it won’t be just a complete domination.
Passport issues almost derailed this fight but on Monday Dan Hooker finally got it sorted so this fight goes ahead as planned. His opponent Nasrat Haqparast is all round a decent fighter but honestly isn’t up to this test in my opinion. At just 26-years old he has a long time to fulfil his potential and while he is solid, he fell in his only legitimate test in the UFC to Drew Dober, where he was knocked out in the first round.
Dan Hooker is a hard man to get your hands on due to his length and strong striking. This fight is also a big step down in opposition for Hangman, who I still rate as a top 5 Lightweight. In his last fight he got caught by a Michael Chandler bomb and before that fell to Dustin Poirier by decision in a five-round war. Haqparast meanwhile went the distance in a back and forth affair against Rafa Garcia who is 0-2 in the UFC… I personally don’t see Haqparast beating any opponent Hooker has faced in the last 3 years let alone Hangman. Hooker makes a statement here with a dominant one-sided victory.
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