UFC 266: Volkanovski-Ortega, Shevchenko-Murphy and Nick Diaz’s return on Sept. 25

Coach Alexander Volkanovski looks on backstage during the filming of the The Return of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on April 29, 2021 in Las...

After more than a 400-day absence, UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski defends his title vs. Brian Ortega (#2) at the UFC 266 PPV in September. Elsewhere, Lauren Murphy challenges Valentina Shevchenko for women’s flyweight gold, after Nick Diaz’s welcome return after a six-year hiatus to rematch Robbie Lawler, 17 years on from their first meeting.

After covid-19 issues & TUF stint, Volkanovski-Ortega rebooked

Team Volkanovski and Team Ortega pose for a group portrait during the filming of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter on April 21, 2021 in Las Vegas,...
Team Volkanovski and Team Ortega pose for a group picture in April, as the Return of TUF is filmed

Six months after their initial matchup was booked at UFC 260, Volkanovski-Ortega will headline the September 25 fight card at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Two title fights are slated to feature on this PPV card, as UFC president Dana White announced the pairing to ESPN yesterday.

The fight between Volkanovski (22-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC) and Ortega (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) presents an intriguing clash of styles that should make for a good watch, in stark contrast to what has been criticised as a lacklustre season of The Ultimate Fighter – with no true storyline between them.

Volkanovski, who earned a heavily-debated split decision win over former titlist Max Holloway last July, will be hoping for much less fuss vs. Ortega – who displayed improvements after a deliberate hiatus during a clinical win over The Korean Zombie last October.

Shevchenko to defend vs. bullish Murphy, who gets her wish

Lauren Murphy prepares to fight Joanne Calderwood of Scotland in their flyweight fight during the UFC 263 event at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021...
Murphy’s title eliminator win over Calderwood earned a shot vs. dominant champ Valentina next

Shevchenko (21-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) prepares to make the sixth defence of her 125lb strap in two months’ time, which she won against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 in December 2018.

Murphy (15-4 MMA, 7-4) has won five straight, including a split decision win over Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263, to earn this title shot. Can she avoid the same fate suffered by Jessica Andrade two months earlier? The odds are stacked against her though anything can happen…

She said she cried about failing to get a finish over Jojo during their competitive three-round clash last month and given the contrasting verdict on MMADecisions, the 37-year-old is right to.

11 of the 19 media journalists scored it 29-28 in Calderwood’s favour, clearly the more active and accurate of the pair in rounds one and three. That doesn’t bode well for Lucky’s chances of standing a true chance against a champion as dominant as Valentina, but who knows?

“I wanted to surprise people, I can do everything! After I saw the blood, I knew I had to go harder to stop the fight. Here I am, anyone and everyone, I’m here. While you’re looking for my weaknesses, don’t waste your time, there is none.”

  • Shevchenko’s comments after mauling Andrade on April 25

Related reading:
Piece in February, assessing Shevchenko’s flyweight challengers – including Murphy
Lauren Murphy’s submission win over Liliya Shakirova at UFC 254

UFC 266 card, as it stands

Nick Diaz arrives to the UFC 261 Weigh-In at at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 23, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Former welterweight title challenger Nick Diaz, pictured here at UFC 261, is making his return

Featherweight title: Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs Brian Ortega (#2)
Women’s flyweight title: Valentina Shevchenko (c) vs Lauren Murphy (#3)
Welterweight: Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler

Heavyweight: Curtis Blaydes (#4) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (#6)
Bantamweight: Merab Dvalishvili (#10) vs Marlon Moraes (#6)
Lightweight: Uros Medic vs Jalin Turner

Women’s flyweight
Jessica Andrade (#1) vs Cynthia Calvillo (#5)
Roxanne Modafferi (#9) vs Tatiana Suarez

Manon Fiorot vs Mayra Bueno Silva
Erin Blanchfield vs Sarah Alpar

Picture source: Getty Images


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