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
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
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
UFC 266 card, as it stands
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
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