Any pay-per-view event that has two championship fights is going to capture the attention of fans of the sport, but this Saturday at UFC 266, it’s the third fight on the show that most fans are talking about. Nick Diaz will step into the Octagon for the first time since 2015 to face Robbie Lawler in a rematch that took 17 years to materialize. What can we expect from their return?
In the main event of UFC266, Alexander Volkanovski defends his featherweight title against Brian Ortega. The two spent a lot of time together during the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter, but will the outcome be impacted by that experience? Ortega’s most recent fight did not favor him, will it be different this time?
In the other championship fight on the show, Valentina Shevchenko hopes nothing will be different in her match against Lauren Murphy.
Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi, Jeff Wagenheim and Carlos Contreras Legaspi separate the real from the unreal as a prelude to Saturday’s pay-per-view.
We will be impressed with Nick Diaz on his return
Okamoto: Hey, the only answer to that – the real answer to this – is ‘I have no idea’. Nobody knows. Diaz wasn’t even very active when he was … active.
Before his unfair suspension for marijuana in 2015, which eventually led to his six-year absence, Diaz had only fought once in 22 months. And when his career was derailed by – I’ll say it again, unfair – suspension, he dramatically changed his lifestyle.
For the past six years, Diaz hasn’t always lived the life of a professional athlete. To some extent it has had a torturous relationship with combat in general. He does not love him, but he knows that he is good as a fighter and is his means of generating income. Trying to decipher Diaz’s level of motivation, his reasons for fighting, or even his level of enthusiasm on this comeback … it’s impossible. And I think obviously that means a lot, trying to predict what Saturday will look like. Because if Diaz has no real desire to be there and has his reservations on that point, it will be evident.
And if that’s the case, no, we won’t be impressed. Let’s probably say you shouldn’t try again.
I am genuinely excited and curious about Diaz’s return, but I have no expectations. There are equal chances that everything will go really well or really bad.
Brian Ortega will make the best of his second title fight and win
Raimondi: The first time Brian Ortega aspired to the UFC featherweight title, against Max Holloway at UFC 231 on December 8, 2018, he was 27 years old and looming as the next UFC golden boy. Ortega was seen alongside actor Robert Downey Jr., received offers of promotional deals from high-profile companies such as Body Armor, and with his good looks, charisma and exciting fighting style, he was projected as the next crossover star of the series. promotion.
All of that took a hit when Holloway beat Ortega by a TKO in the fourth round. Holloway hit him with everything he had, and Ortega didn’t give up until the medic intervened before the fifth lap. Ortega showed a huge heart, but also showed that he was not ready to be champion. And maybe the expectations were too high, too early.
It is no longer too early for Ortega, and that is why I say that the statement is real. He is 30 years old and arrives a new man for his next starting shot, against Alexander Volkanovski on Saturday at UFC 266 in Las Vegas. He changed his coaching staff and his offense has improved dramatically. Ortega really showed his growth in his unanimous decision win over ‘Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung this past October. It was probably the best performance of his career in a fight that he controlled from the opening bell.
In four consecutive fights from 2015 to 2017, Ortega finished off his rival in the third round. In most of those fights, Ortega was low on the scorecards at the time of the denouement or at least had lost a portion of the fight. His demonstration before the ‘Zombie’ was complete – and in fact the only one to reach a decision in his UFC streak. At no time did the situation escape Ortega’s control. Jung was anticipated to be the best hitter and Ortega the jiu-jitsu specialist, but Ortega mistook Jung for his feet, with a new left-handed stance and well-crafted techniques and tactics.
Boasting that he presents the same style against Volkanovski – combined with his innate ability to end a fight – we could finally be talking about Ortega as UFC champion, almost three years after he was prematurely crowned as the future champion of the 145 lbs.
Valentina Shevchenko to end Lauren Murphy
Wagenheim: Shevchenko is a 14-1 favorite, so it would be a good bet for him to beat Murphy. But end it? Let’s look at the recent history of Shevchenko.
The champion has won seven fights online, dominating each one but alternating between decisions and victories before the limit. The three recent opponents who have gone to five rounds against Shevchenko – Jennifer Maia, Liz Carmouche and Joanna Jedrzejczyk – are all strong and resilient.
So is Murphy. In her 19-fight career she has never been knocked out. Although it is true that Murphy has never been locked in a cage with Valentina Shevchenko.
Murphy has won five consecutive bouts and has been in several competitive fights. Half of his most recent victories have been by split decision. I don’t expect him to put up a close fight against Shevchenko, but he can survive.
If I were a gambler, I would hate having to hold my breath for 25 minutes while I wait for a Shevchenko opponent to make it to the end to cash my ticket, but there would be my money. The initial claim is not real.
The main event will not be the most exciting match of the night
Legaspi: Anyone who ever thinks that Ortega’s only chance to beat Volkanovski is by submission is really wrong. The rivalry between these two fighters has been cultivated for almost a year and the fact that it was postponed plus the time they were on The Ultimate Fighter only added fuel to the fuel.
Ortega is coming off an offensive clinic against one of the best in the division – and had the courage to try to do the same in his first title fight against self-proclaimed best fighter in the UFC, Max Holloway. Let’s not forget that he was the first to knock out Frankie Edgar. Ortega probably boasts the best jiu-jitsu at the top of the featherweight division, but he’s barely trying to take down his opponents.
This fight could probably play out as an extensive stand-up confrontation, because Volkanovski doesn’t want to take a chance on the ground. So, for me, this fight will be very exciting, and for that reason I will say that it is “not real”. I can’t deny that fans will go wild when Diaz steps back into the Octagon after his departure, but it’s really hard to say how competitive this rematch will be after 17 years.
There are several other fights that look promising, however. If Dan Hooker makes it up to fight Nasrat Haqparast after several days facing visa problems, he will regain his place among the title contenders, subject to a strong performance. There’s also Merab Dvalishvili, who will try to make his mark by finishing with an opponent for the first time in the UFC. And it will have to be done in front of someone who loves the exchange at Marlon Moraes.