There will be two championship belts on the line at UFC 266. Alexander Volkanovski will defend his featherweight title against Brian Ortega, and Valentina Shevchenko will defend her women’s flyweight title for the sixth time against Lauren Murphy. Other big names will be in action at this PPV event too as Nick Diaz faces Robbie Lawler, Curtis Blaydes takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and Jessica Andrade squares off against Cynthia Calvillo.
UFC 266 will take place on Saturday, September 25, 2021, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The prelims will start at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN News and ESPN+, while the main card will kick off at 10 p.m. ET and will only be available via PPV.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega
It’s been more than eight years since Alexander Volkanovski last lost a fight. Volkanovski lost the fourth professional MMA fight of his career back in May 2013, but he has won 19 straight bouts since that point. Most of those wins have come by knockout, but he has had to settle for decision wins in the majority of his UFC fights. He has been the UFC Featherweight Champion since beating Max Holloway by unanimous decision at UFC 245, and he successfully defended the belt with a split decision win over Holloway at UFC 251.
Brian Ortega is 15-1 in his MMA career. He is a submission specialist with seven of his wins coming via that method. However, his lone loss came to someone that Volkanovski beat twice in Holloway. Ortega was impressive in his win over The Korean Zombie last December, but this is going to be a tough test for him.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy
She doesn’t get the same plaudits as Amanda Nunes, but Valentina Shevchenko is the second-best female MMA fighter in the sport today. Shevchenko’s only defeats over the last decade have been at the hands of The Lioness, and she has been the best flyweight in the UFC for the last four years. Shevchenko won the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship over Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231, and she has since successfully defended the belt against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia, and Jessica Andrade.
Lauren Murphy is seen as a massive underdog coming into this fight. She lost four of her first six UFC fights before finding her footing and winning five straight bouts ahead of her first title shot. However, her only win over a name opponent came three months ago at UFC 263 when she won a split decision victory over Joanne Calderwood. A win over Shevchenko would rank among the biggest upsets in UFC history.
Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler
For the first time in almost seven years, Nick Diaz will return to the Octagon. Diaz hasn’t participated in an MMA fight since facing Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January 2015. He hasn’t won an MMA bout in almost a decade, as his last victory was against B.J. Penn at UFC 137 in October 2011, but Diaz is a fan favorite and will have a lot of people cheering him on against Robbie Lawler.
The second loss of Lawler’s career was against Nick Diaz at UFC 47 in April 2004. Lawler has had a checkered MMA career, holding the UFC Welterweight Championship for 19 months from 2014 to 2016, but he has lost four straight fights. He hasn’t won a bout since a unanimous decision win over Cowboy Cerrone at UFC 214 in July 2017.
This is a fight for older UFC fans that remember both Diaz and Lawler in their heyday. They are both past their prime, and they likely won’t be involved in the UFC much longer.