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411’s UFC 266 Report: Volkanovski Beats Ortega in Instant Classic

September 26, 2021 | Posted by Robert Winfree
UFC 266

MAIN CARD (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
(c) Alexander Volkanovski (144.5 lbs.) vs. #2 Brian Ortega (144 lbs.) – for featherweight title
(c) Valentina Shevchenko (124 lbs.) vs. #3 Lauren Murphy (125 lbs.) – for women’s flyweight title
Nick Diaz (185.5 lbs.) vs. Robbie Lawler (184 lbs.)
#4 Curtis Blaydes (261 lbs.) vs. #6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik (257 lbs.)
#1 Jessica Andrade (126 lbs.) vs. #5 Cynthia Calvillo (126 lbs.)

#6 Marlon Moraes (135.5 lbs.) vs. #11 Merab Dvalishvili (135.5 lbs.)
Nasrat Haqparast (154.5 lbs.) vs. #8 Dan Hooker (155.5 lbs.)
#7 Shamil Abdurakhimov (258 lbs.) vs. #10 Chris Daukaus (231 lbs.)
#9 Roxanne Modafferi (125.5 lbs.) vs. #12 Taila Santos (125 lbs.)

Uros Medic (156 lbs.) vs. Jalin Turner (156 lbs.)
Cody Brundage (185.5 lbs.) vs. Nick Maximov (185.5 lbs.)
Martin Sano (170 lbs.) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (170.5 lbs.)
Omar Morales (145.5 lbs.) vs. Jonathan Pearce (145.5 lbs.)

Hello everyone and welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of UFC 266, I’m Robert Winfree and I’ll be your host per usual. Tonight the UFC is bringing a fairly stacked card with two title fights and a rematch 17 years in the making. The main event will see UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski go for his second title defense when he battles former title challenger Brian Ortega. Also a women’s flyweight title fight when champion Valentina Shevchenko will go for title defense number six against the surging challenger Lauren Murphy. As for our long overdue rematch, Nick Diaz is coming back from a 6 year hiatus to battle former champion Robbie Lawler. These two fought way back in 2004 at UFC 47. That was the year I graduated from high school, man I feel old now. Elsewhere on the card we’ve got Curtis Blaydes trying to get an elusive title shot when he takes on Jarizinho Rozenstruik, Marlon Moraes will try to salvage his UFC run against the streaking Merab Dvalishvili, and Dan Hooker will try to defend his top ten ranking against Nasrat Haqparast. Really this is a strong card from top to bottom, I’ve got almost no complaints.

UFC 266 comes to the world from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. On commentary we have Jon Anik, Paul Felder, and Daniel Cormier. We’re back in the bigger 30 foot diameter cage tonight, something I’m sure several fighters will make use of. As for the rules Nevada uses a hybrid system having adopted most of the changes except the new definition of a downed fighter. Nevada does have a unique feature though in the form of a replay official outside the cage who can ask for instant replay to be used as can the in cage ref, and the fight can be restarted after using instant replay if that’s applicable.

Jonathan Pearce has gone 1-1 in the UFC but is coming off of a win and looking to build his first UFC winning streak. Omar Morales has gone 3-1 in the UFC only dropping a decision to surging contender Giga Chikadze, he’s coming off of a win as well and is hoping to begin the difficult transition from prospect to contender. Morales is your favorite at -150 to +125 on Pearce.

Featherweight Bout: Omar Morales (11-1, 145.5 lbs.) vs. Jonathan Pearce (10-4, 145.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Pearce is an inch taller while Morales has two inches of reach advantage. We already have a few “woo’s”, I do not miss live fans. Both men feinting a bit, Pearce doing the forward pressure. Morales avoids a clinch and lands a right hand. Bit of a left from Pearce, Morales lands a calf kick. Some stance switching from Pearce now as he’s pressing forward. They trade power hand punches but neither man backs off. Morales lands a stiff jab, then a leg kick. Pearce forces things to the fence, tries a single leg and gets Morales down against the cage. Morales is looking to wall walk, he’s up and they’re still clinched. Pearce gets a body lock takedown into half guard but they’re away from the fence this time. Half guard sweep from Morales, he gets on top and lands punches as Pearce fights up and gets another takedown but they’re back against the fence. Morales looks for another wall walk, he’s up and working elbows as Pearce gets another double leg into full guard. Morales kicks Pearce off and wall walks into another clinch. They end the round in the clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Morales

ROUND TWO: Pearce immediately forces a clinch and they hit the fence. Morales is struggling with the clinch wrestling of Pearce, he’s staying upright but can’t get free. Pearce gets a single leg, Morales rolls through and shakes Pearce off of his back then tries for an anaconda choke but loses the grip. All that results in Pearce getting back on top and moves to the back as Morales tries to wall walk. Both hooks in for Pearce and he’s looking for the choke. Pearce keeps the back as Morales tries to roll, he’s laying in some strikes now while fishing for the choke. Morales’ hand fighting so far is good, and Pearce transitions to an arm triangle attack but can’t secure it and moves back to the ride position as Morales stands. Pearce jumps into the backpack position, grabs the rear naked choke and Morales has to tap.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Jonathan Pearce via Submission, rear naked choke, at 3:31 of Round 2

Mic time for Pearce, he says he’d be even further along in his career if he hadn’t torn his shoulder in the Lauzon fight. He says he works harder than everyone and weaponizes his cardio. He talks us through the finish, he could feel Morales starting to wilt at the end of the first and just kept up the pressure.

By this point Morales has faded pretty badly, he’s not nearly as diligent in the hand fighting and that allows Pearce to grab the choke quickly and force the tap.

Matthew Semelsberger just had a five fight winning streak snapped when he lost to Khaos Williams, now he’s trying to bounce back with a win and avoid his first ever losing streak. Martin Sano hasn’t won a fight since 2014 and has been out of action since fighting to a draw in February of 2017, but despite the layoff he could make a good first impression on the UFC audience if he wins tonight. The odds are heavily with Semelsberger at -500 while the +380 payout on Sano might tempt some long shot bettors.

Welterweight Bout: Martin Sano (4-2-1, 170 lbs.) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (8-3, 170.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Semelsberger is two inches taller but the reach is identical. They come out and feint a bit, then Semelsberger lands a straight right that ENDS Sano followed by a perfunctory hammer fist.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Matthew Semelsberger via KO, punch, at :15 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Semelsberger for his work this evening. Mic time for Semelsberger, he says that win felt amazing and he was working hard on a higher paced more varied offense but is happy to get a quick win. He talks us through the finish, and the value of setting things up to get this kind of a finish. Asked when he’d like to be back he plans on becoming one of the best in the world and is ready for anything the UFC can throw at him.

Here’s a look at the finish. Sano drops his hands on that jab to the body, so when Semelsberger feints that and he drops them again he brings a straight right that crushes Sano’s jaw.

Cody Brundage enters his UFC debut on the back of a win but he might be better remembered from a loss on the Contender Series last year, now he’s trying to maximize the opportunity here by making good on his only chance to make a first impression. Nick Maximov has been out of action for almost a full year, but he’s undefeated and looking to remain that way after his UFC debut. The odds are close but lean towards Maximov at -125 to +105 for Brundage.

Middleweight Bout: Cody Brundage (6-1, 185.5 lbs.) vs. Nick Maximov (6-0, 185.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height but Maximov has four inches of reach advantage. Brundage lands a right hand. Maximov with a right, they clinch and trade knees then separate. Leg kick from Maximov. Brundage avoids a takedown attempt. They trade rights. Maximov is doing some stance switching now, just looking for angles. Brundage lands a calf kick. Another calf kick from Brundage. Maximov is doing more southpaw stuff now, those calf kicks might have encouraged that. Maximov gets a clinch and moves to the back, he’s working knees to the leg and head. Brundage avoids a single leg with a kimura threat, and gets free with that threat. Right from Brundage. Maximov tries a single leg, they hit the fence and he switches to a double and gets Brundage down. Brundage is threatening the kimura again but this time Maximov defends and moves to mount the legs. A few body shots from Maximov but he’s not rally found much. Maximov lands a few solid punches, but Brundage reverses the position and ends the round on top with Maximov holding a single leg.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Maximov but a close one

ROUND TWO: Brundage comes out and lands a calf kick. Some punches from Brundage then he tries a single leg but Maximov defends and moves to the ride position. Both hooks in now for Maximov and he’s fishing for the choke. Maximov goes to a body triangle and works hammer fists while riding Brundage. Brundage gets to his knees, he’s trying to get free but Maximov is riding him so far. Maximov loses one hook but keeps the ride as Brundage is able to get a wall walk. Some knees from Maximov as they’re clinched. Brundage jumps for a guillotine but loses the grip and winds up just with full guard. Maximov lands a few punches while looking to pass. Brundage to his knees, and Maximov moves to his back again. Maximov starts fishing for the choke, can’t find it though as Brundage hand fights effectively. The round will end with Maximov on Brundage’s back.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Maximov, 20-18 Maximov overall

ROUND THREE: Maximov is coming forward, both men feinting again. Bit of a right from Brundage. Left hook from Brundage connects. Maximov lands a body kick, tries a single leg but Brundage defends though the reshot from Maximov hits the fence. Brundage tries to defend but Maximov picks the ankle to drive him to his knees then moves to the back with one hook in. Brundage wall walks but Maximov is on his back. Maximov is fence wrestling very well, Brundage lands some elbows to the head but Maximov is still attacking with takedowns. Brundage is trying to break the grip of Maximov, Maximov threatens a single leg but again Brundage uses elbows to help defend and get a takedown into full mount. Maximov scrambles immediately while taking some punches. Brundage with punches and elbows from top position. Maximov keeps looking to move and attack with sweeps or takedowns, he’s able to scoot around and get the back though he’s cut around the right eyebrow. Brundage back up, he works strikes while defending the low single leg. Maximov spins to get on top and fires punches as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Brundage, 29-28 Brundage overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Nick Maximov via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

Decent little fight there. Mic time for Maximov, he thanks Brundage for taking the fight on short notice. He talks us through some highlights to close.

Uros Medic is undefeated including a successful UFC debut earlier this year, he’s trying to remain that way tonight while proving himself a notable prospect in a very stacked lightweight division. Jalin Turner has gone 3-2 in the UFC but is on a two fight winning streak and looking to extend that to three tonight, if he’s able to do so he might be the one to establish himself as a rising prospect. Medic is a slight -125 favorite to an even +105 payout on Turner.

Lightweight Bout: Uros Medic (7-0, 156 lbs.) vs. Jalin Turner (10-5, 156 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Turner is two inches taller and has a whopping six inches of reach over Medic. They touch gloves, both men open southpaw. Turner is looking to jab and fight long. They clash and both men land punches, the Medic lands a calf kick. Another calf kick from Medic. Turner takes a head kick and gets a takedown into side control. Medic is able to hip escape to full guard. Turner works to keep Medic down, but Medic scoots to the fence and starts wall walking. They scramble then Medic is able to regain his feet. Front kick from Turner, then Medic lands a calf kick. Turner with some body shots, those are hurting Medic, and they trade in close. More body shots from Turner, and Medic is wilting to the ground. Turner to the back, gets a choke and forces the tap.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Jalin Turner via Submission, rear naked choke, at 4:01 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Turner for his work this evening. That was easily the most impressive performance of Turner’s UFC time. Mic time for Turner, he says Cormier told him a few fights back that his wrestling sucked and he’s been working hard on that and wants to be the champion one day. He talks us through the finish, noting he could see Medic fading as he was putting in the body work. Asked when he’d like to be back he wants back as soon as possible to make up for time lost due to injuries.

Here’s the finish, we miss out on the wicked body work Turner put in but he sneaks in a solid choke with a nice Gable grip to secure it.

Roxanne Modafferi is a pioneer of women’s MMA and has the most fights of any woman on the UFC roster, she’s been trading wins and losses lately and will hope that pattern holds just a bit longer as she’s coming off of a loss and is trying to avoid her first losing streak since 2013. Taila Santos has gone 2-1 in the UFC and is on a two fight winning streak, if she can best Modafferi tonight it will almost certainly result in her moving up the ranks for her next fight. Santos is a surprisingly heavy -440 favorite while the +340 payout on Modafferi might be a tempting value bet.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: #9 Roxanne Modafferi (25-18, 125.5 lbs.) vs. #12 Taila Santos (17-1, 125 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Modafferi has an inch of height and reach, she’s also 11 years older than Santos. They touch gloves to get things going. Santos coming forward and they both land punches. Both women working the lead hand effectively. Santos lands a few inside leg kicks. Santos forces a clinch and gets a takedown into half guard. Modafferi hip escapes to full guard. Santos lands a few short blows while Modafferi starts trying to work her guard up. Modafferi is after an armbar but can’t finish the position. Modafferi wall walks and gets chest to chest. Some knees from Modafferi. Santos lands a few knees of her own and gets another takedown into half guard. Santos lands punches, Modafferi bridges and gets up while holding the clinch. Modafferi lands some knees to the body, Santos lands a few elbows then a knee to the body. Another few knees from Santos as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Santos

ROUND TWO: Both women falling short with punches as the round starts. Modafferi is coming forward, she’s not letting Santos rest and recover. Santos lands a leg kick, Modafferi tries a single leg and they hit the fence. Modafferi works knees to the leg and body while trying to get a body lock takedown but Santos is staying upright. They break with a knee from Santos. Santos lands a hard right that stuns Modafferi, she pushes into a clinch to follow up and gets a trip from the clinch into full guard. Modafferi is bleeding around the left eye after that punch, though not badly. Actually as I get a better look the swelling might be more of a problem. Santos lands a few short elbows and keeps digging body shots. OK, that blood isn’t coming from the eyebrow, I think it’s up in the hairline and so not a problem. Modafferi moves to her knees, Santos to her back as they stand. Another takedown from Santos into half guard. Modafferi hip escapes to full guard, and eats an elbow for her trouble. The round ends in that spot.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Santos, 20-18 Santos overall

ROUND THREE: Santos is still moving well, she lands a leg kick. Modafferi is moving around and trying to counter, she lands a flurry but eats a counter left hook. The power differential is significant and favors Santos. They trade hooks, but Santos drops Modafferi with a punch and gets on top in full guard. Santos lands some elbows then digs the body as Modafferi gets control over her posture. More elbows from Santos, but Modafferi is still trying to work her guard. Santos moves to half guard, but Modafferi is able to start a wall walk as Santos jumps to her back. Santos lets Modafferi up and they’re back to striking. Some leg kicks from Santos, both women are able to land punches. Modafferi is coming forward despite the adversity, she gets a clinch on the fence and starts looking for a takedown. Santos with a whizzer kick takedown and lands on top in half guard. Modafferi gets full guard but wont do anything before the fight ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Santos, 30-27 Santos overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Taila Santos via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Santos keeps on rolling, but no interview for the winner.

Shamil Abdurakhimov just had a three fight winning streak broken by Curtis Blaydes, tonight he’s trying to defend his higher ranking and avoid his first ever losing streak. Chris Daukaus is on a four fight winning streak including three wins in the UFC, all of which have been first round finishes. Daukaus is looking to extend that streak here and continue his ascent through the heavyweight rankings. The odds are with Daukaus at -200 to +170 for Abduakhimov.

Heavyweight Bout: #7 Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5, 258 lbs.) vs. #10 Chris Daukaus (11-3, 231 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two have identical heights and reaches but Abdurakhimov is eight years older and 27 pounds heavier. They touch gloves to get us going. Both men circling and feinting at first. Abdurakhimov lands a body shot, and avoids a counter uppercut. Daukaus is still coming forward looking to get his hands to Abdurakhimov. Bit of a left from Daukaus. Daukaus lands a glancing right. Bit of a left from Abdurakhimov. Daukaus lands a right. Abdurakhimov avoids a clinch attempt, then lands a left. Another left from Abdurakhimov, Daukaus doesn’t have a reliable way into his range. Daukaus lands a left hook in close, he’s coming forward and sweeps the legs from Abdurakhimov with a kick. Abdurakhimov back up but eats a right along the way. Daukaus gets a clinch, then lands an elbow as they break. Abdurakhimov lands a right to the body. A left hook from Daukaus floors Abdurakhimov, he gets on top in full mount and starts dropping bombs but Abdurakhimov is trying to survive. Some elbows from Daukaus but Abdurakhimov is able to bear hug him and survive until the end of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Daukaus

ROUND TWO: Abdurakhimov is still a little wobbly as we come back. Daukaus is coming forward, and eats a left. Abdurakhimov misses an uppercut. Daukaus lands a right to the body. Combination from Daukaus, he lands a right that floors Abdurakhimov again. Daukaus is on top in leg drag and lands enough blows to prompt the stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Chris Daukaus via TKO, punches, at 1:23 of Round 2

Mic time for Daukaus, he says he didn’t want to rush the fight and thanks the fans for supporting him in the cage tonight and calls this the greatest crowd in the world. He mentions knocking Abdurakhimov in the first but not getting the call so he had to do it again in the second. Asked about what he wants next, he says he wants Stipe, the winner of Blaydes and Rozenstruik, or Marcin Tybura. All three reasonable call outs at this point.

Watch Abdurakhimov’s left hand, he jabs but brings it back low and that allows Daukaus a straight punching lane for his counter right.

Dan Hooker retains a top ten ranking despite a two fight losing streak, probably because those losses are to Dustin Poirier in one of 2020’s best fights and to Michael Chander, but he needs to get back on the winning side of things here if he wants to retain that ranking. Nasrat Haqparast has gone 5-2 in the UFC and is currently on a two fight winning streak, but if he can beat the ranked Hooker tonight it will easily be the biggest win of his career. Hooker is your favorite at -155 to a +130 comeback on Haqparast.

Lightweight Bout: Nasrat Haqparast (13-3, 154.5 lbs.) vs. #8 Dan Hooker (20-10, 155.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Hooker is two inches taller and has three inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Haqparast. Hooker starts probing with front kicks and feints as Haqparast circles. More long range kicks from Hooker, then a bit of a right. Hooker lands a front kick to the body. A lot of pressure from Hooker, Haqparast tries to fire back with a left but he’s struggling to find the target. Haqparast lands a right. Hooker lands a body kick. Inside leg kick from Hooker, then another body kick. Bit of a right from Hooker. Haqparast lands a right again. They trade body kicks. Hooker lands a straight right. Bit of a body shot from Hooker, Haqparast keeps circling to his own left as Hooker pressures forward. Hooker tries a single leg, they wind up clinched and Hooker works knees to the leg. Haqparast defends the single leg, Hooker digs the body a few times and lands a knee as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hooker

ROUND TWO: Hooker gets back to forward pressure right away. Hooker lands a body kick and blocks some counters. Both men land body kicks. Bit of a right from Hooker in close, then a knee and he tries a takedown that stalls on the fence. Some knees from Hooker, for a lanky guy he’s quite good at the dirty boxing. Haqparast can’t get Hooker off of him, and Hooker lands a knee to the head. More knees to the body and head from Hooker then a jab as they break. Haqparast avoids a takedown. Hooker’s forward pressure is impressive, he lands more knees to the body and head whenever he gets close enough. They trade punches to the body. Hooker gets a quick trip against the fence, Haqparast bounces right back up but they’re still clinched. Both men land in the pocket then Haqparast circles out. Hooker lands a right to the body. Hooker punches into another clinch and gets a body lock takedown into leg drag. Haqparast keeps moving on bottom, Hooker gets side control as they move. A few knees from Hooker as he looks to get his posture. Hooker starts kneeing the hip of Haqparast, that’s just mean, as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hooker, 20-18 Hooker overall

ROUND THREE: Haqparast comes out swinging, he needs a finish and knows it. Left from Haqparast, then they trade kicks but Hooker’s went into the groin so we’ve got a timeout. Replay confirms the kick went low, Haqparast takes 23 seconds then we’re back to fighting. Hooker kicks the body, but he’s on the back foot for the first time all fight. One two from Hooker. Hooker lands a calf kick. Haqparast is pressing the fight, eats a body kick and returns it. Hooker avoids a looping punch and hits a double leg into half guard. Quick pass from Hooker into side control. Hooker is after the mounted crucifix but Haqparast is keeping his right arm out of danger. A few knees from Hooker as he starts breaking the lock Haqparast has around his body. Elbows from Hooker, those make Haqparast start moving and they wind up in north-south. Hooker to the back as they scramble, only one hook in. Now no hooks as Hooker works from the ride position with punches and hammer fists. Haqparast explodes up and gets free. Hooker with a quick double leg under a punch, Haqparast granby rolls into full guard but he’s struggling on bottom. Some punches from Hooker as he stands over Haqparast and passes to side control. More punches from Hooker as the round winds down.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hooker, 30-27 Hooker overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Dan Hooker via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27 x2)

Not sure which round was 10-8, probably the second. Mic time for Hooker, he says there were a lot of challenges to get in the cage and thanks Haqparast for taking the fight despite the personal difficulties Haqparast has faced lately and gives his love to their family. He mentions working hard and thanks everyone who supported him, and everyone who tried to stop him because they just motivated him. To close he heard Beneil Dariush is looking for a fight, and he’s down to accommodate him. I’m very much down for Dariush and Hooker.

Marlon Moraes was once arguably the best bantamweight in the world, but finds himself just 1-3 in his last four fights. If Moraes ever wants to get back into the title picture, or just get a bit of job security, he can’t afford a third consecutive loss here. Merab Dvalishvili is on a six fight winning streak and is 6-2 in the UFC overall, if he’s able to get by Moraes here it will be the biggest win of his career and would put him firmly in the title picture. Dvalishvili is a rather heavy -260 favorite while a Moraes win would payout at +210.

Bantamweight Bout: #6 Marlon Moraes (23-8-1, 135.5 lbs.) vs. #11 Merab Dvalishvili (13-4, 135.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Dvalishvili has an inch of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get things going. Moraes is slowly coming forward while Dvalishvili is bouncing and circling. Hard calf kick from Moraes. Another calf kick from Moraes, then a third. Dvalishvili tries to punch back, eats another kick and they trade punches. Dvalishvili has had enough of that and shoots a double leg and gets Moraes down. Moraes with a technical get up and lands a calf kick. Dvalishvili lands a jab. Dvalishvili lands a right. Moraes counters an uppercut with a cracking left hook. Another left hook from Moraes drops Dvalishvili, he’s all over Dvalishvili and floors him with punches. Dvalishvili tries to wall walk, he’s up and trying to get free. Moraes keeps coming forward, lands more punches but Dvalishvili finally gets a clinch. Dvalishvili gets a trip takedown into half guard. Moraes hip escapes to full guard. A few hammer fists from Dvalishvili. More blows from Dvalishvili, Moraes needs to do something off of his back. Moraes sits up and wraps the head as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Moraes

ROUND TWO: They touch gloves for the second round. Moraes looks fatigued, Dvalishvili is still bouncing around. A right from Dvalishvili connects and he gets a double leg into full butterfly guard again. Dvalishvili digs the body, his pace is relentless. Moraes tries to sit up and get up but Dvalishvili moves to half guard and keeps landing short punches. Moraes gets to full guard but he’s just holding on. Dvalishvili lands a few elbows, his pace is insane he just will not stop. More elbows from Dvalishvili, Moraes is just holding on off of his back. Dvalishvili digs body shots and lands punches, he’s working body to head. Moraes sweeps to try and double leg against the fence but Dvalishvili defends. Dvalishvili pushes Moraes over onto his seat and moves to the ride position and lands short punches. Moraes tries to come up but Dvalishvili is keeping him broken down on the mat and keeps landing punches to force the stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Merab Dvalishvili via TKO, punches, at 4:25 of Round 2

Bonkers fight. Mic time for Dvalishvili, he says he trains with the best and is tough but despite being hurt in the first he kept going through it. He says he doesn’t have a game plan, just trains and focuses on what he does then notes he got hurt in the first but that just made him mad. Asked what he wants next he asks the fans for ideas but the UFC can call him whenever, and says 4 years ago he couldn’t even dream of being here and he just won tonight. He wants everyone to work for their dreams and calls anything possible.

That concludes the prelims, on to PPV for the main card.

Jessica Andrade is coming off of a failed bid for the women’s flyweight title where she was stopped in the second round, but she’s looking to bounce back from that loss and begin working towards another shot at the title. Cynthia Calvillo is coming off of a loss but could still put herself in the title picture if she’s able to get by Andrade tonight. The odds are pretty heavily with Andrade at -225 to +185 for Calvillo.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: #1 Jessica Andrade (21-9, 126 lbs.) vs. #5 Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1, 126 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Calvillo is two and a half inches taller and has two inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Calvillo fighting southpaw. Andrade pushing forward, Calvillo switching her stance now. Leg kick from Andrade. Calvillo is trying to work kicks but Andrade is pressing forward and lands a few hooks. Andrade lands a leg kick. Calvillo misses a one two, she’s just trying to maintain distance and Andrade is pressuring her back. Andrade lands another leg kick after landing a left. Hard right from Andrade, Calvillo lands a jab but is backing up. Stiff jab from Calvillo but she eats a counter left hook. Andrade lands another leg kick. Those leg kicks are adding up for Andrade. Calvillo lands a right, but gets peppered with lefts in response. I’m surprised Andrade hasn’t gone to the body yet, her body work is ferocious when she commits to it. Andrade lands another leg kick. Calvillo lands a one two but again gets attacked by counters. Andrade lands a series of hooks, she’s really pressing the action and hurts Calvillo with an uppercut. Andrade unloads against the fence as Calvillo just covers up and gets a buzzer beater stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Jessica Andrade via TKO, punches, at 4:54 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mrs. Andrade for her work this evening. Mic time for Andrade, she’s the first woman to stop Calvillo in MMA, and is happy to have done so and puts over Calvillo as a tough opponent. She thanks her friends and family, worked hard on her boxing for this, and wants a fight with either Rose Namajunas or Zhang Weili. You’re in the wrong division Andrade. She moves to English and says today is her birthday, the crowd cheers, and thanks the fans and UFC brass.

Curtis Blaydes just had a four fight winning streak broken when he was knocked out by Derrick Lewis, he’s looking to bounce back and avoid his first ever losing streak while maintaining position in the title picture. Jairzinho Rozenstruik has been trading wins and losses for his last five fights but he’s coming off of a win and could score an impressive win if he becomes just the third man to best Blaydes. Blaydes is your -335 favorite against a +260 payout on Rozenstruik.

Heavyweight Bout: #4 Curtis Blaydes (14-3 1 NC, 261 lbs.) vs. #6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2, 257 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Blaydes has two inches of height and reach on Rozenstruik. Both men feinting a bit early as they circle. They trade lefts, Rozenstruik lands a follow up and a leg kick. Blaydes is switching his stance a bit now, both men jabbing a lot. Blaydes gets a clinch and hits a takedown into side control. They trade some elbows on the ground, then Blaydes lays in some knees to the body. Blaydes lands some body shots, then rights as Rozenstruik starts looking to wall walk. Rozenstruik gets to a knee, Blaydes moves around to his back and works more rights from the ride position. Rozenstruik back up and spins free. Bit of a leg kick from Blaydes, they’re slowing the pace way down at this point. Blaydes lands a jab. Rozenstruik lands a few body blows. Blaydes with jabs from either stance. Rozenstruik lands a leaping left hook but can’t really follow up before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Blaydes

ROUND TWO: Back to circling and probing with long range weapons. Rozenstruik lands a left hook, then another left in close. Blaydes lands a jab. Rozenstruik is moving forward more this round, he lands a few punches. Blaydes lands a leg kick, and eats a counter left. Rozenstruik avoids a double leg and punches him for it. A lot of stance switching from Blaydes, he’s trying to find something but isn’t seeing what he wants too I guess. Jumping knee from Rozenstruik and he avoids the follow up takedown from Blaydes. Blaydes recovers and gets a double leg into full guard. Blaydes moves to half guard and starts hitting the body. Elbow from Blaydes, and the round ends in that position.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Rozenstruik, 19-19 overall

ROUND TWO: Blaydes’ right eye is swelling badly after that second round, it’s worth keeping an eye on. Both men probing with the hands again. Blaydes avoids a right and lands a left hook. Inside leg kick from Blaydes, then he tries a double leg and almost loses it going over the top of Rozenstruik but he recovers and gets on top in full guard. Rozenstruik kicks Blaydes off but can’t get up before Blaydes returns to his guard. Blaydes passes to half guard. Rozenstruik starts building his base up, but Blaydes removes his posting arm and returns to half guard. Blaydes is keeping his right eye out of the refs line of sight, probably good as it’s shut right now as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Blaydes, 29-28 Blaydes overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Curtis Blaydes via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

I’ll stand by my scoring of the second round but I’m not dying on that hill. Mic time for Blaydes, he says the third round was hard to see so he had to play it safe. Asked who he’d like next he wants Stipe, Gane, Ngannou, or Jon Jones.

Nick Diaz is a legend of the sport and is coming back for the first time in over 6.5 years and hasn’t won a fight since battering BJ Penn way back in 2011, he’s returning from that extended retirement against a man he knocked out 17 years ago and is hoping to recapture a bit of the old magic one more time. Robbie Lawler is a former UFC welterweight champion but is on a four fight losing streak, he’s looking for his first win since 2017 when he bested Donald Cerrone as well as avenging a very early career loss. The odds for this one have been all over the place but settled favoring Lawler at -155 to a +135 comeback on Diaz. Also a reminder that this fight will be 5 rounds.

Middleweight Bout: Nick Diaz (26-9 2 NC, 185.5 lbs.) vs. Robbie Lawler (28-15 1 NC, 184 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Diaz has two inches of height and reach on Lawler. Both men fight southpaw. Diaz misses a silly kick, Lawler is all over him with bombing punches to the body and head. Diaz fires back but Lawler is all over him. More body shots from Lawler. Both men miss one twos. Diaz with a body shot of his own. Bit of a left from Diaz, but he’s looking a bit sluggish already. Diaz lands a body shot, Lawler lands a calf kick then a couple of punches in close. Both men land punches in the pocket. Bit of a left from Diaz, Lawler lands a calf kick. They trade in close, Lawler landed a left uppercut. Another leg kick from Lawler lands. Diaz tries a combination that’s partially successful. Lawler wit another calf kick. Both men land body shots, Lawler is coming forward still but Diaz is peppering him with shots now. Lawler lands a body shot then a leg kick in close. More punches from Lawler in close but Diaz fires back. More body shots from Diaz, he’s sucking Lawler into a pure boxing exchange. They end the round trading with Diaz along the fence.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Lawler

ROUND TWO: Lawler starts coming forward again, he and Diaz both land power hand punches. Diaz eats a series of punches then a knee but blocks a few elbow strikes. A few uppercuts from Diaz, then Lawler lands a body kick that gets Diaz backing up. Lawler lands a calf kick. Combination from Diaz but Lawler is right in his face. Diaz lands a left, then an uppercut. Lawler lands a left hand. Another body kick from Lawler. Diaz lands a knee, Lawler lands a body kick and an elbow. Lawler lands a left, then another one. Diaz keeps throwing punches but Lawler is blocking and countering well so far. Diaz starts moving away from Lawler but Lawler wont give him space. Another few punches land for Lawler. Bit of a body kick from Diaz, Lawler clubs him a few times in close in response. Lawler lands a right uppercut. Another combination from Lawler, who is just relentless. Lawler with another combination, Diaz lands a couple of rights. Another body shot from Lawler locks up Diaz for a few seconds, he doesn’t like those at all. Diaz backs away for the final few seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Lawler, 20-18 Lawler overall

ROUND THREE: Lawler is immediately back to forward pressure, Diaz digs the body a few times while backing up. More body shots from Lawler as he’s got Diaz on the fence. Lawler drops Diaz with a right hook then lands a left uppercut as Diaz is down, Diaz is bleeding from the bridge of his nose, and Lawler doesn’t want to mess around on the ground. Diaz doesn’t answer the ref’s call to stand and the ref waves this off after he still wont stand.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Robbie Lawler via TKO, punches, at :44 of Round 3

Heck of a fight from Lawler, all pressure all the time and just broke Diaz down. Mic time for Lawler, he expected a wild pace but wouldn’t break this time and calls this the kind of fight he likes. He notes he landed some good body shots but had to roll a lot while Diaz was punching at him. He puts over Diaz as a fighter, and says the prospect of fighting Diaz motivated him again.

Diaz also gets an interview, he says he’s glad he could put on a show even with all the adversity he had to overcome to get in here. He makes no excuses, and mentions he changed his management not too long ago and puts over Lawler again. He’s glad to be back and put on a show.

Lauren Murphy brings a five fight winning streak into her first UFC title shot, most recently scoring a controversial split decision over Joanne Calderwood. Murphy is trying to become the first woman at flyweight to defeat a seemingly unbeatable champion. Valentina Shevchenko is the UFC women’s flyweight champion, has never lost in the weight class, and is looking to further cement her legacy with a sixth consecutive title defense tonight. Shevchenko is an almost comically large favorite at a whopping -1500 while the +850 comeback on Murphy has to tempt the degenerate gamblers out there.

Women’s Flyweight Title Bout: (c) Valentina Shevchenko (21-3, 124 lbs.) vs. #3 Lauren Murphy (15-4, 125 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Murphy has half an inch of reach advantage. Shevchenko fighting southpaw. Murphy tries out circling early, misses a few jabs. Shevchenko lands a right hook. Body kick from Shevchenko lands. Bit of a left from Shevchenko and she avoids the counters. Shevchenko lands a leg kick. Another body kick from Shevchenko, then a right as she avoids a clinch attempt. Shevchenko with a superman punch, mostly blocked. Another left from Shevchenko lands. Shevchenko lands a left, then a body kick behind it. Bit of a leg kick from Shevchenko, Murphy is swelling up a bit around her left eye already. Another left hand to a leg kick from Shevchenko. Shevchenko lands a spinning back kick. Shevchenko lands the left hand again, Murphy’s right eye is becoming a problem for her. A right hook from Shevchenko lands. Murphy avoids a combination but hasn’t offered any real offense all round thus far. Spinning back fist from Shevchenko then a left hand. Murphy blocks a high kick but she’s getting overwhelmed. Shevchenko gets a body lock takedown into side control, Murphy hip escapes to half guard. The round ends in that spot.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Shevchenko

ROUND TWO: Murphy is trying to get some feinting going. Bit of a one two from Shevchenko. They clinch up and hit the fence. Murphy is trying to work some clinch strikes, Shevchenko is defending along the fence. Some short elbows from Shevchenko as she limp legs away from Murphy. Shevchenko lands a right hook then an inside leg kick. Shevchenko lands a counter right hook. Stiff jab from Shevchenko then a body kick and spinning back kick to the body. They clinch, and Shevchenko gets a takedown into half guard. Some short punches from Shevchenko as she’s trying to start passing the half guard. Murphy has gone to the lockdown on half guard to try and stifle Shevchenko on top. Shevchenko lands a few body shots. Elbows from Shevchenko now as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Shevchenko, 20-17 Shevchenko overall

ROUND THREE: Murphy is still moving well enough, but her right eye is getting a bit worse. Shevchenko lands a right hook. That right from Shevchenko is working every time Murphy tries to engage. Shevchenko lands a left hand. Murphy avoids a wheel kick. Bit of a left from Shevchenko, then a right as Murphy tries to engage. Shevchenko lands a body kick. Another body kick from Shevchenko lands. Shevchenko lands a leg kick at the end of a combination. Some front kick work now from Shevchenko. Inside leg kick from Shevchenko, Murphy lands a leg kick. Shevchenko lands an inside leg kick, then a couple of punches. More jabs from Shevchenko now, then tries a head kick that’s mostly blocked. Shevchenko lands a superman punch. Leg kick from Shevchenko. Another body kick from Shevchenko. Shevchenko lands another leg kick, those are adding up. Shevchenko lands a front kick to the body. Murphy avoids a body kick, but Shevchenko follows it with another that lands. Shevchenko gets the back standing and they hit the fence where they’ll fight out the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Shevchenko, borderline 10-8, 30-26 Shevchenko overall

ROUND FOUR: Shevchenko is back to using the right hand and body kick. Another right from Shevchenko lands. Murphy avoids a spinning back fist. Shevchenko lands a left. Murphy is utterly impotent offensively thus far. More jabs from Shevchenko, then a body kick. Some more body work from Shevchenko, Murphy doesn’t like those. Another leg kick from Shevchenko, her combinations are landing more as the fight goes on. Shevchenko lands a front kick to the face. Hard right from Shevchenko, then a head kick and a barrage of punches, Murphy ties up but Shevchenko drags her down and starts unloading from half guard. Murphy is able to tie up on the mat and stall the offensive momentum, probably saved herself the stoppage. Elbows from Shevchenko she’s unloading and the ref steps in to save Murphy.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER and STILL UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion – Valentina Shevchenko via TKO, punches and elbows, at 4:00 of Round 4

Incredibly lopsided, I don’t think there’s anyone on the flyweight roster right now who can beat Shevchenko. Mic time for the champion, she says winning is the best feeling and loves martial arts. She talks us through the finish, noting she could feel it even on the ground and knew it was coming. Asked who she thinks is next she’s ready for anyone, she’s the champion. Cormier asks for a picture with her, then she thanks everyone who’s watching live or on TV and is happy to have crowds back. She moves to Spanish to thank a bunch of people then goes into Russian to thank everyone back in Kyrgyzstan and even tries some of what I think is Thai for all the Tiger Muy Thai people. Look, you don’t have to show off that much Shevchenko, some of us still struggle with English.

This isn’t quite the finish, but the flurry that all but ended things.

Brian Ortega lost in his first bid for the featherweight title in 2018, took almost two years off but returned and looked very good beating Chan Sung Jung. Ortega is getting his second shot at the title tonight and is trying to capture it this time. Alexander Volkanovski is the UFC featherweight champion and has never lost in the weight class, he’s coming off of back to back wins over Max Holloway and is trying to continue forging his championship legacy at the expense of Ortega. The odds are with the champion Volkanovski at -190 to a +160 comeback on Ortega.

Featherweight Title Bout: (c) Alexander Volkanovski (22-1, 144.5 lbs.) vs. #2 Brian Ortega (15-1 1 NC, 144 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Ortega is two inches taller while Volkanovski has two and a half inches of reach advantage. Both men are normally orthodox but Ortega does a fair bit of switching. They touch gloves to get us going. Volkanovski feinting almost immediately, lands an inside leg kick. Ortega is showing the jab again, and takes a hard inside leg kick. Volkanovski misses a head kick. Body kick from Volkanovski, he’s sniping well from the outside so far. Ortega has a high kick blocked. A lot of southpaw work from Ortega at the moment. Jab from Volkanovski. Volkanovski lands a solid right. Another right from Volkanovski lands, Ortega is a little slower of foot and that’s letting Volkanovski find angles in close. Volkanovski lands an inside leg kick, he’s working those well every time Ortega goes orthodox. Ortega is cut around the left eye, can’t see where specifically. Volkanovski jabs Ortega to the fence, he’s cutting down Ortega’s options and is landing punches. Another right from Volkanovski, he took a counter though and is cut under the left eye. Another leg kick from Volkanovski, then a right hand. Volkanovski lands a right, his distance closing is impressively fast. Ortega avoids a few punches. Bit of a body kick from Volkanovski, Ortega catches it but nothing comes of it. Volkanovski lands a right hook, then a hard leg kick. Volkanovski is upping the pace just a bit, lands a left hook. Stiff jab from Ortega lands. Volkanovski lands a hard jab, Ortega returns it. Bit of a right from Volkanovski then a body kick. Ortega lands a left, that’ll be the last blow of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Volkanovski

ROUND TWO: They touch gloves again. Volkanovski back to kicking at range and looking to draw out Ortega. Leg kick from Volkanovski lands, then a body kick. Another body kick from Volkanovski but Ortega is starting to counter off of those. Volkanovski lands a left hook. Calf kick from Volkanovski, Ortega returns it. Volkanovski has started switching his stance a bit now as well. Calf kick from Volkanovski, then they trade rights and Ortega is the one backing up. Volkanovski’s pressure is impressive. Solid right from Volkanovski, then another. Bit of a right from Ortega in combination. Volkanovski with inside leg kicks as he backs Ortega up. Another couple of leg kicks from Volkanovski then he avoids a head kick. Right then left from Volkanovski, and a follow up right then he clinches. Ortega spins free quickly and lands a leg kick. Ortega’s chin is something else. Volkanovski lands another calf kick. More jabs from Volkanovski, neither man seems to want the clinch. Ortega eats a calf kick and lands a jab. Volkanovski lands a right then a left hook. Ortega lands a jab, Volkanovski lands a right to the body. Leg kick from Ortega lands. Bit of a combination from Volkanovski, he’s got Ortega backing up constantly. Volkanovski lands a right. Bit of a combination from Volkanovski, Ortega lands a leg kick as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Volkanovski, 20-18 Volkanovski overall

ROUND THREE: They touch gloves again. Volkanovski lands an inside leg kick. Calf kick from Volkanovski buckles the leg of Ortega for a moment. Both men catch body kicks but neither follows up. More leg kicks from Volkanovski, they’re adding up and he lands a right hook as Ortega tries to come in. Volkanovski lands another right, Ortega is a little wobbled. Some body shots from Ortega to avoid a clinch but he’s still backing up. Volkanovski digs the body along the fence. Both men exchange leg kicks. Jab from Ortega but Volkanovski lands two hard counters. Volkanovski is coming on strong, he’s busting up the face of Ortega. Another left hook from Volkanovski, his in pocket angles are causing Ortega all kinds of problems. Leg kick and right from Volkanovski. Ortega counters a leg kick with a left, gets on top of Volkanovski and is after a mounted guillotine. That’s tight but Volkanovski is fighting him and breaks the grip. Volkanovski hip escapes to half guard, and he’s on top now dropping punches as Ortega hip escapes to full guard. Elbows from Volkanovski, he’s pissed about that guillotine and unloads with ground and pound. Ortega throws up a triangle choke, Volkanovski tries to defend, it’s getting tight but Volkanovski slips free and resumes landing punches. Incredibly submission defense from Volkanovski, he’s bombing on Ortega from top position as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Volkanovski, 30-27 Volkanovski overall

ROUND FOUR: Ortega is dead tired after that, his right eye is swelling up as well. The doctor checks on the eye of Ortega between rounds, they say he can continue so we’ll get the round going. They touch gloves. Volkanovski still feinting his way forward, lands a leg kick. Orega misses a right hook. Jabs from Volkanovski land, he’s going after the right eye of Ortega. Volkanovski lands a calf kick then a right hand. Inside leg kicks from Volkanovski. Volkanovski lands a left hook. Stiff jab from Volkanovski, Ortega is still in it and clinches up and they hit the fence. Ortega jumps for a guillotine, moves to an anaconda choke but Volkanovskiis defending so far. Volkanovski comes out on top in half guard and starts dropping elbows again. Hammer fists from Volkanovski, and now punches. Ortega hip escapes to full guard, Volkanovski follows his hips and keeps landing blows. Short elbow from Volkanovski, then body shots and a right hand. Volkanovski stands up, and punches from the guard of Ortega. Volkanovski starts dropping bombs on Ortega, Ortega inverts to stall for time. More punches from Volkanovski as he stands in the guard. Volkanovski lands an elbow as he goes into the guard. Volkanovski stands and makes Ortega get up. Immediately Volkanovski starts going forward again with leg kicks and feints. Bit of a right from Volkanovski then a jab. They clinch just as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Volkanovski, 40-35 Volkanovski overall

ROUND FIVE: The doctor checks on Ortega again, he can continue even though his corner should probably stop this. Volkanovski lands a left hook. Calf kick from Volkanovski. Bit of a left hook from Volkanovski. Ortega tries a head kick that’s blocked. Stiff left from Volkanovski, then a body shot. Ortega eats a punch, tries a single leg but Volkanovski defends easily. Volkanovski forces a clinch and lands punches in close. Volkanovski lands a leg kick. Ortega misses a left hand and eats a few jabs. Bit of a right from Ortega. Volkanovski lands a right. They trade jabs while circling. Combination from Volkanovski. Volkanovski lands an inside leg kick. Ortega forces a slip but can’t follow up. Volkanovski with more punches in and out of the pocket. Volkanovski lands a right. Body shot from Volkanovski then a jab. They trade lefts. Ortega lands a right, Volkanovski fires back witha left hook. They trade punches again. Volkanovski lands a leg kick. Another exchange of punches then Volkanovski lands a left to the body. Ortega is coming forward, they clinch but break without incident. More jabs are traded. Ortega’s face is a mess. Volkanovski catches a body kick and lands a right hook. Hard jab from Volkanovski. Both men fire punches, as the fight closes.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Volkanovski, 50-44 Volkanovski overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER and STILL UFC Featherweight Champion – Alexander Volkanovski via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-44)

All of those are reasonable scores, Ortega could have taken the 5th. Mic time for the champ, he says preparation is everything he’s a normal human who works hard and claims anyone can do what he’s done. He dedicates this to the people of Australia and everyone who’s supported him. He says some of those submission attempts were tight but he chose to stay anyway and puts over Ortega’s ground game, then apologizes for some of the stuff he said trying to get into Ortega’s head. Asked if he deserves more respect he says it’s about time, he’ll work harder the more you keep doubting him.

Ortega gets an interview as well, his eyes are busted up. Asked about the submission attempts he thought it was done when he got them, but Volkanovski is tough as hell as he tried everything to finish them and puts over Volkanovski as a champion. He gives love to the fans, they give him love every time he fights and he plans on climbing the ladder again. It’s not about how you lose, it’s about how your get up and overcome.

Just a taste, here’s the two submission escapes Volkanovski hit in the 3rd.

Great fight from those two.

Alright everyone, UFC 266 will be closing on a Fight of the Year contender. I’ll be breaking down all of the results tomorrow on the 411 Ground and Pound MMA Podcast, available wherever you get your podcasting fix. Also thoughts on Oleksander Usyk beating Anthony Joshua earlier today, and a preview of UFC on ESPN+ 51 which will be airing next week. I’ll be back for that event and I hope you will as well. Until then thank you all again for reading, stay safe out there, and keep checking 411mania for all of your pop culture needs.

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UFC 266, Robert Winfree