UFC 266 Main Card Breakdown & Analysis

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to pay-per-view on September 25th for one of the most highly anticipated fight cards of the year. Two title fights and the long-awaited return of Nick Diaz are cooking up a spectacular event that’s leaving MMA purists drooling at the mouth. Join us as we preview the scheduled bouts on the main card for UFC 266 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

UFC Featherweight Championship Main Event Bout 

Alexander Volkanovski (22-1-0) vs Brian Ortega (15-1-0)

The main event of the evening involves both coaches from the latest season of the UFCs reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. Despite steering away from the tradition where we’d witness the coaches compete on the same card as their students – the implications are as significant as ever with the featherweight championship on the line. 

Australian native Alexander Volkanovski is making his second appearance as a defending champion, coming off two history-making fights against Max Holloway. This time around, he’ll want to have his takedown and submission defenses at peak performance with the dangerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt on his coattail.

Brian Ortega earned his championship opportunity with a unanimous decision victory over Chan Sung Jung, and his 7-1 UFC record since 2015 doesn’t hurt either. 

The matchmaking will present a kickboxing style in Volkanovski versus a prominent BJJ background from the challenger Ortega, guaranteed to deliver MMA entertainment worthy of its place in the main event.

UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship Co-Main Event Bout 

Valentina Shevchenko (21-3-0) vs Lauren Murphy (15-4-0)

‘The Bullet’ Valentina Shevchenko returns to the spotlight defending her Flyweight crown for a sixth consecutive time. Shevchenko has pretty much cleared out her division, but there’s one top-ranked opponent who’s yet to test the champions skillset.

Number 4-ranked flyweight Lauren Murphy has bombarded her way through the competition since her previous loss way back in 2018. A 5-fight win streak and notable victories over the likes of Andrea Lee and Joanne Calderwood put Murphy in the fight of her life. 

Both ladies present a very diverse set of MMA skills, but it’s hard to deny the greatness of Shevchenko. Throughout the many challenges she’s faced, Amanda Nunes remains the only person to defeat her inside the UFC octagon (twice). When looking at the Nunes bouts, you must also take the higher weight class and close split decision loss. Shevchenko is elite amongst her peers, and critics have a tough time discrediting the flyweight champ. 

UFC Welterweight Bout 

Robbie Lawler (28-15-0) vs Nick Diaz (26-9-0)

A rematch seventeen years in the making, that’s right, these two men first fought at UFC 44 in August of 2004 and delivered one of the most memorable fights in UFC history. 

Nick Diaz’s absence from MMA has lingered amongst the MMA community since his departure in 2015, and now the brother of Nate Diaz and former UFC title challenger makes his highly-anticipated return. 

For a fighter who’s spent six years away from professional competition, who better than Robbie Lawler to welcome back the older Diaz brother? 

A similar age and relatively equal longevity provides Diaz with an easing in bout without putting him against a fresh & dangerous prospect.

If we’re to witness just 50% of the original contest between these two men, then modern-day MMA fans are in for a treat. You should expect violence, and I don’t say that lightly. Buckle up; it’s going to be a wild one. Bookmakers across the globe are expecting a high volume of action on the Diaz/Lawler fight, android sports betting app are already providing odds   for fans to get in on the action. 

UFC Heavyweight Bout 

Curtis Blaydes (14-3-0) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2-0)

A UFC main card wouldn’t be the same without two 250lb heavyweight goliaths throwing down, step-in Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.  

Suriname heavy-hitter Jairzinho Rozenstruik burst onto the scene with four consecutive knockout victories. Still, current heavyweight champion Francis N’Gannou brought him back to reality and put an end to the streak. Now, with a 6-2 UFC record, he’ll face the first wrestling-dominant opponent since joining the UFC, and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares. 

Curtis Blaydes has been just as dominant; with a 9-3 UFC record, the wrestling-heavy Elevation Fight Team member has defeated some of the most recognisable names in the division. 

The winner of this contest will be dictated through the ability of Rozenstruik’s takedown defense. We should anticipate both men wanting to deliver another highlight reel moment in a division where title opportunities can be one or two fights away.  

UFC Women’s Flyweight Bout 

Jessica Andrade (21-9-0) vs Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1)

Opening the main card, we’ll see number #3 and #6 ranked women’s flyweights Jessica Andrade and Cynthia Calvillo attempt to make their claim at Valentina Shevchenko’s championship belt. 

Brazilian born Jessica Andrade is currently riding the rockiest patch of her professional MMA career (1-3, last 5). Still, this can sometimes be expected when you’re fighting the top-five ranked women in the division. 

Cynthia Calvillo is relatively new to the roster compared to her opponent. Still, the three years’ experience that she’s garnered can undoubtedly assist her in progressing into a top-five ranked position. 

Stylistically, both women prefer to fall behind their grappling/wrestling prowess, making for an intriguing contest. It’s an ideal fight to kick off the main card in what could become one of the best pay-per-views of the year. 

UFC 266 takes place on September 25th live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, broadcasted on ESPN & pay-per-view.

Over the years I've watched the UFC develop into the powerhouse it is today, organizations like PRIDE, Strikeforce and WEC rise and fall, and Bellator emerge as a new force on the MMA landscape. Throughout it all I've remained captivated by the sport and I'm excited to cover what comes next here on MMA Insight.