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UFC 266 is just around the corner, a card that boasts a number of notable names and evenly-paired matchups.
As usual, the main card is where the majority of eyes are drawn, as 145-pound King Alexander Volkanovski tops the bill when he defends his undisputed title against dangerous contender Brian Ortega.
Here are The Scrap’s UFC 266 main card predictions:
Jessica Andrade (21-9) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1)
Drake Riggs – This is just an absolute nightmare matchup for Cynthia Calvillo. Her best chance is to out wrestle the tank that is Jessica Andrade and the only people who have been able to do that have been Valentina or bantamweights she fought when she was less experienced. Calvillo is a former strawweight and just won’t be able to threaten on the feet. Andrade has her way everywhere the fight goes. It most likely looks like her Gadelha win.
Prediction: Jessica Andrade via unanimous decision.
Steven Rae – The better puncher, stronger grappler and fitter athlete, I can’t quite see Jessica Andrade losing. While Calvillo will pose a threat (in fact, I can see her possibly giving Andrade a scare), it won’t be enough to steal the win.
Prediction: Jessica Andrade via unanimous decision.
Curtis Blaydes (14-3-1) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2)
Austin Luff – Curtis Blaydes via TKO.
Steven Rae – I’ll continue my trend of keeping it short – Blaydes should have a big advantage with his wrestling. I see him working from half-guard and damaging Rozenstruik until the fight is over or waved off; the skill discrepancy in that department is too wide to ignore. There’s a chance Jairzinho catches him early, but I don’t see it happening.
Prediction: Curtis Blaydes via unanimous decision.
Nick Diaz (26-9-1) vs. Robbie Lawler (28-15-1)
Drake Riggs – This fight is practically impossible to predict but I fear it will be boring. Yet the community won’t view it that way by the end thanks to some vintage Diaz antics. I don’t expect Diaz to look like a complete washed shell of himself despite the terrible last three performances that happened six years ago, but he is NOT going to be showing up any better. So it just comes down to if Lawler has really fallen off that much lately. When considering the style matchups he’s had recently, I don’t know how fair that is to say although he was noticeably gunshy vs. Covington. I think this rematch will ultimately bring out the ruthlessness once again and Robbie gets very late redemption by knockout or a showboat heavy slow decision. Sorry to burst your bubble with reality of this situation.
Prediction: Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision.
Austin Luff – Nick Diaz via unanimous decision.
Lee Brown – Its been six years since Nick Diaz made the walk to the Octagon. The UFC has given us a fan-friendly fight when they announced his opponent would be former UFC welterweight champ, Robbie Lawler. The two men fought in a classic at UFC 47 in 2004 with Diaz winning by 2nd round KO. Will ring rust be an issue for Diaz? I say no as he is known for staying in incredible shape even when he isn’t training/competing. Lawler is in good physical shap, but he has taken a lot of damage over his career. Can Lawler turn back the hands of time and display glimpses of his former champion self? This is a good matchup for Diaz in his return as this fight should be contested on the feet. That being said….
Prediction: Nick Diaz via second-round TKO.
Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) vs. Lauren Murphy (15-4)
Drake Riggs – Listen, I’ve been fully behind Lauren Murphy on this run and believe she deserved a title shot sooner than she’s getting it. However, her best chance to win this fight is by grinding out Valentina and making it a bit ugly like how Maia had some success. Realistically, she probably has a better chance at doing that than Maia did thanks to her size and wrestling skills. But we all know it doesn’t matter. As time has gone on, Valentina has convinced me that she is right alongside GSP as the only two fighters ever to be simply perfect mixed martial artists. And pure talent-wise, there just might be no one more talented in MMA history than Valentina Shevchenko — male or female.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko via third-round submission.
Austin Luff – Valentina Shevchenko via TKO.
Lee Brown – Valentina Shevchenko has looked practically untouchable at flyweight. Next up, she will defend her title against top contender Lauren Murphy. Murphy is on a five-fight win streak and she’s a decent-sized flyweight who has a strong ground game/control. She’s also a tough striker. The champ has outclassed every fighter she has defended the title against. Shevchenko is a skillful technical striker as well as being a terror on the ground. Short and sweet, Murphy is not better than Shevchenko in a single area so…
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko via second-round submission.
Steven Rae – Valentina Shevchenko via second-round submission.
Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) vs Brian Ortega (15-1-1)
Drake Riggs – I’ve counted out Volkanovski a lot during his run to the title and I shouldn’t anymore but I’m going to again… Ortega is just too dangerous in all areas now. I think he’ll find a finish late, most likely by submission.
Prediction: Brian Ortega via submission.
Austin Luff – I don’t think any of us knew the Brian Ortega we saw vs. Korean Zombie even existed. Volkanovski barely won (you could argue he lost) against Max and if Ortega can achieve the same output against Volkanovski, he takes this one.
Prediction: Brian Ortega via unanimous decision.
Lee Brown – Current UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski is set to defend his title against Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC 266. The two recently served as coaches for the 29th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Both guys come into this fight with one loss between them, Volkanovski being unbeaten. The champ has good speed, kicking ability and outstanding striking accuracy. While Ortega has improved his standup game since losing to Max Holloway, his advantage will be if he can get the fight to the ground with his better than average BJJ. The champ will need to use his great takedown defense to stymie Ortega ground’s game and Ortega will need to use great footwork and head movement to negate Volkanovski’s striking.
Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski via fourth-round TKO.
Steven Rae – I expect Volkanovski to prove he’s a level above Ortega by picking him apart over all five rounds.
Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski via unanimous decision.