Here is a Kiwi recap of how Alexander Volkanovski’s night went at UFC 266. He gave Brian Ortega a bloody mare, went for a big night of turps, and said the fight was like a piece of piss, barring the “lose the title deep” guillotine.
Brian Ortega couldn’t be upset. He threw the kitchen sink at the Champion. Even his signature guillotine and trademark “T-City” triangle choke, both of which he had tighter than a python strangling his victim, still couldn’t make the New Zealand champion succumb.
Volkanovski established with this victory that it was time to bury the doubt from his two close wins over former champion Max Holloway. Instead, this was a valid showcase of championship grit and masterclass discipline from the man who can claim “And Still.”
TUF, Bad Blood & Mindset
The Ultimate Fighter Season 29 was an exciting season showing the two competitors’ personalities and team mentality mix. Brian Ortega, Rener Gracie & Co. came with their vibes, coaching style and was very free-flowing.
Volkanovski bought the hard grit, brotherhood mentality that all Kiwi men grow with his coaching staff. When the team faced grim results initially, the featherweight champion rallied them and bounced back to flip the table on the #1 contender and his team.
The Road to UFC 266
The initial fight that was supposed to occur at UFC 260 got postponed when the Champion tested positive for the ill-fated COVID-19. The featherweight champion tweeted a response: “We have worked so hard getting ready for this fight, and I’m absolutely gutted this has happened. We followed every policy and process to remain covid free, but it wasn’t meant to be this time.”
The dismayed contender responded with an Instagram video bidding Volkanovski a fast recovery.
“I know you would have took the fight no matter what, even with COVID. That’s the type of human you are. I respect that. I hope you get better, I hope you heal up fast. We’ll postpone it and we’ll just reschedule it [when] we got to. Stay sharp. We’re staying sharp. Whenever this s— is meant to happen, it’ll happen.”BRIAN ORTEGA VIA INSTAGRAM VIDEO
But finally, the FW Champion recovered, and both agreed to be the TUF Season 29 Coaches and the main event of UFC 266. A noticeable upgrade from being the co-main event at UFC 260.
A Main Event To Kill For
When it was time for the main event to settle the beef between Volkanovski and Ortega, they certainly didn’t leave any fan disappointed. The whole fight was like an intense chess match. Each move could result in the downfall of the other.
Brian Ortega had the Las Vegas crowd buzzing when he came out with his black/blue glow in the dark-colored Purge masks with his corner wearing them too. The champion entered with his laid-back, calm music and focused gaze as the camera followed him and his corner.
Bruce Buffer did the honors of setting the stage, and the Joe Rogan-dubbed “gold standard of MMA refereeing,” Herb Dean, opened the curtains and let the competitors and main event of UFC 266 take the center and start the action.
Round 1 & 2: A Champion’s Composure
The first two UFC 266 main event rounds were tense, keeping every spectator on the edge of their seat with each movement, action, and strike. Alexander Volkanovski seemed to control the octagon and pace, leaving Brian Ortega seemingly offensive and defensive on his backfoot.
The contender still managed to win a few of the exchanges, but the champion seemed to have a higher output while also winning the majority of the strike exchanges. Going into the third round, Ortega knew he needed to change the direction of the fight.
Round 3,4 & 5: Volkanovski’s Eleventh Hour; Ortega’s Final Stand
Round 3 started with Ortega meeting Volkanovski in the middle to exchange strikes. They seemingly continued to catch each other’s kicks, and throw combos. This sequence happened until Ortega managed to knock down the champion with a lead jab and jump on his neck like no tomorrow with his signature guillotine.
If anybody knows anything about Brian Ortega, he is an elite BJJ expert and practitioner in the mats and the octagon. So it’s a near-guarantee death warranty when “T-City” slaps a submission on you. But the keyword in our current situation is “near.”
Volkanovski could feel Ortega apply his deadly, vice-grip hands around his neck. His face showed the sudden panic and urgency to defend. Everybody in the building and watching TV thought the end was near; even the champion admitted his fears post-fight.
But men who come from the Island of Kiwis are just built differently. We witnessed the first glimpse of this with current middleweight champion and New Zealand representative Israel Adesanya. Right before the fifth and final round of his interim middleweight championship fight in the co-main event of UFC 236, he looked at his opponent Kelvin Gastelum and said, “You’re not gonna beat me; I’m prepared to die.”
Volkanovski seemingly channeled his blood brother’s words into his soul and fought for his life. The former rugby player-turned MMA champion fought the death-grip of Brian Ortega. As if he was breaking open the Gates of Hell and claiming his freedom. The crowd erupted as the champion broke free from a shocked Brian Ortega.
Ortega doesn’t claim the elite BJJ status for no comedic reason. Ortega survived the shock of the champion breaking loose and received some ground and pound. The #1 contender lured the Volkanovski into a D’arce Choke attempt before landing his trademark black widow’s trap: the “T-City” triangle choke.
For some reason, whether it be fate, karma, juju, or some higher power, Alexander Volkanovski would not fade away. Only he will know what was going through his mind when Ortega was squeezing the breath out of him with the triangle choke. With only 30 seconds remaining, the champ unwittingly broke free, and they both scrambled to their feet before Volkanovski followed Ortega to the ground till the end of the round, peppering Ortega with ground and pound.
You could tell that Ortega was exhausted and that his fighting fire was close to being extinguished at the horn. The #1 contender legitimately used every single limb in his body to his disposal to put away the champion via submissions, his supposed ace-in-the-hole.
The fourth and fifth-round were just about the same as the first two rounds. Volkanovski controlled the fight till about the 2 minutes left in the fifth round. Then, for the first time in the whole battle, the champion was losing the striking exchanges consistently. But as the final round was nearing the end, the truth was obvious: it was too little, too late.
A Legacy Fight
Without anyone’s surprise, Alexander Volkanovski picked up the unanimous decision victory over Brian Ortega. No longer did you hear any doubts, criticism, uncertainty, or skepticism for Volkanovski. It took him nearly two years, but the undisputed 145lb champion could finally rest easy on his laurels without any noise and proudly claim, “And Still.”
For those able to witness this fight in real-time, you saw a compelling showcase of the highest and purest form of MMA between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. Volkanovski showcased why he has the nickname “The Great” and looks to continue his reign like his namesake.
For Brian Ortega, it is another bitter pill to swallow. The path of rebuilding yourself is never easy, yet you must always continue to better yourself. No man is perfect, yet we can improve ourselves every day. This is the greatest blessing and burden we humans carry. Brian Ortega has everything around him. He has a great team and a great support system, but it’s just not his time. Hopefully, Ortega can confide in this quote while he plans his return: “Greatness has no age, no time limit, nor expiry date. The only key to unlocking greatness is through patience”.