UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski will attempt to defend his title against fellow Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter coach Brian Ortega at UFC 266. Here we discuss the odds and analysis from a betting perspective.
- When: Saturday, Sept. 25th, 10 p.m. EST (ESPN PPV)
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Line: Volkanovski (-160) and Ortega (+140); Over 4.5 rounds (-135) and Under 4.5 rounds (+105); odds from DraftKings sportsbook.
Brian “T-City” Ortega will be making his second attempt at the UFC featherweight title, having lost in his first opportunity in 2018 against Max Holloway and taking two years off before returning in 2020 with a shaved head, improved striking and a convincing win against a top-five contender to set up Saturday’s main event.
Ortega is two years younger with a two-inch height advantage over Volkanovski. He averages 4.29 strikes (significant) landed per minute (SLpM) with 38 percent striking accuracy, with 6.28 strikes absorbed per minute (SApM) with 52 percent striking defense, 0.80 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 21 percent takedown accuracy, 56 percent takedown defense and 1.1 submissions per 15 minutes, according to UFC Stats.
T-City lost his first title shot from too much damage from Holloway’s hands (doctor’s stoppage in Round 4) but that is Ortega’s only loss as a pro fighter. His most recent win came over Chang Sung Jung (UD, 2020) with previous wins against Frankie Edgar (TKO Rd1, 2018), Cub Swanson (sub Rd2, 2017) and Renato Moicano (sub Rd3, 2017).
Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski had success in his title defense against Holloway and also had success as the coach of TUF 29 against Ortega, with Ricky Turcios and Bryan Battle both claiming TUF titles under his mentorship. He will attempt to continue his success over Ortega in the main event on Saturday night.
Volkanovski has a two-inch reach advantage over Ortega, averaging 6.02 SLpM with 55 percent striking accuracy and 3.31 SApM with 60 percent striking defense, 2.09 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 34 percent takedown accuracy, 72 percent takedown defense and 0.3 submissions per 15 minutes.
Volkanovski has truly been great in the UFC, winning all nine of his fights in the Octagon, including beating Holloway twice (SD, 2020 and UD, 2019 to win the title), Jose Aldo (UD, 2019), Chad Mendes (TKO Rd2, 2018), Darren Elkins (UD, 2018) and Jeremy Kennedy (TKO Rd2, 2018).
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega Narratives
This line opened up at Brian Ortega being a +160 underdog but money has been coming in on Ortega and the line has moved to +135 at some books, indicating that many believe that T-City has a good chance of pulling off the upset this weekend.
Ortega backers will point out that he often wins as an underdog (Ortega was +160 against the Korean Zombie) and that Ortega has become a more mature, evolved striker since his two-year hiatus after getting mauled by Holloway. Many believe that Ortega’s striking has improved to match up with Volkanovski but even if Ortega loses in the standup contest, he is always live for a submission on the ground without needing to take his opponent down.
MMA math doesn’t always compute, but probably one of the most prominent narratives that support Volkanovski over Ortega is how Volk beat Holloway twice while Holloway rearranged Ortega’s face, handing Ortega his first loss inside the distance and making him go on a journey of self-exploration for two years.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega prediction
Ortega is absolutely a better striker since his two-year break and assembling a new training team, out-striking “The Korean Zombie” 127 to 62 but there are levels to this game, and fighters like Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski possess striking skills and the stamina to maintain pressure and a pace at a different level than fighters like “The Korean Zombie” or any other UFC fighter that has been defeated by Ortega.
Brian Ortega distance strike differential by fight:
de la Torre: -3
Korean Zombie: +56#UFC266
— MMA By The Numbers (@NumbersMMA) September 20, 2021
Zombie is generally low output and was outstruck by Jose Aldo 17-32 before being finished, and Aldo would go on to be outstruck 29 to 95 by Volkanovski. Volkanovski may not be flashy or have provocative trash-talking, and that might take away from the fact that his movements, tenacity and ability to sustain high-level activity is at a different level of most opponents, including Max Holloway who himself is usually at a different level of striking and pressure than most of his opponents.
While some complain that Holloway got robbed in his second fight with Volkanovski, Volkanovski outstruck Holloway 137-102 with 3 takedowns to 0 in their second fight and 157-134 in their first. Ortega’s standup looked good against a low-output Zombie but it will not be enough to outwork or outpoint Volkanovski on the feet.
That would leave a submission as Ortega’s most likely path to victory but Volkanovski has never been submitted and he has the body type – compact and dense – that could be harder to leverage. And while many focus on Volkanovski’s striking, he has better take down percentages than Ortega and his low center of gravity makes him harder to take down and more difficult to defend his ground and pound. Now that this line has been bet from -185 to -160 on Volkanovski, we see value on the champion.
Pick: Volkanovski -160
Featured Image credit: