UFC 266 is now one for the books. From a packed-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, fans were treated to an awesome night of fights. In the main event, Alexander Volkanovski dominated Brian Ortega to a unanimous decision victory, cementing himself at the top of the featherweight division.
The co-main event saw Valentina Shevchenko do what Valentina Shevchenko does. Domination and a complete shut up on the way to a fourth-round TKO stoppage over the tough Lauren Murphy. Robbie Lawler got his revenge over Nick Diaz 17 years after their first meeting, finishing him via TKO in the third round.
Elsewhere, Merab Dvalishvili got one of the comebacks of the year to finish Marlon Moraes in the second round of their bantamweight clash. Curtis Blaydes also did enough to defeat Jairzinho Rozenstruik in an underwhelming heavyweight clash.
We give you the key takeaways from a UFC 266 card that certainly delivered.
UFC 266 Takeaways
Brian Ortega is tough, but not championship calibre
The UFC 266 main event saw a gritty performance from T-City, however, tough isn’t enough at the highest level. Ortega was outlanded 214-88 on significant strikes over the 25-minute distance as well as being outlanded 229-101 on overall strikes. At the end of both the third and fourth rounds, the doctors spoke to Ortega and it appeared that the fight was close to being stopped as a result of the beating that the challenger had taken. His right eye was extremely swollen but he was allowed to continue and finished the fight strongly.
He might not be leaving with the belt but Ortega showed a champions heart tonight. Congratulations to both guys on a great fight!
— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) September 26, 2021
Although he lasted the full 25 minutes, it showed that Ortega is tough, but isn’t championship calibre. When fighting in his first title opportunity, Ortega was dominated by then champion, Max Holloway. ‘Blessed’ outlanded Ortega 307-112, which is even more impressive when you consider the fight only lasted four rounds.
Yes Ortega is good, but he proved at UFC 266 that there is a sizable skill deferential between him and the elite at 145lbs.
Valentina Shevchenko has no more contenders at flyweight
Shevchenko put on a vintage performance at in the UFC 266 co-main event when she was cruising towards a decision victory before pouring it on her opponent once she’d hurt her. Having clearly banked three rounds, ‘Bullet’ was able to hurt Lauren Murphy on her way to a fourth-round stoppage, the latest of her career to date.
Murphy was a deserving challenger, having won her last five fights, however, what the fight did prove is that Shevchenko has no more viable challengers at flyweight at the current time.
#1 Jessica Andrade – beaten in the second round. #2 Katlyn Chookagian – beaten in the third round. #3 Lauren Murphy – beaten in the fourth round. #4 Jennifer Maia – beaten by decision. Andrade beat #5 Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 266, so that eliminates her as a challenger. #6 Joanna Calderwood has losses to Andrade, Chookagian, Murphy, Maia and Calvillo so won’t compete for a belt anytime soon. Alexa Grasso is certainly an up and comer but again, a few wins away from the belt.
There’s always one women’s fighter that could provide a challenge for Shevchenko… Amanda Nunes?
A Motivated Robbie Lawler is a dangerous Robbie Lawler
Robbie Lawler stepped into the octagon coming off five losses in six fights and was without a win since 2017. His entire demeanour was different on his octagon walk, he appeared a lot more confident and this showed when the fight began. He went straight after Diaz, looking to avenge the loss he suffered in 2004.
A frantic pace set by both men saw 560 strikes thrown in a little over two rounds, with both men electing to stay in the pocket and exchange. Lawler looked game, un-affected by what Diaz was throwing back at him (despite Diaz landing with regularity) and was ready to go for five hard rounds.
Coming off the victory, we imagine that Lawler will go back down and fight at welterweight as it’s his natural fight weight. Let’s hope the UFC can match him up with an opponent that gets him as motivated as Diaz did because it was good to watch a vintage Robbie Lawler performance.
Merab Dvalishvili’s toughness is unmatched – Proved he’s a top 10 bantamweight
In the prelim headliner, Dvalishvili took on former title challenger, Moraes in what many thought would be a high paced fight. What played out was just that. The Brazillian clearly had an advantage on the feet, landing regularly on the Georgian native whenever he came into range.
The first round saw Moraes score a knockdown and he appeared to have Dvalishvili out on his feet, barely being able to respond to what was being thrown at him. The toughness of Merab, however, showed just how much work he’d put into his preparation. He was able to rally and managed to get the takedown on Moraes, landing savage ground and pound and almost finishing the fight. It did appear that Merab had knocked Moraes out with one strike, only to wake him back up with the following blow, however, the fight wasn’t stopped.
Dvalishvili was able to finish it with 142 unanswered shots in the second round, proving that he’s a legitimate top 10 bantamweight. Whoever is next for the crazy Merab Dvalishvili, they better be ready to go for the full 15 minutes because we know that he won’t stop.