Two titles are on the line and two legends of the sport face off in a jam-packed UFC 266 and we have our UFC best bets for all of the action.
Nick Diaz makes his return to the octagon against Robbie Lawler whilst Valentina Shevchenko and Alexander Volkanovski put their titles on the line! We have previewed each of those fights and found our UFC best bets for the top three fights on the card!
Robbie Lawler v Nick Diaz
While both of these guys should be past their prime, they are two of the most exciting and confident fighters the UFC has ever seen. Lawler is a former Welterweight Champion while Diaz is a cult hero and fan favorite. The two have fought previously, with Diaz winning in the second round via knockout.
It’s been 2424 days since Nick Diaz last made the walk to the UFC Octagon.
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) September 20, 2021
The issue is, Diaz hasn’t been inside an octagon competitively in 2,428 days. That’s right, 2,428 days. We last saw Diaz in February, 2015, where he lost to Anderson Silva and was later changed to a no contest after Silva tested positive for PEDs. Nick Diaz chose to live his life rather than knuckle down and become something in the UFC, but he seems determined to make a splash in this fight, especially considering his UFC record is seven wins from 14 fights.
Robbie Lawler on the other hand is a UFC workhorse, who gives his all in every fight, although he hasn’t won in his last four tries. Lawler’s last win was in July, 2017, beating Donald Cerrone by decision. Since then he has had four fights, losing three by decision and one by submission.
Looking at this fight, Diaz has stated that he has returned a much better striker than when he left the UFC, but four of Lawler’s last five fights have gone the distance, and his stamina may be the defining factor in this fight. Diaz will come out all guns blazing but given this fight is scheduled for five rounds, he may not have the stamina to keep it going with Lawler as the fight progresses.
UFC Best Bet: Robbie Lawler (-154)
Method of Victory: Robbie Lawler by KO/TKO (+195)
Valentina Shevchenko (C) v Lauren Murphy (Women’s Flyweight Title)
The Women’s Flyweight title is up for grabs as Valentina Shevchenko defends against Lauren Murphy as the co-main event. Shevchenko has defended her title five times now, winning all five times with three coming via KO/TKO and two coming via unanimous decision.
Lauren Murphy has well and truly earnt this title fight, but to say she is a worthy opponent in this fight is an overstatement. While she has won each of her last five fights, she hasn’t beaten anyone of note and her wins have been far from convincing.
‘Lucky’ Murphy’s strike accuracy and takedown accuracy are much worse than Shevchenko’s, whilst her defense is worse in both categories as well. Shevchenko has won via decision, won with her striking, won with her kicking and won on the ground, highlighting how versatile she is. Murphy is tough, but Shevchenko is simply just better and the odds reflect that.
UFC Best Bet: Valentina Shevchenko (-2000)
Prop Bet: Valentina Shevchenko to Win in Round 2 (+500)
Alexander Volkanovski (C) v Brian Ortega (Featherweight Title)
This is a very intriguing fight between the current champ who is quick, agile and gets a lot of volume, taking on the challenger who is one of the best grapplers in the UFC, regardless of weight class. Volkanovski has won 19 straight fights, nine of which have been in the UFC and has beaten Max Hollaway twice, once for the title and once defending it. Ortega on the other hand has had mixed form of late, beating Frankie Edgar by KO, becoming the first to finish Edgar in the UFC, losing to Hollaway in a title fight in 2018 before beating The Korean Zombie by decision last year, earning him this fight.
Looking at the stats, both fighters have a third of their wins come from decision, but that is where the similarities end. Volkanovski predominantly wins his fights by KO/TKO, 52%, using his speed and endurance to get the better of his opponents. Ortega on the other hand uses his Brazilian jiu-jitsu background to out-grapple opponents, winning most of his fights by submission, 47%.
Volkanovski says it’s not a show for cameras 😶 #UFC266
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 24, 2021
Looking at the defense of both fighters, this is where Volkanovski has the edge. His strike defense is 60% compared to Ortega’s 52%, while his takedown defense is 72% compared to Ortega’s 56%. If Volkanovski can stay on his feet and keep Ortega away from threatening positions on the ground, which we think he will, it will go a long way to determining this fight.
The champ is quicker, fitter and gets in so much more volume than Ortega, it may just be a case of wearing him down until he can’t go any more. While being shorter, Volkanovski has a 2.5 inch reach advantage and given he is quicker, is a better striker and has better strike defense, he should get the better of Ortega in this fight.
UFC Best Bet: Alexander Volkanovski (-176)
Method of Victory: Alexander Volkanovski by KO/TKO (+370)
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*Odds correct at time of publication, courtesy of Fanduel.