UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega Fight Picks

 

It isn’t often there is a UFC pay per event where the third fight on the card is the most anticipated of the event, but Nick Diaz has that kind of effect on the fanbase. 

Alexander Volkanovski (-176) vs Brian Ortega (+142)

Fanduel has the champion as a slight favorite for good reason. The last 3 wins for Volkanovski saw him beat former champions Jose Aldo and Max Holloway in convincing fashion. Although both fights against Holloway were closely contested, the high pace and well-roundedness of Volkanovski’s game shined bright and ended up being the difference-maker. Ortega is fresh off of one of the best performances in his career over Chang Sung Jung, a fight in which he got the Korean Zombie off of his game early with a vicious spinning elbow. It marked the first time in Ortega’s career he went 5 rounds, and he did so with flying colors. 

Ortega is unquestionably the better grappler of the two and is an offensive threat from a lot of different positions. He also has the very good quality of having an unquestionable heart, he is no stranger to sustaining a beating and not breaking. While he has proven to have good boxing skills and power to boot, on paper Volkanovski is bound to be too much for him.

At the end of the day  

The unrelenting pace of Volk and the ability to transition seamlessly between striking and grappling, coupled with extremely active footwork that plays a big part in keeping him out of trouble. Volkanovski will be able to implement the stick and move game plan en route to the victory. 

Pick: Alexander Volkanovski 

Valentina Shevchenko (-2000) vs Lauren Murphy (+920)

 Lauren Murphy may just be the biggest Fanduel underdog in the history of MMA picks. Anytime you see a line like this, it’s tempting to pick just because of the craziness of this sport. Absolutely anything in MMA can happen, and upsets happen all of the time. But there is a very good reason the lines look like this. The reality is that in women’s MMA, there is a great disparity in the skillset between the elite and the middle of the pack fighters. Murphy is an absolute dog in terms of work ethic, and with 5 wins in a row, she’s rightfully earned her title shot. But the problem is that the level of competition she has faced pales in comparison into what she has to deal with in Shevchenko.

At the end of the day 

Although the line is tempting, it would take a catastrophic error from Shevchenko to end up losing this fight. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Murphy can make a good account of herself, and give the champion a better fight than most expected. But Shevchenko is one of the most disciplined and focused fighters in the game, far too composed to make such errors.

Pick: Valentina Shevchenko

Robbie Lawler (-154) vs Nick Diaz (+126)

In a sport where you’re only considered as good as your last fight, it’s hard to know if that principle can be applied when your last fight was over six years ago like Diaz’s was. While Lawler has been more active than his counterpart, he has still only competed 3 times in the past two years. But whether the sample size is large or small, old or new, you can only work with what’s at your disposal. Lawler is a power puncher who thrives in a brawl. One of his greatest attributes is the ability to absorb an impossible amount of damage, yet continue to trudge forward and maintain the same level of aggression from bell to bell. 

Diaz has some of the nicest boxing in MMA. His pitter-patter style of punching is something to behold. He doesn’t throw with big power, but he maintains high output with incredible accuracy and is great at flustering his opponents. He has an amazing ability to transition from the body to the head, with varying levels of power between punches in his combinations.

At the end of the day 

Lawler has been a lot more active than Diaz, but there are two schools of thought here. The advantage of being active is not having ring rust, the disadvantage is the toll that all the wars have taken on Lawler in terms of his ability to take damage. While Diaz is no stranger to the party lifestyle, he has always been good about taking care of his body with consistent physical activity never waning, and a commitment to a healthy diet. There is so much unknown going into this fight it’s difficult to call. Picking the outcome is like a coin toss, but when the coin gets flipped, it’s bound to land on Diaz.

Pick: Nick Diaz 

Curtis Blaydes (-350) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+265)

The reason Blaydes is a sizeable Fanduel favorite is clear. In the matchup versus Rozenstruik, it’s a classic striker vs grappler matchup. More specifically, a wrestler vs kickboxer match-up. Rozenstruik is as dangerous as they come when it comes to the stand-up realm, his punching is straight up violent, he throws combinations, and has speed and a long career as a kickboxer. As dangerous as he is, and as good as he moves, stopping the entry and inevitable takedowns of Blaydes is a very tall order.

At the end of the day 

All fights start standing, and while this contest is upright,  Rozenstruik will be a serious threat. But Blaydes not only has great timing with his shots for the takedowns, but he is also going up against someone who doesn’t have the best track record with taken-down defense. Aside from getting clipped on the way in, if Blaydes plays it smart, he will get Rozenstruik down and get the W in the process.

Pick: Curtis Blaydes 

Jessica Andrade (-290) vs Cynthia Calvillo (+225)

This match-up has similarities to the co-main event in that it’s an elite-level talent versus a middle-of-the-pack talent. Andrade is far more experienced and far more dangerous than Calvillo in all areas. She has been in bigger fights against a higher caliber of competition throughout her career.  

At the end of the day

Calvillo has serious grit that has powered through her previous competition, but it won’t be enough to get her a win against this step-up in competition.

Pick: Jessica Andrade

It’ll be interesting to see what Diaz we get at UFC 266. Since his arrival to fight week, there has been a lot of concern expressed about his demeanor based on interviews he has done. But the reality is, there isn’t a single thing Diaz has said all week that he hasn’t been saying his entire career. It remains to be seen how he looks come Saturday night, but one thing is for certain. The entire MMA fan base will be watching with immense excitement as the most polarizing figure in the history of MMA steps in the Octagon to do it once again.   

 

Are you ready to make your fight picks? Head over to fanduel and enter the fight night contest for this weekend!

 

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