UFC 266 Predictions

After almost a seven-week layoff of pay-per-view events, the UFC has finally returned with another jam-packed card with long-anticipated title fights and legends and other popular veterans returning. Dan Hooker, Marlon Moraes, Chris Daukaus, and Shamil Abdurakhimov are just some of the more well-known names featured on the prelims. While Nasrat Haqparast, Taila Santos, and Merab Dvalishvili are up and comers facing big names with the opportunity to put their name on the map in their respective divisions. Nonetheless, this main card is even more stacked with two important title fights. Let’s dive right into the predictions. 

Previous Record: 13-8

Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo

Submission specialist Cynthia Calvillo faces her biggest challenge against former flyweight champion, Jessica Andrade. But coming off a loss to Kaitlyn Chookagian, her competition only gets strong as Andrade just recently fought for the title. But in hindsight, Andrade has lost three out of her last four against some of the top contenders in multiple weight classes. Neither woman technically comes into this fight with a real edge in terms of their previous fights. But what could ultimately decide this fight is the offensive ground game. While Andrade is known more for ground and pound compared to Calvillo’s, I believe that alongside her dynamic ability to fight standing up will cause trouble for Calvillo. This will give another win to Andrade’s record and keeping her a top contender in women’s MMA, whichever weight class she chooses to fight in. 

Prediction: Andrade by KO/TKO

Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

After a devastating knockout by Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes returns to the octagon against another rising contender in Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Rozenstruik has had his chances against now champions in the UFC like Francis Ngannou and Ciryil Gane, of both which were dominant losses, including a one-punch knockout against Ngannou. So what’s different with Curtis Blaydes? Well, other than his wrestling background, I don’t think there’s much. Blaydes has his fair share of absolutely dominant wins. Plus after Lewis, I would likely imagine he’s worked on becoming a more active fighter, pushing the pace standing up and on the ground. With an unproven ground game, I think this could cause major problems for Rozenstruik. 

Prediction: Blaydes by Unanimous Decision 

Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler 2

This is about as fun as a fight can get in this promotion. Nick Diaz, the older brother of Nate Diaz who beat Conor McGregor, is returning after six years. He fights in a rematch against former Welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler. The first fight between these two happened about 17 years ago! And while Nick won that fight, there is little influence from that today. Ruthless Robbie Lawler hasn’t fought in almost a year and is on a four-fight losing streak. Lawler is a pressure striker while Diaz likes to pick his opponents apart with his length and submission ability. This fight being moved up to 185 does give Lawler the advantage as he’s packed with more muscle and strength. Both of these men are entering new stages of their MMA career without much activity left in their recent runs. But I ultimately see Nick winning in what will be a very close and fun fight for the entire MMA community. 

Prediction: Diaz by Submission

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy

Is there really much to say about this fight? No disrespect to Lauren Murphy as she is one of the toughest in the division, but Valentina Shevchenko is unquestionably out of this world in terms of ability in all aspects of MMA. The oddsmakers would agree, having Valentina as a -1500 favorite. It’s been four years since she lost and has earned seven victories since. Her flawless and powerful striking mixed with the threatening ground game has been no match for anyone other than Amanda Nunes. Lauren Murphy’s best bet is to be perfect on submission and takedown defense while also beating Shevchenko’s constant forward movement with incredible counter striking, something I just don’t think she can pull off. It might be time for the promotion to start looking at a trilogy fight between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. 

Prediction: Shevchenko by KO/TKO

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega

After a COVID-19 cancelation in March and the summer spent filming The Ultimate Fighter 29, Brian Ortega and Alexander Volkanovski will finally fight for the Featherweight Title. This is the first time the belt has been put on the line since July 2020, where Volkanovski defended his title in a controversial win. Most fans believed Max Holloway won the fight 3-2 but Volkanovski did what he needed to get done to defend his title. Nonetheless, he now faces his second title defense against T-City Ortega, a submission specialist with dynamic striking ability as well. This is Ortega’s second title opportunity after a loss to Holloway in 2018. Volkanovski’s reckless wrestling style could easily open up opportunities for Ortega to catch him. It’ll require a perfect striking game from Volkanovski and I see Ortega being too slick and mobile to allow that to happen. I believe we will have a “and new” in the Featherweight division priming for a great rematch with Max Holloway assuming he can win his fight in November against Yair Rodriguez. 

Prediction: Ortega by Submission