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UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega - Sep 25 🇺🇸


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Posted (edited)

Saturday 25th September, back in Vegas. I know it’s a way off but it’s a biggie. Apologies in advance because this’ll be a long one. There’s a lot of backstory to some of these fights.

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PPV MAIN CARD
Alexander Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega - Featherweight Title

Valentina Shevchenko vs Lauren Murphy - Flyweight Title

Robbie Lawler vs Nick Diaz 

Curtis Blaydes vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Jessica Andrade vs Cynthia Calvillo 

ESPN PRELIMS
Marlon Moraes vs Merab Dvalishvili

Dan Hooker vs Nasrat Haqparast 

Shamil Abdurakhimov vs Chris Daukaus 

Roxanne Modafferi vs Taila Santos

ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS
Uros Medic vs Jalin Turner

Manon Fiorot vs Mayra Bueno Silva

Nick Maximov vs Karl Roberson

Matthew Semelsberger vs Martin Sano Jr

Omar Morales vs Jonathan Pearce 

 

That won’t be the final card, I’d guess there’ll be another few fights added yet lower down the card. This is the meat and potatoes of it though. Anything else added now will be the gravy. Plenty to like about this one.

 

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Alexander Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega is the main event. We should’ve got this back in March but Volk got the COVID. Then they both got tied up with coaching TUF, delaying it even further. Hopefully it’ll finally happen this time. It’s such a great fight on paper. Absolutely love the clash of styles here. It’s a bit of an odd one in a way because Ortega is getting this title shot off the back of one win following a big layoff. But I’m happy with it just because it’s a hell of a fight style-wise and I didn’t really fancy seeing Volkanovski vs Holloway 3 just yet. A fresh opponent was in order and this’ll do nicely. I went through the whole journey of both men’s careers when I previewed this fight back in March so I’ve cheated and saved that. It’s a copy and paste job here I’m afraid. But hopefully it’s still worth reading to someone and re-whets the appetite for the fight now it’s been rescheduled.

Their respective entries into MMA were a real contrast. Volkanovski was into Rugby from a young age and did pretty well as a semi-pro as best I can tell. I know sod all about Rugby though. He was a right little tank at this time and, at just 5’6”, weighed well over 200lbs!

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I remember Jon Anik mentioning this years later on commentary and Joe Rogan was having none of it. He couldn’t believe little Featherweight Volk was once playing Rugby at the same weight Jon Jones competed at the highest level of Light Heavyweight MMA at. Anyway, at 23 Volk sacked Rugby off and decided to give MMA a go. Pretty late to make the jump really, although he had wrestled Greco a bit as a kid. Ortega had a more traditional journey. He started martial arts training at just 5 years old and fell in love with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in his teens. He started training in BJJ under the Gracies at 13 and never looked back.

2010: Ortega makes his MMA debut on a Gladiator Challenge show in April, winning by submission in under 2 minutes. He wins another couple of fights over the summer and it’s a successful first year for T-City. 3-0.

2011: Ortega fights twice for a shitely named California based promotion called Respect In The Cage. He wins both by decision and becomes their Featherweight champion in March, beating some ham and egger named Carlos Garces over 5 rounds.

2012: Volkanovski makes his pro debut in Sydney for a fed called Revolution Promotions. It’s at Welterweight and he beats some fucker called Gerhard Voigt on points. Ortega is inactive all year.

2013: Volko fights 4 times. In April he stops Anton Zafir in the fourth round to win the Welterweight title for a company called Roshambo MMA.

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Unfortunately, he tastes defeat for the first time in May, getting TKO’d in a tournament in Melbourne. He closes out the year back in the win column with another stoppage victory. Ortega’s back in action and racking up wins. Defends the RITC belt with a submission in May. Then subs Jordan Rinaldi in RFA in August. As 2013 ends, Volkanovski is 4-1, Ortega is 7-0.

2014: Volkanovski is soaring now. He goes 5-0 this year with 4 finishes. And his weight continues to come down. From beginning his career at 170, he starts 2014 off as a Lightweight and by the end of the year he’s down to Featherweight. It’s a big year for Ortega. In January he beats Keoni Koch by split decision in a wild fight to become the RFA Featherweight champ.

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That turned some heads. By July, he’s making his UFC debut. He breezes through Mike De La Torre with a first round rear naked choke. But the win didn’t stand. It’s largely forgotten now but he popped for PEDs after this fight and the win got overturned to a No Contest. Obviously not the ideal start to his UFC career.

2015: Another successful year for Volko. He fights twice, finishes both opponents and wins the 145lb straps in both the AFC and PXC promotions in Australia and Guam. Ortega’s back and trying to move on from the controversy surrounding his first trip to the Octagon. He faces Thiago Tavares on a Fight Night in June…

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And it’s an absolute belter. I need to revisit this fight. Haven’t seen it in years, probably since it happened, but I remember loving it and it’s where Ortega became ‘must see’ viewing going forward for me.

2016: Volkanovski goes 3-0. He irons out Jamie Mullarkey in a round in May…

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Mullarkey made it to the UFC himself a few years later and has shown that he’s tough as shit. So with the benefit of hindsight, seeing Volk just blitz him like this is all the more impressive. He follows that up with another first round knockout to win yet another promotion’s belt, this time at 155 and it’s the Wollongong Wars Lightweight belt. Wollongong Wars sounds so much better than Respect In The Cage. Volk’s definitely winning the better belt names contest at this stage. He closes out another strong year and it’s his turn to get that UFC call. He makes his Octagon debut on the undercard of Whittaker vs Brunson in November and scores a TKO over Yusuke Kasuya. Ortega continues to rebuild from the dodgy UFC debut. He subs Diego Brandao in January and knocks out Clay Guida in June.

2017: Both fight twice, both win twice. Volkanovski gets a couple of decisions. Doesn’t wow anyone but it’s two more wins and 30 more Octagon minutes in the bank. Ortega has more of a highlight reel year, racking up submissions over Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson. At this point he’s established himself as more than just a prospect, he’s a legit player in the ranks at 145. Another year in the books. Volk’s 16-1, Ortega’s 13-0-1.

2018: Volkanovski racks up another 3 wins. He beats Jeremy Kennedy and Darren Elkins. Decent enough. Then he gets his first real break. He bags a fight with Chad Mendes on the main card of the big end of year PPV, which was topped by Jones vs Gustafsson 2 and Nunes vs Cyborg. A huge opportunity for Volk and he grabbed it and ran with it…

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Turned out to be Mendes’ last fight (although he’s been making noises of a return recently) and Volk took his place as the powerhouse fireplug of the Featherweight division. Ortega fights twice. UFC 222 in March was supposed to be headlined by a Max Holloway vs Frankie Edgar title fight. Holloway dropped out, Ortega jumped in on short notice. And…

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Damn near uppercutted Frankie into the lights. This mightn’t seem so mind blowing now. We’ve since seen Frankie put to bed by the Zombie and Sandhagen. But at the time of this fight, Edgar had never been stopped and was known for his ridiculous durability. For Ortega to put him away inside a round, and on short notice, was crazy. It was only right that he got a title shot coming off that performance. How could you deny him? So he got the shot against Holloway in December. Didn’t exactly go to plan.

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Holloway took him to school. Proper busted him up to the point it was getting really uncomfortable to watch at points. One of those long, drawn out, systematic dismantlings that Max has kind of become known for. He put a serious beating on Ortega that night. So bad that people were questioning whether Ortega would ever be right again. It was that severe a thrashing.

2019: Ortega sits out all year. For the best after that battering he took from Holloway. But Volk is well on his way up the ladder. That Mendes win was just the breakthrough he’d been missing. People are taking notice now and it’s only names, main cards and big fights for him at this point. He beats Jose Aldo on points in May. In Brazil. Wasn’t an amazing fight from my memory of it but a win over Aldo is a win over Aldo. One of the best to ever do it and a legend. It’s a boost to the resume regardless. From there it was undeniable that he deserved his own crack at the gold.

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He challenged Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December. At this point, I’d always felt like Volk was a bit underrated and under-appreciated but I didn’t realise just how much he was being underrated. I thought he was a beast but I still thought Mad Max would ultimately prove too much for him. I just didn’t see Volk coping with Holloway’s volume striking and I thought him also being much shorter than Max would only make things that much worse for him. Wrong. Volkanovski put on an absolute masterclass.

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The leg kicks were the key to the fight really. They opened up everything else. But Volk’s timing and his tactics in general were so on point that night. Even as someone who thought he was underrated, he showed that night that he was even a level above what I thought he was capable of. This was no ‘fluke knockout’ or someone ‘just getting caught’. Volko won hands down, on tactics, on merit, on technique and on skills. I think I had him winning 4 of the 5 rounds.

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Little Volk. The new UFC Featherweight champion of the world.

2020: The COVID era. Despite the clear cut win over Holloway in December, the UFC push the agenda for an immediate rematch. I wasn’t really a fan of doing it straight away but whatever. They met again on Fight Island in July. Decent fight, but not quite as good as the first for me. Even though it was closer. Volkanovski comes out with the win again.

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Split decision this time and resulted in a load of whinging online that Holloway got robbed. Not having it. It was closer than the first fight for sure, no denying that. But nobody got robbed. Still think it was a mistake to rush into the immediate rematch. But when you look at how incredible Holloway looked in his last fight against Calvin Kattar, and how great he’s looked in most of his other fights, it says a lot about the level Volkanovski is operating on that he’s been able to shut down Holloway’s game twice. There’s a reason Holloway wasn’t firing off that insane output of strikes like he does against everyone else.

Ortega finally returned to the cage in October, after almost 2 full years of inactivity. He took on the Korean Zombie in a fight that was a long time coming. 

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Bald Bri looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. Whether it was just a good style for him to shine against or a case of the time away really benefitting him training-wise, who knows? Probably a bit of both, I imagine. No doubt it was good for him to take time to heal up after that brutal loss to Holloway. But also, it would’ve allowed him time to regroup and go and work on his weaknesses in the gym, without the pressure of a dedicated training camp, tailored specifically to prepare for a certain opponent. For a young guy like Ortega, he’d have learned a lot in those 2 years.

2021: And we’re here. As I said, it was meant to go down at UFC 260 in March. The delay was cack but they’ve had the TUF build, I suppose, whatever that’s worth in 2021. I haven’t watched a second of the show but I was giddy about this matchup anyway. Whether I watched TUF or not, I’d still wanna see this fight. From bits I’ve caught on social media and interviews though, they don’t seem to get on too well, do they?

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The common thing I’ve been seeing is Volk saying Ortega’s a fake nice guy and stuff like that. All tame enough and I haven’t seen TUF so can’t judge for myself. It chimes true with my gut feelings about Ortega though. There’s definitely an underlying dickhead vibe there. The whole thing with him slapping the Zombie’s translator a while back as well, and him and Cain shouting ‘PUTO’ at Jeremy Stephens after their mate Yair nearly gouged his eye out in Mexico that time. I’m Team Volk. Personalities aside though, the fight itself should be class. They’re both in their prime. Volk’s firing on all cylinders at the moment and if he can bamboozle a machine like Holloway then you have to think he’ll be a bastard of a puzzle to solve for most. But what I love about this is it’s a completely different set of skills he’s up against here. Ortega isn’t a volume striker like Holloway (who is?) but he’s shown he can be creative and dangerous in the striking and he’s obviously lethal on the ground. We talk about Francis Ngannou’s ‘puncher’s chance’ being higher than anyone else’s. Well, Ortega’s kind of that guy with the subs. Volkanovski isn’t gonna be easy to catch in a submission but Ortega’s got that sneaky BJJ where he’ll pull shit off out of nowhere and you don’t realise you’re in trouble until it’s too late. A fascinating fight. I’d definitely favour Volkanovski myself. I think he’s just too good and too dialled in right now, and he’s very consistent. But Ortega definitely has the tools to make it very intriguing.

 

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Valentina Shevchenko vs Lauren Murphy. The ‘Bullet’ makes her sixth defence of the Flyweight title. It’s got to be getting to the point where it’s not even fun anymore for her. Since she dropped to 125lbs in 2018, nobody has been able to even really give her a real challenge. Even up at Bantamweight she was a handful, beating Holly Holm and Julianna Pena and taking Amanda Nunes the distance twice in close fights. Flyweight is clearly her division though. She’s 21-3 now, on a 7 fight winning streak and just battered Jessica Andrade at UFC 261 in April.

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Champ shit. She’s fast running out of contenders at this point though. Joanne Calderwood has been on the cusp a couple of times but keeps falling at the final hurdle. There’s…Sijara Eubanks. Erm. Who else? The only one who sounds like an interesting test to me is Tatiana Suarez. She’s coming back as a Flyweight on this card, more on that later. But it’s slim pickings. Pretty soon it’s all gonna be rematches and none of them will be interesting ones because Val won all the first fights handily. It’s getting to the point where we’re probably gonna have to see some kind of ‘Superfight’ soon just because she’s about a fight or two away from rendering her own division a wasteland. And with Amanda Nunes doing similar at 135/145, Nunes vs Shevchenko 3 probably isn’t that far off.

Lauren Murphy seems to fancy the job though.

“I think we can find holes in Valentina’s game and I think I’m strong enough to exploit them. I think I’m tough enough to get to where I need to go with her. She hasn’t faced anybody as tough as me. She hasn’t faced anybody that can grind like I can grind”. - Lauren Murphy

It all just sounds like the usual sound bite stuff though. The things challengers always say going in against a dominant champ. I don’t doubt that she believes it, I’m just not buying it. She’ll be 38 by the time this fight happens. She’s experienced, she is tough and she’s been on a nice run of wins lately. She’s won 5 in a row. She’s earned the shot. Nobody else is on that kind of win streak at 125lbs. But I don’t see how she really troubles Shevchenko. I say that every time Shev fights but I really can’t see a clear path for Murphy here. It’s not that I think Shevchenko’s unbeatable, nobody is, I just don’t see Murphy having the tools to get it done. She barely squeaked by Calderwood in her last fight. I know ‘styles make fights’ and all that but Shevchenko is simply operating on a completely different level to Murphy or anyone she’s fought previously, in my opinion. Murphy is durable, she’s never been stopped and, between that and her experience and composure in there, I think she might be able survive and go the distance. But is that good news really? If this goes long, Murphy’s getting diced up.

 

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Robbie Lawler vs Nick Diaz 2 is this card’s ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** and it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. This one’s come up on here a bunch of times over the years, mostly me bringing it up, but I think we were all at the point where we never expected it to actually happen. It seemed like the ship had sailed on a Diaz comeback full-stop a while ago. But here we are in 2021. A rematch 17 years in the making.

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They met way back in April 2004 at UFC 47. Same night as the first Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz fight. Lawler was 22 years old, Diaz was only 20. They were still babies in the sport. Lawler had already developed a reputation as a can’t miss prospect. He was coming out of the Miletich camp, who were pretty much dominating the sport at the time, and was already being hailed as the UFC’s answer to a young Mike Tyson. Not as much was known about Diaz, he was 8-2 but he’d only had one fight in the UFC at this time and trained under Cesar Gracie. So it was assumed he was just a BJJ guy for Lawler to beat up. Diaz flipped all that on its head.

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Right from the off, Diaz came out talking shit, taunting Lawler, actually slapping him in the face at one point and didn’t seem all that arsed about going the grappling route as most expected he would. Lawler looked confused and frustrated for most of the first round but he definitely got his share of digs in. In the second round he’d had enough of Diaz’s games, he came out mega aggressive and Diaz made him pay…

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Done. Nick Diaz had knocked out Robbie Lawler. Obviously, we know now what Diaz can do on the feet but this was a real shocker at the time. He’d kind of kept his love for Boxing in the back pocket prior to this, his secret weapon. He couldn’t have unveiled it at a better time. It was the last thing anyone, Lawler included, was anticipating from him.

Given how young they both were and how exciting a fight this was, you’d have bet a bollock they’d meet again. Maybe even do a trilogy. But for one reason or another it just never happened. It always amazed me that they never crossed paths again though. After both their initial UFC runs ended, they were both in EliteXC at the same time, both in Strikeforce at the same time etc. You’d have thought the rematch would be so obvious to make. But it wasn’t to be.

By late 2011, Strikeforce was starting to flounder and the UFC took the opportunity to swoop in and pilfer some of their top stars. Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Cung Le and…Nick Diaz were all UFC bound. After 5 years away, Diaz was making his Octagon return. He’d had a hell of a run in Strikeforce and was more popular than he’d ever been. Since leaving the UFC in 2006, he’d strung together wins over Takanori Gomi, Frank Shamrock, Scott Smith, Mariusz Zaromskis, Hayato Sakurai, KJ Noons, Cyborg Santos and Paul Daley. He was re-entering the Octagon with some real momentum and there was a ton of buzz that we might finally get to see the long talked about clash with GSP soon.

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He fought BJ Penn at UFC 137 in his first fight back. They had a 15 minute bloody scrap that was a lot of fun to watch but ultimately, Penn’s face got turned into hamburger and Diaz got a clear decision win. Went tits up after that though and he dropped a close decision to Carlos Condit in his next fight. He finally did collide with GSP as well…

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And it went as anyone with sense had always predicted it would. A shutout for Georgey. It was a fight that was often talked about and debated for years when both were champs in different promotions. Like always, you had the delusion Diaz fans swearing he’d be too much for GSP but to me it really was always one of the easiest big fights to predict ever. GSP was always the nightmare opponent for Diaz. But fortunately for Diaz, he was also the most lucrative. Which was a good job because it was around this time that Diaz got in trouble for his inability to put the bong down and got some ridiculously harsh suspension. Luckily, he had that GSP money so could afford to just piss off back to Stockton to smoke himself silly and ride his bike all day.

It’s early 2013 now and Strikeforce has finally been taken off life support. It’s over. So anyone else of worth on the roster is brought into the UFC. Robbie Lawler being one of them.

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There were zero expectations for Ruthless Rob’s return. He’d had some cracking fights since parting ways with the UFC back in 2004 but by this point he was 19-9-1, coming off a really lacklustre run at Middleweight in Strikeforce, was 1-3 in his last 4 and had just lost to Lorenz Larkin. It wasn’t looking good at all. When his UFC return opponent was announced as Josh Koscheck I think every Lawler fan groaned. It just sounded like a shitty fight for him that would likely end in defeat and possibly seeing him get his walking papers. Lawler had other ideas though.

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Getting the unexpected opportunity of a UFC return seemed to light a fire under Lawler. He’d joined American Top Team, dropped back down to Welterweight and started sparring regularly again. Something he said he didn’t bother with for years because he “already knew how to fight”. On top of this, his wife had just given birth and he’d not long turned 30. It was time to make something happen. Nobody expected the run he was about to go on. On returning to the UFC, he went 5-1 over the next 2 years. The only loss being a close decision in a title fight against Johny Hendricks. It was close enough that Lawler and Hendricks rematched in December 2014 and…

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Something I don’t think even the biggest of Lawler fans thought they’d ever see. Robbie Lawler, UFC champion. Easily up there with my favourite unexpected success stories in combat sports history.

Diaz had popped back once, for another big payday against Anderson Silva.

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🤣

I remember a lot of people shitting on this fight but I enjoyed it. It was a weird and ridiculous one but I found it so oddly entertaining at the same time. Of course, Diaz lost again, got in trouble for weed again, and fucked off back to the 209 with a fat cheque again.

In the meantime, Lawler was starting his run as champ. And what a run it was. He only defended the belt twice but they were two of the greatest fights in Welterweight history. He went to war with Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit in back-to-back blood and guts classics. It all ended in tears when Tyron Woodley spoiled the party in 2016 but it was incredible while it lasted.

This whole time, there were always talks of a Diaz return. I remember between about 2016 to 2018 there were a bunch of rumours and Dana said a few times that they’d offered Diaz different fights. I remember him mentioning a possible Lawler rematch even at that time. Matt Brown was another name that came up and I know there was a fair bit of talk about doing Diaz vs Bisping at one point, which would’ve been quality. The buildup more than the fight itself would’ve been amazing. Nothing ever came of it, obviously. I think around this time Diaz was just done with fighting mentally. Dana was saying they’d offer him fights and he wouldn’t even respond. He wouldn’t decline the fights, he’d just no sell the offers altogether. I think he was probably burnt out. He’d been at it from a young age and clearly he’s got some issues with anxiety or whatever, I just think he’d checked out. The enforced time away with the weed suspension was probably the first time since he was a teenager that he never had the stress of a fight hanging over him. The only times you’d see him pop up around this time was when he’d be out partying.

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For years during his active fighting days, he’d talk about other fighters going to clubs and getting smashed, talked about how much he hated the Vegas nightlife scene and how everyone was fake and stuff. But he seemed to be loving it for a while there. It was probably the first time he’d allowed himself to just go out and relax because, for once, he had no training camp or fight to think about. A bit of that is good but after a bit it did seem like he was hitting clubs and living the nightlife a bit too heavy.

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Not good. Still, he didn’t smack any old men or rape anyone. Every time you’d see him around this time though, he looked rough as fuck. I commented on it a few times on here, he looked well haggard for a while. He had that bag of shite look we all have the day after a heavy night of drinking. But it was every time you saw Diaz. Always looking sweaty, bloated in the face and like he’d slept in a wheelie bin the night before. And he was never the best talker but his interviews got even more nonsensical and hard to follow. I’ll never forget that mad long sit-down he did with Helwani a couple of years ago where he was just an incoherent rambling mess. I watched the whole 45 minutes or whatever it was and was none the wiser when it was over. It made me never want to see him fight again, to be honest. I’m still conflicted on this return.

Lawler’s fallen on hard times himself. It seems all those wars have finally caught up to him. People talk about the Rory and Condit fights but seriously, Lawler had been having crazy slobberknockers since he got in the door at 19 or 20. The Aaron Riley fight, the Chris Lytle fight, the two with Scott Smith, the round of mayhem with Melvin Manhoef. He’s always been a mad bastard. He held up way longer than he had any right to really but now we’re at the point where he’s 39 years old and has lost 4 in a row. I know I sound delusional but I’m still hesitant to say he’s shot like most are. His last 2 losses were to Magny and Covington, who have the type of styles he’d have struggled with at any point in his career. Before that was the controversial Ben Askren loss. Granted, a losing streak is never good but they’ve also been matching him with his kryptonite in consecutive fights. If he’d been fighting Mike Perry and Niko Price types, styles that are more up his alley, his recent win/loss ratio could look very different right now. I wouldn’t get the headstone and flowers arranged yet. With the right opponent, I still think there’s some fun to be had with Lawler.

Fast forward to 2021 and this one caught us all off guard. Nick Diaz popped up from the wilderness the weekend of UFC 261 in April. He was pictured at the arena and Daniel Cormier tweeted that he was there and that was it. The rumours started. They always did though whenever Diaz would resurface and nothing would ever come of it.

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This time would be different though and it wasn’t long before information started coming out about Diaz finally making his return. Dana had changed his tune massively. As we’ve come to expect from him. He said this about a possible Diaz return in January…

“This sport, even Jon Jones, as good as Jon Jones is, you have to be 100 per cent mentally, physically and emotionally ready to train, be ready for this and fight. And I just don’t think…I don’t think anyone should want to see Nick Diaz fight. He doesn’t look ready to compete in this sport”. - Dana White

By late April, not only was he suddenly all for a Diaz comeback, he wanted to feed him to Khamzat Chimaev. We talked about it at the time and I know some on here were fine with Chimaev vs Diaz but I was dead against it then and still am. They’ve waited the best part of a decade for Diaz to come back, they were practically begging him to take fights at different points while he’s been away, he finally decides to fight and they offer him a guy who’s a terrible style for him and stands to gain off Diaz’s name while if Diaz wins it’ll be chalked up as Chimaev never being any good to begin with. Nah. Fuck that. After all this time, just do a fun fight with a fellow fading name and see how he looks. Don’t feed him straight to the wolves. And I don’t wanna hear any ‘but it’s good for business’ talk. At least this way they might get more than one fight out of Diaz. Throwing him in with Chimaev right off the bat after 6 years out likely ends the Diaz return right there.

Anyway, common sense prevailed in the end.

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Yes! It’s not the co-main event anymore. Shevchenko vs Murphy has filled that spot. But let’s be honest, by fight week this is gonna be the real talking point. Probably even more than the main event. Interestingly, it’s gonna be a 5 rounder as well. Despite being third from top. I know they were on about doing certain non-title fights over 5 rounds but I thought it’d just be select co-main events. I’m good with it though. They most likely won’t need 25 minutes but I like that it’ll have time to play out.

Still not sure how I feel about Diaz fighting again. I’m excited obviously. This preview has gone on longer than his suspension. But it wasn’t long ago he seemed all fucked up waffling on at Helwani. In fairness though, he seems have sorted himself out and is taking this comeback seriously. He’s gotten himself back in phenomenal shape.

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Gives me some hope that he’s at least ready for a couple of fights but we won’t know until we see him in there. And Robbie Lawler, even 39 year old losing streak Robbie Lawler, is nobody to fuck around with. If Diaz isn’t right and isn’t properly prepared, he’s probably getting hurt. I’m sure the overwhelming feeling going in will be that Diaz knocks him out again because of how the first fight went. I get it. But at the same time, we’re far removed from 2004, Lawler won’t be surprised by Diaz wanting to strike this time and 6 years away is a lifetime in MMA. Especially when you’ve not been living the lifestyle for the bulk of it. This isn’t health freak GSP coming back after 4 years out and beating Bisping. This is Nick Diaz after 6 years of the finest weed those GSP and Anderson Silva cheques can buy. I don’t have a clue how it goes but I’m here for it.

 

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Curtis Blaydes vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Heavyweights in the house. Quite like this matchup actually. Big fan of Rozenstruik so I always look forward to his fights. This one sounds bad for him style-wise though. We haven’t really seen him take the old ‘wrestler test’ yet and Blaydes is the daddy when it comes to that in the current Heavyweight scene. Although, I thought that about the Derrick Lewis fight in February and Lewis wasn’t having it;

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I felt sorry for Blaydes, to be honest. I love the Beast so I was chuffed he won but Blaydes came across well in the lead up to the fight and I felt like the criticism he was getting for being boring was harsh. He was coming into that fight off a win streak as well, Lewis just laid him out bad and derailed him. Heavyweight MMA for you. Rozenstruik’s almost purely a striker. A Kickboxing veteran with 76 wins, 64 by knockout. He doesn’t play. In MMA he’s 12-2 with 11 knockouts and the only losses being to Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane. I’ve got to favour Blaydes here. I just don’t have confidence that Rozey can stop the takedown and surely Blaydes won’t just duck recklessly for a double leg with no setup again after Lewis flattened him. I think Blaydes is gonna play it safe here but if he can get on top it could get ugly fast. Blaydes has vicious ground and pound. It’s the Heavyweights though. Anything can happen. Rozenstruik by gogoplata!

 

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Jessica Andrade vs Cynthia Calvillo. It’s alright, not doing a great deal for me but it’ll do. I’m a fan of Andrade, to be fair. Just never really been too fussed about Calvillo. Hopefully Andrade bulldozes her but I’m really unsure how it goes. Calvillo’s got some really solid grappling, she could be tricky if it becomes a ground battle but Andrade is a black-belt herself, strong as fuck and has been known to slam her way out of trouble if need be. We saw that when she dumped Rose Namajunas on her head to win the title. She’s a little tank. It might be decent actually. If anyone can drag a fun fight out of Calvillo, it’s Andrade.

 

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Marlon Moraes vs Merab Dvalishvili. Nice little fight here. Should be good. What’s happened to Moraes though? Really? Wasn’t that long ago he was right in the mix for a title shot at Bantamweight. Former WSOF champ, came into the UFC and murdered Aljamain Sterling with that nasty knee, knocked out Jimmie Rivera, submitted Raphael Assuncao. He was on fire. Ever since that loss to Cejudo though, he hasn’t been quite the same. He’s lost 3 of his last 4 now and even the one he won over Aldo got treated like a loss. Poor get. He’s been stopped by Rob Font and Cory Sandhagen in his last 2 fights as well. It’s gone downhill fast. Real shame because when he was on top of his game he was a real problem and would’ve been a great addition to the current title picture at 135. I’m not sure he can get back there now though. Dvalishvili is no pushover either. He hasn’t really been blowing anyone away but he’s been quietly collecting Ws for a while now. Currently on a 6 fight winning streak with decent wins over Cody Stamann, John Dodson and Casey Kenney in there. The fact they’ve matched these two up now, with Moraes on a losing streak and Merab on a winning streak, makes me think they’re trying to push Moraes out the door. I’d love to see him get the win here and go on a bit of a resurgence.

 

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Dan Hooker vs Nasrat Haqparast. This got added late and was kind of unexpected. I thought they’d added all they were gonna add that was gonna be of real substance but this is a corker. We last saw Hooker getting put away in a round by Michael Chandler back in January. And he’d also lost to Dustin Poirier in his fight before that, but that was a FOTY contender so it didn’t set him back much. He got ran over by Chandler though. He’d been on a nice little run before those two losses as well, beating Paul Felder and Al Iaquinta in back-to-back fights. Just shows how quickly things can swing against you in a stacked division like Lightweight. This is a clear step down in levels compared to his last few fights but Haqparast is no joke. He’s gone kind of under-appreciated but he’s a scrapper. He’s 13-3 and has won 5 of his last 6 including a win over Marc Diakiese. And I thought he looked really good in his decision over Rafa Garcia a few months back. He’s only just turned 26 as well. I don’t see him becoming a contender just because of the sheer depth of talent at 155. But he’s got skills and I think he’ll fancy the job here. More than just a Kelvin Gastelum lookalike. Should be a fun one this.

 

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Shamil Abdurakhimov vs Chris Daukaus. Rescheduled from the Sandhagen vs Dillashaw card after Abdurakhimov got COVID. I won’t hold my breath that this actually goes ahead. Abdurakhimov’s not fought since 2019 now, despite being booked for a bunch of fights in the 2 years since. Fuck, he was announced to be fighting Ciryl Gane about 47 times last year alone and nothing came of it. We’ll see. I can’t ever recall really enjoying watching him but he’s got a deceptively decent record. By Heavyweight standards anyway. He’s 20-5 with wins over Andrei Arlovski, Marcin Tybura and Walt Harris and has pre-UFC wins over Jeff Monson and Sokoudjou. But I remember nothing of it. Maybe I’m being harsh on him but for a record with names like that on to bring up zero memories, it says something in itself. Daukaus is the younger man by 8 years. He’s 11-3 with 10 knockouts, 8 inside a round. On current form, you’d fancy Daukaus to win this. He’s ended his last four fights by KO early and put away Alexey Oleynik in under 2 minutes last time out. But Abdurakhimov’s got nearly double the amount of fights so the experience edge is big for him. Although saying that, Oleynik had way more fights and it didn’t stop Daukaus putting him to bed. I just hope it’s watchable. You never know with the big lummoxes.

 

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Roxanne Modafferi vs Taila Santos. Right then. Kind of intrigued by this one and it’s not got much to do with Modafferi. She seems nice enough, the likeable geek etc. But I’ve just never really gotten into her fights and very rarely enjoy watching her. She’s got a lot of experience and undeniable grappling skills but her striking is awkward and sloppy and if she can’t get the BJJ going, it’s usually messy and she takes a beating. She’s 25-18 now and she turns 39 the day before this show. I’m not sure how much longer she’s planning to keep going but it’s gotta be last legs stuff now. She was originally set to face a returning Tatiana Suarez here but Suarez has awful luck and had to withdraw with a knee injury. They haven’t done her any favours with the replacement. I’ve long said I think Santos is the darkhorse of the Flyweight division. She’s 28 years old from Brazil, with a record of 17-1 with 12 finishes. The only blemish being a split decision loss to Mara Romero Borella in 2019. Having watched both Santos and Borella, it honestly baffles me how Santos has lost to her. But I don’t think I saw the fight and it was a split. Maybe the judges got it wrong? Regardless, she’s looked good whenever I’ve seen her. Granted most of her pre-UFC opposition is unknown but that’s the case with most fighters these days. She convincingly beat Molly McCann and Gillian Robertson in her last two and it’s clear she’s due a step up. If Modafferi can get it to the ground anything could happen. She’s definitely the better grappler. If she can’t though, this is gonna be a miserable one for her. I see Santos by beatdown here myself but you just never know with a crafty veteran like Modafferi. For as many losses as she has, she’s tricky and she’s got form for derailing a prospect. In recent years she was the first to hand both Maycee Barber and Antonina Shevchenko a loss.

 

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Uros Medic vs Jalin Turner. Should be worth a look for Medic. He’s 28, unbeaten at 7-0, all finishes, trains at Kings MMA and got in the door off the back of a win on DWCS last summer. Made his UFC debut in March and made short work of Aalon Cruz.

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I quite like him already. Seems a bit wild and reckless but you can tell already he’s gonna be entertaining. Drawing a bit of a blank on Turner. Only thing I really remember about him is that Bisping had him as a sparring partner for a bit. He’s 26, 10-5 and coming off a couple of wins though. Maybe he’s better than I’m giving him credit for but nothing is jumping out about him.

 

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Manon Fiorot vs Mayra Bueno Silva. Like the sound of this. Fiorot has quickly established herself as a newcomer worth keeping an eye on. She made her Octagon debut in January and has already gone 2-0 in the UFC, bashing up Victoria Leonardo and Tabatha Ricci in a manner you don’t usually see from Flyweight women. She looks huge for the weight as well. She’s 7-1 now with 6 finishes and her only loss was a split decision in her MMA debut to Leah McCourt. Not sure how far she can go but she’s looking like trouble so far. Time will tell but she could potentially be another one, along with Tatiana Suarez, who could make the Flyweight landscape a little bit more interesting. Just need to see her get a sterner test and this fight should provide that. Silva doesn’t seem to be anything special but she’s better than the last two Fiorot victims. She’s 7-1-1 with submission wins over Gillian Robertson and Mara Romero Borella. Nothing earth shattering but I’m interested to see if she can get the grappling going against Fiorot here, and how Fiorot handles it.

 

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Nick Maximov vs Karl Roberson. This should be of some interest actually because Maximov is a teammate and protégé of the Diaz brothers. He’s 23 years old and undefeated at 6-0 with 5 finishes. He’s already fought for KOTC, LFA, he’s had some grappling matches on that Chael Sonnen show on Fight Pass (SUG) and was on Dana’s Contender Series in November. He’s definitely been about in his short time competing. And that’s probably a good thing, no doubt the Diaz’s influence because it kind of mirrors their start in the sport, although Maximov is obviously moving into the big leagues quicker. He was originally offered a spot on TUF but he’s straight in regardless. Roberson’s a test but it’s not like they’re throwing Maximov to the wolves right away. It’s a matchup that should give us some idea what he’s got though because Roberson’s been on the roster for a few years now and has mixed with some of the players at both 205 and 185. He’s fought (and lost to) Glover Teixeira and Marvin Vettori and he does have wins over Ryan Spann and Darren Stewart. He’s not bad. He’s also got form for spoiling the UFC debut of an undefeated fighter before, when he subbed Roman Kopylov, in Russia, back in 2019. It has my interest.

 

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Matthew Semelsberger vs Martin Sano Jr. Don’t know enough about these two to give much insight. Semelsberger’s been decent from my recollection of him. Scored a peach of a one punch 16 second knockout over Jason Witt in March but lost a decision to Khaos Williams in his last fight. Sano’s a new face but him debuting on this card makes a bit more sense when you find out who he trains with.

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Yep. Another Diaz teammate. It’s a bit of an odd one though. He’s got a 4-2-1 record with his 4 wins all coming inside the distance. But…he hasn’t fought since 2017 and hasn’t won since 2014! He does have a submission win over Geoff Neal on his record but that was in 2013. Bit of a weird signing but I’m guessing Diaz pushed for it and the UFC was willing to throw him a bone to keep him happy and get his comeback sorted.

 

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Omar Morales vs Jonathan Pearce. Dunno. Not familiar enough with either guy. Morales is 35 years old and from Venezuela. 11-1 with 7 finishes. He’s beaten Shane Young, Gabriel Benitez and Dong Hyun Ma in the UFC so far and his lone loss came against Giga Chikadze by decision in October last year. Pearce is 29 with a 10-4 record and comes into his fight off a TKO victory over Kai Kamaka. Not sure I saw that. My only memory of Pearce was Joe Lauzon kicking his arse in about a minute the last time the UFC went to Boston.

 

And that’s that for now.

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Edited by wandshogun09
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Yeah saw that. What a shame. She’s had no luck. I did see that they’re looking to just reschedule the fight though so hopefully that means it’s nothing too serious and won’t keep her out too much longer. 

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id set up Modafferi/Barber II. Barber got a little backlash after last weekend but got back into the winners circle and getting a chance to avenge one of her losses would make a decent story coming off of it, especially considering she got injured during the first fight.

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Hmmmm, I thought they were just rebooking Modafferi vs Suarez. This was the tweet I saw that suggested that;

But looking at the tweet you posted there, seems that’s not the case. If they’re looking for a replacement then Barber would make sense.

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Updated the opening post with the latest. Losing Modafferi vs Suarez really hurt the undercard for me. They’ve added 3 fights though.

• Shamil Abdurakhimov vs Chris Daukaus, which was originally on the Sandhagen vs Dillashaw card last week, has been moved here.

• Ricky Simon vs Timur Valiev, which is another fun little matchup at 135.

• And UFC newcomer and Diaz brothers pupil Nick Maximov is making his debut against Karl Roberson.

My wife saw me looking up Maximov just now. We’ve been watching the ‘Making A Murderer’ documentary series on Netflix over the last few nights and she’s gone and pointed out that Maximov looks like a young version of the guy at the centre of the series Steven Avery. I can’t unsee it now.

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That’s him now before his UFC career even gets started. 

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Official poster;

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Seems surreal seeing Nick Diaz on a UFC poster in 2021. And it being in a rematch with Robbie Lawler after all these years makes it even more of a headfuck. I won’t fully believe it until they’re in there throwing punches and talking shit but, as of now, just a matter of weeks away.

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