Competing for the first time after a two-fight rivalry with former champ Max Holloway, UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski will return in Saturday night’s main event against Brian Ortega. The fight headlines UFC 266, which will conclude “International Fight Week” from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
The fight will come at the end of a busy evening that also has a Valentina Shevchenko title fight, the return of Nick Diaz against Robbie Lawler, the showcase of undefeated prospects Nick Maximov and Uros Medic, and more.
Here’s a full preview of the show.
Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT / 3:00PM PDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 1: Omar Morales (11-1) vs. Jonathan Pearce (10-4) (Featherweight)
Featherweights Omar Morales and Jonathan Pearce are expected to open Saturday’s lengthy card.
Pearce picked up his first UFC victory in November, stopping Kai Kamaka III in the second round with strikes. His previous fight, his UFC debut against Joe Lauzon in 2019, resulted in a finish loss.
Morales is also coming off a victory, as he fought to a unanimous decision win over Shane Young in March. He enters Saturday with a promotional record of two wins and one loss.
Bout 2: Matthew Semelsberger (8-3) vs. Martin Sano (4-2-1) (Welterweight)
In the first of two matchups that include a protege of the Diaz Brothers, UFC newcomer Martin Sano will face Matthew Semelsberger.
Sano enters the fight with the reputation of training with Nick and Nate Diaz. However, he goes into the weekend having earned a draw and two losses in his last three bouts. Not only that, but his most recent fight dates all the way back to 2017.
Semelsberger will be looking to bounce back from his first UFC loss. The 28-year-old started his promotional run with two wins, although that streak was broken in June with a loss to Khaos Williams.
Bout 3: Nick Maximov (6-0) vs. Cody Brundage (6-1) (Middleweight)
In a double UFC debut, undefeated middleweight Nick Maximov will face short-notice opponent Cody Brundage on Saturday.
Like Martin Sano, Maximov enters UFC with the reputation of training under the Diaz brothers. He has fought as a pro since 2018, with five of his wins coming via stoppage. His last fight was on the 2020 season of “Dana White’s Contender Series,” where he defeated Oscar Cota for a UFC contract.
Maximov was first set to meet Karl Roberson, but he was given Brundage just a few days back instead.
Brundage has quickly attained six wins and one loss since turning pro in 2019. He last competed in February, where he defeated Joseph Kropschot on an LFA card.
Bout 4: Uros Medic (7-0) vs. Jalin Turner (10-5) (Lightweight)
Riding the momentum of an explosive UFC debut, undefeated lightweight Uros Medic will fight Jalin Turner on the prelims.
Medic made his promotional debut in March, stopping Aalon Cruz in the second minute with strikes. That continued a career-long streak of finishing his opponent, including his “Contender Series” win from last year that secured him a UFC contract.
Turner will be making his first appearance in a year. He currently has a two-fight win streak, which includes a rear naked choke win he scored over Brok Weaver in September 2020.
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 5:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / TSN 4)
Bout 5: Roxanne Modafferi (25-18) vs. Taila Santos (17-1) (Flyweight)
Roxanne Modafferi will make history when fighting Taila Santos on the prelims.
Modafferi, a veteran of MMA, will become the woman with the most pro MMA bouts ever when she steps into the cage on Saturday. Having fought since 2003, Modafferi has made the UFC her home since 2013. She will be looking to bounce back from a loss in this fight, as her prior bout was a decision loss to Viviane Araujo in January.
Santos enters Saturday with a fair amount of momentum. The flyweight has been out of the cage this year due to numerous fights being cancelled, although she is returning after defeating Molly McCann and Gillian Robertson in 2020.
Bout 6: Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5) vs. Chris Daukaus (11-3) (Heavyweight)
Fighting to continue his undefeated UFC run, heavyweight Chris Daukaus will face the returning Shamil Abdurakhumov.
Daukaus has had a quick run in the UFC since joining the roster in August 2020. Through his three fights in the promotion, Daukaus has finished all of them within a round. He defeated a veteran last time around, stopping veteran Aleksei Oleinik in February.
Abdurakhimov has fought in the UFC since 2015, although he has been inactive since September 2019. His last fight was a high-profile loss, as he was stopped by Curtis Blaydes at UFC 242.
Bout 7: Dan Hooker (20-10) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (13-3) (Lightweight)
After a week of their fight being in jeopardy, Dan Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast will get to compete on Saturday.
Both Hooker and Haqparast nearly didn’t get into the U.S. in time for the fight. First, there was a scare as Hooker pleaded with his own government to approve his visa. Once that was resolved, worries started to arise regarding Haqparast receiving a visa.
Both fighters have since made it into the country and made weight for the fight despite only having hours to do so upon arrival.
Bout 8: Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (13-4) (Bantamweight)
In the final prelim of the card, Merab Dvalishvili will put his six-fight win streak on the line when facing Marlon Moraes.
Dvalsivhili has gone undefeated in the UFC since 2018. His wrestling-heavy style of fighting has made all of those fights go the distance, including his most recent win, which came against Cody Stamann in May.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (PPV)
Bout 9: Jessica Andrade (21-9) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) (Flyweight)
Returning for the first time after losing a title shot, Jessica Andrade will meet Cynthia Calvillo in the opening fight of the main card.
Andrade lost a title fight to flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko in April, getting finished in the second round. The former strawweight champion was given the title fight after getting a win and a loss in the flyweight division.
Calvillo is also coming off a loss, getting defeated by Katlyn Chookagian via unanimous decision last year.
Bout 10: Curtis Blaydes (14-3) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruick (12-2) (Heavyweight)
Ranked heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruick will meet as part of Saturday’s card.
Blaydes was on the rise in the heavyweight division in 2019 and 2020, putting together a winning streak that made him one of the top fighters. In February, Blaydes was booked for a main event bout against Derrick Lewis, in a fight that arguably was to decide who would be next for a title shot. Despite being a massive underdog, Lewis delivered a brutal second-round knockout to Blaydes, stopping his fast momentum in the division.
Blaydes looks to start a new campaign on Saturday night.
Rozenstruick is coming back following a main event knockout victory over Augusto Sakai in June. With most of his recent fights taking place against the top names at heavyweight, Rozenstruick has only won three of his last five fights.
Bout 11: Robbie Lawler (28-15) vs. Nick Diaz (26-9) (Middleweight)
Fan-favorite Nick Diaz will make his return on Saturday night, facing Robbie Lawler in an incredibly aged rematch.
Diaz, 38, has been out of the cage since 2015, with his last appearance being when he fought Anderson Silva. He was suspended for five years by the Nevada Athletic Commission after that fight due to a drug test that detected marijuana.
Diaz first fought Lawler over a decade before, stopping him in the second round of a fight at UFC 47 in 2004.
Lawler has remained active since Diaz’s inactivity from the sport, competing eight times since 2015. He is currently on a four-fight losing that has kept him out of the win column since 2017. His most recent fight was in August of last year when Neil Magny fought three rounds for a decision win.
Bout 12: Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) vs. Lauren Murphy (15-4) (UFC Flyweight Championship)
For years now, UFC Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko has had success as a titleholder and has shown no signs of slowing down. She will look to continue that momentum in Saturday’s co-main event, meeting challenger Lauren Murphy.
An extensive five-fight win streak from Murphy has made her the clear next challenger for the belt. While she was vocal about wanting a title shot after a win against Liliya Shakirova last year, she was given the opportunity after fighting to a split decision win against Joanne Calderwood in June.
Despite being the best challenger in the division for Shevchenko currently, oddsmakers have Murphy set as a huge underdog, with some sportsbooks going as high as a +900 underdog.
Shevchenko has held UFC’s 125-pound belt since 2018 when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk to take the then-vacant belt. A win on Saturday would be Shevchenko’s sixth time defending the belt – tying her with Ronda Rousey’s 2012-to-2015 bantamweight title run, which was the most title defenses by any woman in UFC history.
Bout 13: Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) vs. Brian Ortega (15-1) (UFC Featherweight Championship)
Returning for the first time in over a year, UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski will fight Brian Ortega, who will be getting his second shot to take a UFC belt.
Volkanovski and Ortega were first set to meet back in March, although that iteration of the bout had to eventually be scrapped due to COVID-19 protocols.
Volkanovski became the UFC Featherweight Champion in December 2019, fighting five rounds for a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway. The win dethroned Holloway, who was in the title picture in his four previous fights.
Due to how close their five-round battle was, they ran it back seven months later. That bout was even closer, going another five rounds for a split decision result that earned Volkanovski his first win as champ.
Ortega’s most notable bout is arguably his late 2018 loss to Holloway, which was stopped in-between the fourth and fifth rounds by a doctor. The brutal featherweight brawl showed Ortega’s toughness but also gave him the first loss of his pro career against the then-champion. Before then, he had strung together six wins in the UFC from 2015 to 2018.
Now nearly three years removed from that fight, Ortega is back in the title picture. He secured his spot as the next challenger in October last year, defeating The Korean Zombie in a dominant five-round performance.