UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski will make his return on Saturday night, facing former title challenger Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC 266. The fight will wrap up a stacked pay-per-view card that will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
The card also includes an appearance from UFC Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko, the return of Nick Diaz, and more.
Follow along throughout the evening for live updates.
Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT / 3:00PM PDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 5:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / TSN 4)
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (PPV)
Bout 13: Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) vs. Brian Ortega (15-1) (UFC Featherweight Championship)
Volkanovski Goes Five Rounds With Tough Ortega, Retains Featherweight Belt
Alexander Volkanovski had a hard-fought, successful title fight against Brian Ortega on Saturday, defeating him via unanimous decision in a UFC Featherweight Championship bout (49-46, 50-45 & 50-44).
While scores reflected that Volkanovski took all, or at least most rounds on scorecards, the fight was undoubtedly a challenge, as Ortega showcased his toughness and ability to be a threat on the ground.
Volkanovski opened the fight with two good rounds of kickboxing, landing the better shots against a game Ortega.
Ortega’s best moments were when the fight hit the ground, although in many instances it opened up other opportunities for Volkanovski to do damage.
Ortega had Volkanovski in trouble in the third round, getting the fight down with a mounted guillotine choke that looked deep. Volkanovski was able to escape the choke and take full mount on top, where he landed some punches. Ortega later countered with a triangle choke attempt. Escaping that deep attempt as well, Volkanovski unleashed more hard strikes until the round ran out of time.
A hurt and tired Ortega remained on the floor for a moment after the third round expired.
The fight was nearly stopped before the fourth round, as a doctor expressed concern over the swelling around the right eye of Ortega.
Ortega secured a body lock takedown in the fourth round with another choke attempt, although Volkanovski was quick to escape this time. A large amount of ground and pound strikes came from Volkanovski again in this position.
The fight remained close in the final round, as a fatiguing Volkanovski slowed down against a still active Ortega.
Volkanovski was appearing after a year out of the cage. He defended his belt for the first time last year, fighting to a split decision against former champ Max Holloway in a rematch.
Ortega was challenging for a belt for the second time in his career. He had previously gone five rounds against Holloway in 2018, getting pulled after the fourth round due to a doctor stoppage.
Ortega sprung back into the title picture last year after a dominant five-round win over The Korean Zombie.
Bout 12: Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) vs. Lauren Murphy (15-4) (UFC Flyweight Championship)
Shevchenko Defends Belt For Sixth Time
Valentina Shevchenko’s dominant UFC Flyweight Championship run had yet another strong showcase on Saturday night, stopping Lauren Murphy in the fourth round with strikes.
Shevchenko had a near-perfect performance against Murphy, showcasing stellar striking and often getting the fight to the ground for periods of time as well.
Shevchenko finally zeroed in on a finish in the fourth round.
Shevchenko backed Murphy up during the round with a series of punches. She eventually closed the distance and secured a takedown, allowing her to unload with ground and pound for over a minute, maintaining a pace of strikes until the referee stopped the fight.
Shevchenko has now defended her belt six times since earning it in late 2018. Her previous title win was in April, defeating former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade in the second round with strikes.
Despite being a massive underdog on Saturday, Murphy was the clear next contender for the belt. She entered Saturday on a five-fight win streak, including a win three months ago against Joanne Calderwood.
Bout 11: Robbie Lawler (28-15) vs. Nick Diaz (26-9) (Middleweight)
17 Years Later, Lawler Avenges Loss
Robbie Lawler scored a win against the returning Nick Diaz on Saturday, scoring a third-round stoppage win and avenging a loss that dates back more than a decade.
The strict stand-up battle saw both fighters exchange punches in a back-and-forth battle before a stoppage in the third round.
The fight had an abrupt end in the 11th minute.
Diaz dropped early in the third round after getting hit with a right hook. Diaz remained on the ground after the knockdown. Once Lawler asked the referee to stand Diaz up, Diaz decided not to get up, causing the fight to end.
Lawler first fought Diaz back in 2004, where he was stopped in the second round of action. Not only did Lawler’s win on Saturday avenge a loss, but it snapped a four-fight losing streak that had been developing since 2017.
Diaz, 38, was making his return, competing for the first time since 2015. The Strikeforce, Pride FC, and UFC vet was last seen fighting Anderson Silva at UFC 183.
Bout 10: Curtis Blaydes (14-3) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruick (12-2) (Heavyweight)
Blaydes Uses Wrestling For Decision Win
Curtis Blaydes defeated a ranked heavyweight on Saturday night, earning a scorecard win over Jairzinho Rozenstruick (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).
Blaydes earned a takedown in the opening round that kept Rozenstruick down for a couple minutes. Back to the feet, the heavyweights engaged in a slow, but close striking battle.
Rozenstruick landed a clean knee to the head of Blaydes in the second round, although Blaydes responded immediately by landing a takedown.
It became clear in-between the second and third rounds that a shot caused major swelling under the right eye of Blaydes.
Blaydes secured the last round of the fight, taking Rozenstruick down early and keeping him grounded for the majority of those five minutes.
Blaydes lost in the main event of a fight earlier this year, getting stopped by Derrick Lewis in February. The fight stopped his climb to a title fight, as he was on a four-fight winning streak before then.
Rozenstruick was also headlining a card in his last appearance, finishing Augusto Sakai within a round in June.
Bout 9: Jessica Andrade (21-9) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) (Flyweight)
Andrade Returns To Win Column With First-Round Stoppage
Jessica Andrade got back to her winning ways in the opening bout of the main card, putting away Cynthia Calvillo in the first round with strikes.
Andrade charged forward for an entire round with strikes. She would explode forward with combinations of hooks, not always connecting with shots but always causing Calvillo to back up at least.
Andrade took Calvillo out of the fight late in the round, unloading with punches that caused Calvillo to shell up against the cage. After Calvillo didn’t answer back to a long series of shots, the referee stepped in and put an end to the contest.
Andrade was making her first appearance since she lost a title fight to Valentina Shevchenko in April. She now has an even record at flyweight of two wins and two losses.
Andrade made promotional history in the appearance, becoming the first woman to compete in 20 UFC bouts.
Calvillo’s previous fight was a unanimous decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian in late 2020.
Bout 8: Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (13-4) (Bantamweight)
Dvalishvili Prevails In Close Wild, Keeps Momentum Going
Merab Dvalishvili had a hard-fought performance to keep his win streak alive on Saturday, prevailing in a hectic, back-and-forth battle against Marlon Moraes that came to an end in the second round.
Moraes nearly put away Dvalishvili early in the first round, stringing together a series of hooks that backed up Dvalishvili and made him run away from exchanges.
Making a comeback within the same round, Dvalishvili scored a takedown and nearly stopped Moraes with ground and pound strikes. Hard punches from full guard from Dvalishvili visibly rocked Moraes late, although it didn’t cause the fight to end.
Riding the momentum of a strong finish in the first round, Dvalishvili was able to put an end to the fight in the second round. Taking Moraes down in the second round, Dvalishvili unloaded with ground and pound that went unanswered, eventually causing the fight to end.
Dvalishvili’s impressive UFC win streak is now seven consecutive bouts. While the streak includes more than half-a-dozen victories, Saturday’s performance was his first stoppage win since joining the UFC in 2017.
Bout 7: Dan Hooker (20-10) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (13-3) (Lightweight)
Hooker Returns To Win Column In Dominant Performance
Dan Hooker picked up his first victory in over a year on the prelims, sweeping scorecards against Nasrat Haqparast for a unanimous decision result (30-27, 30-27 & 30-26).
Hooker was the advancing fighter in the opening round, the frame that was mostly contested on the feet. The second and third round saw more grappling from Hooker, getting Haqparast down and dominating on the ground.
Many worried that this fight wouldn’t take place on the card, as both Hooker and Haqparast had last-minute issues obtaining a visa to get until the country.
Haqparast was also heading into the fight shortly after the passing of his mother.
Hooker gave kind words to Haqparast after their performance.
“It’s incredible that he showed up … My journey was very easy compared to him,” said Hooker, also sending his thought to his family in his post-fight interview.
Hooker called Beneil Dariush in his post-fight interview.
Bout 6: Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5) vs. Chris Daukaus (11-3) (Heavyweight)
Daukaus Scores Fourth UFC Finish Win, Spoils Return of Abdurakhimov
Chris Daukaus continued his undefeated finish streak in the UFC, stopping the returning Shamil Abdurakhimov in the second round with punches.
Daukaus dropped Abdurakhimov with a right hook early in the second round, beginning the finishing sequence for the bout. He followed up with a few shots on the ground before the referee stopped the fight.
Daukaus came close to finishing the fight in the first round as well. After dropping Abdurakhimov with a left hook in the final minute of the round, Daukaus landed a series of ground and pound punches and elbows until the round ran out of time.
Daukaus now has four wins since joining the UFC roster last year. His three previous victories, including one over veteran Aleksei Oleinik, all came within a round.
Daukaus was cherishing the live crowd afterward, as his prior UFC bouts took place in crowd-less studio venues.
Abdurkahimov was making his first appearance in September 2019. His previous bout was a stoppage loss to high-level heavyweight Curtis Blaydes.
Bout 5: Roxanne Modafferi (25-18) vs. Taila Santos (17-1) (Flyweight)
Santos Continues Flyweight Campaign With Win Over Veteran Modafferi
Taila Santos continued her climb up the flyweight division on Saturday, defeating veteran Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).
Santos was dominant during stand-up exchanges in all three rounds. Her punches did damage to Modafferi, causing bruising and cuts. While Modafferi was able to have some moments of success on the ground, Santos was also able to secure her own takedowns and notch control time.
Modafferi made history in the fight, becoming the woman with the most MMA fights ever (when including her appearances on season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Making her 11th UFC appearance, Modafferi was looking to bounce back from a decision loss she took against Viviane Araujo in January.
Bout 4: Uros Medic (7-0) vs. Jalin Turner (10-5) (Lightweight)
Turner Continues Win Streak In Return, Hands Medic First Loss
Jalin Turner handed Uros Medic his first pro loss on Saturday, hurting him with strikes on the feet before concluding his performance with a rear naked choke submission in the first round.
A fast flurry of punches from Turner made Medic drop to the ground late in the round. Capitalizing on this, Turner took his back and applied the choke to end the fight.
Turner is now on a three-fight winning streak. His two previous victories in the run came over a year ago, defeating Joshua Culibao and Brok Weaver in 2020.
Medic won his UFC debut earlier this year, stopping Aalon Cruz in the second minute of action with strikes. All of his pro wins have come via stoppage within six minutes.
Bout 3: Nick Maximov (6-0) vs. Cody Brundage (6-1) (Middleweight)
Maximov Utilizes Grappling In UFC Debut
Diaz protege Nick Maximov won his UFC debut on Saturday, using his wrestling and grappling abilities to control short-notice opponent Cody Brundage for a unanimous decision result (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).
Brundage had strong grappling in all three rounds, getting dominant positions on the ground and attempting submissions at points. Brundage was able to survive positions, although he often had no answer for Maximov’s attacks.
Brundage was able to get some strikes in late, connecting with ground and pound in the final round.
Brundage took the fight on short notice, replacing Karl Roberson earlier this week. The booking pulled him from an upcoming episode of “Dana White’s Contender Series,” where he would have been competing for a spot on the UFC roster.
Maximov got his UFC debut after a six-fight run on the regional scene. The streak of wins included a submission win in LFA last year and a victory on the last “Contender Series” season.
Bout 2: Matthew Semelsberger (8-3) vs. Martin Sano (4-2-1) (Welterweight)
Semelsberger Lands Brutal KO On Sano
Matthew Semelsberger demolished UFC newcomer Martin Sano on Saturday, finishing him in just 15 seconds with strikes.
Semelsberger dropped Sano early with a right cross. After following up with a hammerfist punch, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight.
Semelsberger is now back in the win column after losing a fight to Khaos Williams in June.
Sano, a protege of the Diaz brothers, was entering the fight with a troubling resume. He had lost two of his last three bouts, with his most recent appearance before Saturday being in 2017.
Bout 1: Omar Morales (11-1) vs. Jonathan Pearce (10-4) (Featherweight)
Pearce Submits Morales To Earn Second UFC Win
Jonathan Pearce showed his grappling skills to begin the evening, submitting Omar Morales in the second round with a rear naked choke.
Pearce secured the choke on Morales after mounting the back of Morales. The fully applied choke caused a tap from Morales, causing the fight to come to an end.
Pearce was attached to Morales in the round before as well, wrestling Morales for most of the frame.
Pearce now has two consecutive UFC wins. His previous victory was his first in the UFC, stopping Kai Kamaka III last year.
Morales was coming off a unanimous decision win that he earned over Shane Young in March.