UFC 266 Preview: Alexander Volkanovski – Brian Ortega

Tomorrow night in the main event of UFC 266, we will see a showdown for the featherweight championship. The undisputed UFC champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) is back to defend his title against “T-City” Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC).

This fight comes on the heels of the two men coaching opposite each other on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Originally, they were supposed to fight in March, however, the fight got pushed back after the champion came down with covid.

Alexander Volkanovski lost his fourth professional fight which occurred in 2013. He hasn’t lost since. The champion is a perfect 9-0 in the UFC which includes two victories over Max Holloway. Volkanovski is hoping to add Ortega next to his hit list.

That said, Brian Ortega is not going to be an easy challenge to overcome. T-City looks like a completely different fighter than he was a few of years ago when he got his first crack at the UFC title against Max Holloway.

After nearly a two year layoff due to injuries, Ortega returned last October and outclassed Chan Sung Jung. In that fight he showed tremendous improvement in his striking. He believes he’s now ready to become the UFC featherweight champion.

UFC 266 Prediction

I’m expecting Brian Ortega to start out really strong at UFC 266. To be completely honest with you, I think he’s going to take the champion by surprise throughout the first two rounds on the feet.

Perhaps, maybe even Ortega hurts the champion here or there. However, I think Volkanovski is going to press through it. On pure activity, I really like Volkanovski the longer the fight goes.

The champion has shown the ability to make adjustments on the fly and adapt to whatever his opponent is doing. He did that in his last fight with Max Holloway and I think he’ll do it again tomorrow night.

We are in for a tremendous main event, but I truly believe that the UFC title is going to stay with New Zealand’s City Kickboxing tomorrow night. It’ll be close, but Volkanovski will retain.

Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski by Split Decision

UFC 266 Preview: Nick Diaz – Robbie Lawler 2

nick diaz, mma

Tomorrow night on the main card of UFC 266, we will see a rematch that is 17 years in the making. Nick Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) will be making his highly anticipated return as he meets former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-15, 1 NC).

These two first fought all the way back at UFC 47 in 2004. When they first fought, Lawler was the pretty big betting favorite especially if the fight stayed on the feet. However, that night, Nick Diaz showed the world how good he was when he knocked out Lawler on the feet.

Both men went on to have incredible careers. Nick Diaz walked away from the UFC and MMA back in 2015 after a failed post-fight drug test for marijuana saw him get suspended. Diaz has lost his last two fights but those came against Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre.

It’s clear that Robbie Lawler is near the end of his career. The former UFC welterweight champion has lost four fights in a row leading into UFC 266. In his last two fights, he really couldn’t get anything going against Neil Magny or Colby Covington. Lawler will look to show he’s still got something left in the tank and avenge his loss.

UFC 266 Prediction

To be completely honest, I’m really not sure how this fight is going to go. If I thought that Nick Diaz was still in his prime, I would really lean towards him at UFC 266. That said, there are a couple of things that are scaring me potentially away from picking Diaz.

First and foremost, the last minute weight change. These two were always supposed to fight at 170 pounds, however, this week Diaz requested that the UFC make it a middleweight fight. Ultimately, they did and Lawler agreed to the new weight.

Diaz has also been seen shadowboxing this week and he didn’t look good at all. All week long, I was leaning Diaz, but those things have concerned me. Lawler just isn’t the same guy he was when he was UFC champion which is why I’m having a hard time picking him.

I’ve been flip-flopping on this pick, but I’m going to stick with my initial instict despite everything going on. I think that Nick Diaz is going to be able to do enough with his boxing to be able to outlast Lawler over five rounds and edge out a decision.

Prediction: Nick Diaz by Decision

UFC 266 Preview: Marlon Moraes – Merab Dvalishvili

Saturday night in the featured prelim at UFC 266, we will see an incredible matchup in the bantamweight division. Former title challenger and top contender Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) will try to get back on track as he takes on the surging Merab Dvalishvili (13-4).

Just a couple of years ago, Marlon Moraes was looked at as potentially the best bantamweight in the UFC. After submitting Raphael Assuncao in the first round at a Fight Night in 2019, Moraes got a title shot against Henry Cejudo.

After starting well in that fight, Moraes faded badly and it’s been all downhill sense. Cejudo would finish him and then Moraes would go 1-2 in his next three after with the one win being a very questionable decision. In the eyes of the public, Moraes has lost four straight.

While his career has gone down, Merab Dvalishvili’s career has surged. After losing his first two fights in the UFC, Dvalishvili has really taken off. The bantamweight from Georgia has won six fights in a row including wins over Casey Kenney, John Dodson, and Cody Stamann.

UFC 266 Prediction

It is truly crazy how quick the narrative change change when it comes the UFC. If this fight was two years ago, I would’ve laughed at anyone saying that Dvalishvili would defeat Marlon Moraes.

Now, I’m almost finding myself on the complete opposite side. I really don’t know what to expect from Moraes right now. When he’s at his best, he’s fantastic. Incredible striking technique with good power in his hands and feet.

He also has very good grappling. Dvalishvili is going to bring a ton of energy into this fight and he won’t stop moving forward. I’m expecting a lot of takedown attempts from Merab in this fight.

Ultimately, I think the energy level of Dvalishvili is going to be the key at UFC 266. We’ve seen Moraes break a number of times and I think Dvalishvili’s suffocating style doesn’t match well with him. I think you’re going to see Dvalishvili take a big step forward on Saturday.

Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili by Unanimous Decision

UFC 266 Preview: Dan Hooker – Nasrat Haqparast

Tomorrow night on the prelims at UFC 266 we are going to see a banger of a matchup in the lightweight division. Entertaining lightweight contenders Dan Hooker (20-10) and Nasrat Haqparast (13-3) will battle it out in one of the featured prelims at UFC 266.

This is a fight that almost didn’t happen this week as both men had visa issues getting into the US. Hooker struggled to get in from New Zealand given the extremely limitations due to covid restrictions. Haqparast struggled to get back into the US after visiting Germany for his mother’s funeral.

That said, both men were able to make it and their fight will go on at UFC 266. This is a huge fight for Haqparast who will be looking for his third straight win. After losing his UFC debut back in 2017, Haqparast has gone 5-1 in his last six fights.

A win tomorrow night would be massive for his career. However, it won’t be easy as he’s taking on one of the best in Dan Hooker. Hooker is looking to get back on track after back-to-back losses.

That said, those losses came against two of the best in the UFC in Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier. Hooker is without question one of the better lightweights in the promotion and tomorrow is about getting back on the winning path.

UFC 266 Prediction

I think this fight is going to be sensational tomorrow night. I think you’re going to see two guys go out there and throw down on the feet. I was incredibly impressed with the boxing that I’ve seen from Haqparast in his recent fights.

His hand speed and accuracy would play well tomorrow at UFC 266. That said, Dan Hooker is a sniper on the outside and he has a much wider range of weapons in terms of his striking arsenal.

I’m really looking for him to use kicks tomorrow and potentially knees as Haqparast tries to close the distance. I think that Haqparast will make it interesting, but a big shot in round two will get The Hangman the win at UFC 266.

Prediction: Dan Hooker by TKO – Round 2

After setback at UFC Vegas 37, what’s next for Ryan Spann?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 37, Ryan Spann (19-7) got his first crack at a main event with the promotion. He was taking on former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-16) who has turned into a bit of a gatekeeper at 205.

It was a massive opportunity for Spann who was looking to break through into the UFC‘s top ten at light heavyweight. However, the fight didn’t go according to plan for Spann.

When the fight first started, Spann looked pretty good. He looked very active on the feet. You could tell that he does a great job of listening to his corner. Often giving them verbal feedback while competed while their shouting instructions.

Spann was able to land a takedown at UFC Vegas 37 and land a few shots, but overall, it was a very swift and sour night for Spann. During an early exchange, Spann was dropped and hurt by Lionheart.

Spann was eventually able to regain his composure, but that didn’t last long. He would get wobbled and hurt again by Smith which resulted in him ending up with Smith on his back. Smith locked up a choke and Spann tapped at UFC Vegas 37.

Spann’s UFC Run So Far

As mentioned, this was Spann’s first real taste at the top of the light heavyweight division. It didn’t go well at all. However, that just goes to show that he has a lot more growing he needs to do.

Spann just turned 30 and he’s shown off a ton of raw tools during his run in the UFC. Back in 2017, Spann was finished in 16 seconds on his first fight on The Contender Series. After that loss, he went back the drawing board and won eight fights in a row.

During that stretch, he got another shot on The Contender Series where he picked up a quick first round finish to earn a UFC contract. Upon reaching the promotion, he started 4-0 which included wins over Devin Clark and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Since then, he’s just 1-2 in his last three with the two losses coming by first round stoppage. He also has a first round win over Misha Cirkunov during that stretch. This tells me that he’s a fringe top ten UFC light heavyweight, but still has to sharpen some things up before he’s ready for the top.

What’s next?

With that, what’s next for “Super” Ryan Spann? Well, there are a couple of options. If the UFC wants him to reset a bit, I like a matchup with Dustin Jacoby (15-5-1). Jacoby is 5-0-1 in his last six and he’s just outside the top fifteen. This would be a good measuring stick fight for both men.

If they want to keep Spann fighting ranked opponents, I would look at the Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) – Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) fight in October. Whoever loses that fight would be a good fight for Spann as the loser would be in a very similar spot as him.

Is the UFC targeting Sean O’Malley – Brian Kelleher?

Sean O'Malley

The UFC has been working on finding the next opponent for “The Suga Show.” Sean O’Malley (14-1) is currently sitting on the sidelines waiting for the promotion to finalize his next opponent so he can get back into the octagon.

Originally, the UFC was targeting O’Malley against Frankie Edgar at UFC 268 in November. However, due to some scheduling conflicts, O’Malley turned down the fight with the former lightweight champion.

Afterwards, there appeared to be some tension between O’Malley and the UFC. However, that tension has seemingly been resolved and now the promotion is focused on getting O’Malley booked.

The word is that the promotion is targeting UFC 269 for O’Malley’s return. The card is expected to be huge featuring three title fights and a number of other high-level fights. The UFC does tend to go all out for the end of the year PPV.

O’Malley’s addition to the card would just add another big name. With that being said, there’s been some rumblings surrounding O’Malley’s next opponent and the leading candidate posted on Twitter that O’Malley had accepted the fight. 

Is the UFC booking O’Malley – Kelleher?

Brian Kelleher (23-12) took to Twitter to say that O’Malley had accepted a fight with him. While no confirmation occurred, the fight would take place at UFC 269 as mentioned above.

However, some recent back-and-forth has seemingly put a little water on the flames. O’Malley’s coach Tim Welch commented saying that Kelleher was already booked according to the UFC.

However, Kelleher has denied that he has a fight lined up. Now, it’s not out of practice for the UFC to have a potential fight lined up for someone before even offering it to him. This could be the case with Kelleher, however, it could be something different altogether.

Kelleher is not currently ranked in the top fifteen. That said, he’s one of the more entertaining bantamweights to watch and he’s gone 4-2 in his last six UFC fights. O’Malley has publicly stated that he doesn’t care if his next opponent is ranked because his pay doesn’t change.

While I personally would rather see O’Malley fight someone in the top fifteen, there’s no momentum with that right now. A lot is still up in the air, but it does appear that the UFC is moving in the direction of booking O’Malley against Brian Kelleher.

Phil Davis made the right choice moving to Bellator years ago

Phil Davis, MMA, UFC

This past weekend at Bellator 266, Phil Davis (23-6, 1 NC) was tasked with welcoming Yoel Romero (13-6) back to light heavyweight and to Bellator. Davis was coming off of a loss in the opening round of the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix against the champion Vadim Nemkov.

Davis had a great gameplan for Bellator 266. Romero is someone who likes to lull his opponents to sleep before exploding with something that catches them off guard. The problem for Romero is that Davis never quit moving.

He used great angles on the outside to work his jab and use his length. Then, in the second round, he started mixing in his wrestling which completely caught the former Olympic Silver Medalist off guard.

In the third round after realizing he could take Romero down, Davis went to the takedowns. Romero couldn’t get Davis off of him at Bellator 266 and as a result, Davis ended up walking away with a split decision victory.

That said, this fight was not a split decision. I think everyone in the world outside of the one judge who scored the fight for Romero knew that Davis one. Even Romero didn’t believe a scorecard went for him at Bellator 266.

Davis’ Bellator Career

Back in 2015, Davis became a free agent after having a good run in the UFC. Davis entered the UFC when he was just 4-0 and ended up going 9-3 during his 12 fights with the promotion.

Twice he got up to title eliminators, but both times he fell short of the mark. After losing a split decision to Ryan Bader, Davis tested out the market and made the surprising decision to sign with Bellator.

Upon signing with Bellator, Davis went a perfect 4-0 to start which included capturing the Bellator light heavyweight title. Now, he lost the title in his first title defense in another split decision to Ryan Bader.

However, Davis has now gone 10-3 with Bellator. After starting his career on the amateur circuit, Davis has gone a combined 19-6 on the biggest stage and he’s only lost to some of the best. His losses came against Ryan Bader (Twice), Vadim Nemkov (Twice), Rashad Evans, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Quietly, he’s put together a sensational career, and I don’t think he’s done yet. If he can put together another win or two, he might be challenging for the Bellator light heavyweight title again sometime in 2021.

UFC books Matt Brown – Bryan Barberena

Two of the most entertaining welterweights in the UFC have a date. MMA DNA was the first to report yesterday that the UFC has finalized a welterweight contest between “The Immortal” Matt Brown (23-18) and Bryan Barberena (15-8).

The matchup will take place at a UFC event on December 4th. Despite being one of the more entertaining fighters to watch, the road has been a bit bumpy for Bryan Barberena over the last few years.

Barberena made his UFC debut back in 2014 when he shocked everyone by stopping Joe Ellenberger in the third round of their fight. However, it was his fight with Sage Northcutt that made him well-known.

Northcutt had all the hype in the world and Barberena completely shut it down submitting Northcutt in the second round. However, since that win, Barberena has gone 4-5 in his last nine UFC fights.

Granted three of those losses came against Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, and Vicente Luque. He’s been in there with some of the very best in the world so he’s tested and he will be ready for this fight with Matt Brown.

Another UFC round for Matt Brown

For 40 year old Matt Brown, the train keeps on moving inside the octagon. Brown will be making the walk for the 29th time in his UFC career. We were all first introduced to Matt Brown back in 2008 when he was on the Ultimate Fighter.

Entering the UFC, Brown was just 7-6 as a profession. However, once he was with the biggest promotion in the world, his career really took off. While he had some bumps in the road, Brown always fought to entertain the fans and in 2012, he went on the run of his career.

Starting with a win over Chris Cope, Brown went on a stretch that saw him win seven straight fights. Those wins put him at 18-11 and in a title eliminator against Robbie Lawler. Ultimately, Brown came up short, but it was still one of the more impressive runs you’ll see from a guy like Matt Brown.

With his back up against the wall, Brown knocked out Dhiego Lima back in June to show everyone he still has fight left in the tank and I can assure you, he will bring the fight to Bryan Barberena in December.

What’s next for Yoel Romero after his failed debut with Bellator?

This past Saturday, Yoel Romero (13-6) made his highly anticipated debut at Bellator 266. Standing across from him was the former light heavyweight champion, Phil Davis (23-6).

Romero is a guy that just seems to defy father time. At 44 years old, Romero still is in incredible physical condition and he’s one of the most dangerous fighters whether he’s fighting at 185 or 205.

At Bellator 266, he was fighting in the light heavyweight division. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen an interesting strategy from Yoel Romero when he fights. He waits and often stands flat-footed throughout the opening parts of the fight.

Now, he does this in order to set up his attacks. Romero has always been a guy who can explode into attacks with incredible power. He attempted to do this a few times against Phil Davis at Bellator 266.

With Romero being a former Olympic Silver Medalist in wrestling, he was always allowed to explode with crazy attacks and he never worried about getting taken down. However, he was taken down on Saturday night.

In fact, Davis controlled him for the majority of the final round. Romero never really got any offense going at Bellator 266 and he lost a decision. One judge somehow gave Romero the fight, but it’s obvious that Romero lost this one.

What’s next after Bellator 266?

It was a frustrating debut to watch if you were a Yoel Romero fan. He just never really pulled the trigger in the way that he’s capable of pulling it which is what cost him the fight in my opinion.

Romero was confused after the fight because he thought the main event was five rounds. However, in Bellator unlike the UFC, non-title main events are only for three rounds. That said, I don’t see how Romero was winning that fight if it went another two rounds.

So, what does the promotion do with Romero now. Well, there are a couple of options. They can see if he’d be willing to go back to middleweight or they could wait until Rumble Johnson is ready to compete again.

Romero – Rumble is a fight that everyone wanted to see. They were originally paired up in the Bellator Grand Prix, however, Romero had an eye issue that kept him out. Rumble has had to pull out of the Grand Prix with an illness. 

All that being said, if Rumble can come back in early 2022, it should be against Yoel Romero.

UFC: Leon Edwards down to fight Jorge Masvidal in November

Leon Edwards

A UFC grudge match could be getting closer to happening. For the last couple of years, fight fans have wanted to see welterweights Jorge Masvidal (35-15) and Leon Edwards (19-3, 1 NC) throw down inside the octagon.

However, the fight has never been made. The desire to see these two fight stems back from a UFC Fight Night in England. Both Edwards and Masvidal competed on the card with Masvidal facing Darren Till in the main event.

Masvidal knocked out Till while Edwards won a decision over Gunnar Nelson earlier in the evening. When Masvidal was doing his post-fight interview with ESPN, Edwards walked by and said they should fight in July (2019).

Masvidal replied which caused Edwards to tell Masvidal to, “Shut up.” After Edwards said that, Masvidal approached him and the two had an exchange. Masvidal caught Edwards clean a couple of times and bloodied up the British welterweight.

Ever since then, these two have been jawing back-and-forth, but the UFC has never made the fight. Edwards has called for it over the last couple of years, but Masvidal took fights with Ben Askren and Nate Diaz before getting a couple of title shots.

Will the UFC make this fight happen?

Recently, the UFC has been trying to put this fight together. However, Edwards is wanting to wait for a title shot. Edwards is 9-0, 1 NC in his last ten appearances inside the octagon and believes he should get a shot at Kamaru Usman.

In all honesty, Edwards does have a point. However, Usman is currently booked to rematch with Colby Covington in November which as Edwards on the sidelines. Masvidal has said he’s interested in fighting Edwards, but Edwards has maintained he wanted to wait.

However, he changed his tune a bit today. Edwards told Ariel Helwani that he’d definitely fight Masvidal if they could fight in November. Apparently, the Masvidal camp has been pushing the UFC for December or January.

Edwards wants to try and line up with the welterweight title fight to not delay his shot any further. At this point, there is no word on if Masvidal’s camp is interested in taking the fight in November.

Masvidal recently called out Edwards on Twitter for dodging a fight with him. Well, Edwards has now made it clear that he will fight Masvidal if they fight before the end of the year. We will have to see how this plays out, but I wouldn’t rule the UFC setting this one up.