UFC brings its next pay-per-view this Saturday with a card absolutely STACKED with amazing fights from top to bottoms. Fans have been craving a great card as the UFC Fight Nights recently have not lived up to the hype, but we will get the Featherweight Championship and the Women’s Flyweight Championship, plus a plethora of contender fights to shake up the rankings throughout the weight classes. A big part of this card if that Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will finally settle their feuds from this season of The Ultimate Fighter to see who the best 145-pound fighter is in the world. Here is a breakdown of some fights to look for this weekend.
Prelims in pay-per-view cards in the UFC tend to be strong and that trend continues this weekend with some great fights to lead to the main card. There’s two main fights I want to focus on with the prelims. First, in the lightweight division, the 8th ranked lightweight Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (20-10) looks for a bounce back win against the German Nasrat Haqparast (13-3). This is a massive fight for Haqparast as if he takes out Hooker, he will enter the top 10 for the rankings of arguably the toughest division in the UFC. This is a huge step up in competition for him as Hooker is notorious for putting on great brawls for his fans. The Auckland native had one of the most brutal fights ever with Dustin Poirier where he fell short and got knocked out by Michael Chandler, so this fight is a must win for The Hangman if he wants to stay in contention. Last fight on the prelims features two of the better Bantamweights in the world as 6th ranked “Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) takes on the Republic of Georgia’s own 11th ranked Merab “The Machine” Dvalishvili (13-4). Both fighters have had great careers in the UFC since they’ve joined. Moraes at one point was ranked in the top 3 for the division, but has gone 1-3 in his last four fights, but each loss has came to the top talent in the division (Henry Cejudo, Cory Samdhagen, and Rob Font). Merab is coming in riding a six-fight win streak of unanimous decisions. He is an outstanding wrestler and uses his strengths to wear down people, leading to fans to call him boring. Both fights will be great, but my picks for the fights will be Hooker and Dvalishvili.
The main card has a lineup of great fights leading to the Championships. The number four ranked heavyweight Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (14-3) looks to bounce back from a brutal knockout from Derrick Lewis with a battle against the 6th ranked Suriname native Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik (12-2). Blaydes holds record for his wrestling takedowns in heavyweight and will be looking to take the fight to the ground, but he most likely will be timid as Rozenstruik offers a similar style of fighting that Lewis does. The one punch knockout type of fighters leave Blaydes with tough decisions on when to shoot because one false move can end the fight. Let’s not forget that a MMA legend returns to the Octagon this weekend as well. Nate Diaz’s older brother Nick “Diablo” Diaz (26-9) returns from his absence from fighting in a rematch with former champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (28-15). They first fought back in 2004, where Diaz stopped Lawler with punches. Both men will be Hall of Famers at the end of their careers, so fans get the enjoyment of two legends fighting at the end of their careers. Don’t look for any outstanding athleticism in this fight, but be ready for a great brawl. My predictions for both fights are Blaydes by decision and Lawler by TKO.
Finally, fans will be treated to two great Championship fights for UFC 266. First, for the Women’s Flyweight Championship, current champion Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (21-3) looks to continue her dominance against the next top contender “Lucky” Lauren Murphy (15-4). Murphy is known to be as tough as they come. She is riding a five-fight win streak where she had battles to get to the title shot she has now. This will be the toughest task yet for her as Shevchenko is considered the second best female fighter of all time by many. Shevchenko has won seven straight fights since her last loss to Amanda Nunes. She has ran through each opponent with ease and quite possibly could add Murphy to her list. Lastly, the Featherweight Championship is bound to be an absolute banger between the current champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (22-1) takes on the smooth Brian “T-City” Ortega (15-1). These two were stuck seeing each other for over a month while filming The Ultimate Fighter, so both grew to dislike each other a little more than before. Ortega has some outstanding jiu-jitsu, but in his last fight against The Korean Zombie, he showcased a phenomenal standing game to add to his arsenal. Volkanovski is sitting at number four in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings for a reason. He only has a single loss in his career that came in only his 4th fight of is career. Since then, he has a 19 fight win streak. His last two fights being victories over Max Holloway, who many consider the best ever at 145. This fight has been building up hype for awhile and fans everywhere will be hype for it, but both Championships will have no changes for the belt holders as both, I believe, will be victorious.
Time has dragged in between the UFC 265 and UFC 266, but we are finally two days away. The fights will begin with early prelims at 6 P.M. EST and the main card will be starting at 10 P.M. EST. Be sure to catch the amazing action coming this Saturday.
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Devin Hall is a columnist for MESPORTS digital. A University Louisville graduate who loves good music, good games and good times. He can be reached at DHall@maineventsports101.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mista_Hall25