- Date & Location: Saturday, September 26 @ T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Odds: Alexander Volkanovski (-175) vs. Brian Ortega (+145) via Bovada
- Prediction: Volkanovski via decision.
On September 26, UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski faces someone other than Max Holloway for the first time in nearly two years. Volkanovski defeated Holloway by unanimous decision in December 2019 to win the 145-pound crowd. The champion then defended his title in July 2020 with a split decision win over Holloway. Volkanovski, who is on a 19-fight winning streak, faces Brian Ortega, who is the No. 2 ranked fighter — behind Holloway — in the official UFC featherweight rankings in the main event of UFC 266.
Ortega, who lost to Holloway via TKO in December 2018, is coming off an October decision win over Chan Sung Jung.
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VOLKANOVSKI vs. ORTEGA PREDICTION & PICK
Had the UFC booked this matchup before Ortega fought Holloway, I would not have hesitated to pick Volkanovski. He was the better all-around fighter. Ortega relied almost solely on his ground game before he faced Holloway. That ground game was excellent, but we knew Ortega for getting late finishes after falling behind in the early rounds of his fights. The Holloway loss taught Ortega he needed to up his striking game. He did that and it was that striking that won him his most recent fight. However, I’m reluctant to base my pick on just one fight. With that, I’m going to go with the champion.
Volkanovski trains with City Kickboxing’s Eugene Bareman and that means he should be prepared for whatever Ortega offers. Bareman is one of the smartest trainers in the game today and his elite fighters tend to deliver almost perfect performances. When you team Bareman with a fighter like Volkanovski, who has a great fight IQ on his own, you have an almost unstoppable force.
Prediction: Volkanovski -175 via BetOnline
BETTING VALUE WITH VOLKANOVSKI
Volkanovski was a finisher before he moved to the UFC. During his first 14 fights, he went 13-1 and scored 11 stoppages. Volkanovski is 9-0 with the UFC and has 3 finishes. His most recent stoppage came in 2018 when he knocked out Chad Mendes. Mendes retired after that loss. In short, I don’t think Volkanovski will finish this fight.
Volkanovski is going to do his best to keep this fight on the feet and his 72 percent takedown defense. Another thing that will help Volkanovski is his leg kicks, which should slow Ortega on the feet and allow him to catch Ortega with his hands, which is a problem since Ortega absorbs an average of 6.28 significant strikes per minute, which is two strikes per minute more than he lands. I think Volkanovski gets this the win by decision.
If you like what you saw in the Jung fight, a bet on a finish for Ortega would not be out of line, but I would say a submission would be more likely. If Ortega wins, it’ll probably be a choke of some type after his striking has forced Volkanovski to make a mistake and provide an opening.
Pick: Volkanovski via decision -175 via SportsBetting.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
I wish we had more knowledge of Ortega’s progression as a well-rounded fighter, but alas, we only have the 25 minutes he spent inside the cage against Jung to go on. With that, I’m hard-pressed to see Ortega having an edge anywhere but on the ground. Volkanovski will be trained to keep the fight on the feet. He’ll also know he needs to keep his output high from the start of the fight and pressure Ortega.
I think this fight is Volkanovski’s to lose, but I don’t think that happens. I believe the technical abilities of the champion give him a big edge in this matchup.
FIGHT STATS: VOLKANOVSKI vs. ORTEGA
|Alexander Volkanovski||Category||Brian Ortega|
|6.02||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||4.29|
|3.31||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||6.28|
|2.09||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.80|
|0.30||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||1.1|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The odds are pretty high that the winner of this fight will be matched up against Holloway. He’s the No. 1 ranked fighter in the official UFC featherweight rankings and his win over Calvin Kattar was the type of performance that would have landed any fighter a UFC title shot.
Despite his two wins over Holloway, the UFC wanted to book a trilogy fight between Holloway and Volkanovski, a win at UFC 260 will probably guarantee that matchup. Volkanovski has said his two wins over the former champion should let everyone know he is the better fighter, but those fights were close enough that some fans still consider Holloway the uncrowned champion.
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