UFC 266 rapid recap: The champions defend, and Nick Diaz fall in the night’s top fights

ufc 266
Sep 25, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Valentina Shevchenko celebrates her TKO victory and title defense against Lauren Murphy during UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Alexander Volkanovski once again proved his championship mettle Saturday night at UFC 266.

The UFC featherweight champion out of Windang, Australia was nearly submitted twice during the third round of his main event matchup against challenger Brian Ortega, of Torrance, Calif. But after escaping the second of two chokes, Volkanovski (23-1) delivered a hellacious ground-and-pound return volley before Ortega (15-2) was saved by the horn.

Champions Alexander Volkanovski and Valentina Shevchenko defended their throwns

Ortega’s unreal toughness enabled him to go the distance in the five-round fight, but Volkanovski retained his belt in the performance bonus winner for “fight of the night” at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The judge’s scores were 49-46, 50-45, 50-44, in favor of the defending champ. It was Volkanovski’s second successful title defense and his 20th consecutive victory.

“All the doubters, I’m gonna keep proving you wrong, time and time again,” Volkanovski said immediately after the fight.

The evening’s co-feature bout was the latest chapter in what is one of the most dominant title runs in the promotion today.

Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (22-3) of Kyrgyzstan toyed with Houston’s Lauren Murphy (15-5) for three rounds before turning up the heat and finishing things in the fourth. A right hand dropped Murphy, then a ground onslaught finished things off at the 4:00 mark. The win marked Shevchenko’s sixth successful title defense.

“I’m ready for anyone, I am the champion,” Shevchenko said.

Nick Diaz begs off in third round at UFC 266

While the title fights took top billing, the night’s most anticipated bout was a rematch 17 years in the making between fan-favorite Nick Diaz (26-10) of Stockton, Calif., and former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.

Diaz delivered one of the most memorable knockouts in MMA history at UFC 47 in 2004. Saturday night, in a middleweight matchup, Lawler (29-15) wore down Diaz, who was fighting for the first time since 2015. A right hook was the telling blow as Lawler won via TKO at 0:44 of the third round.

“I always had respect for Diaz, he brings it every frickin’ time,” Lawler said.

UFC 266 Performance bonus winners

Fight of the Night: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega

Performance of the Night: Merab Dvalishvili

Performance of the Night: Chris Daukaus

–Field Level Media

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