UFC 266: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega preview and prediction

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UFC 266: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega preview and prediction.

UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski will defend his belt against someone other than Max Holloway when he battles top contender Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC 266.

Volkanovski earned the belt by winning a razor-thin split decision over Holloway at UFC 245 before winning yet another close bout at UFC 251. Volkanovski has been untouchable since arriving at the UFC in 2016 with an undefeated record since joining the promotion.

Volkanovski will face Ortega, a former title challenger who is coming off of arguably the most dominant performance of his career against Chan Sung Jung at UFC Fight Island 6. Ortega showcased his superior grappling to go with his powerful standup to completely shut down a surging Jung.

Volkanovski vs. Ortega was supposed to happen earlier this year at UFC 260 before Volkanovski withdrew from the contest after testing positive for COVID-19. The two top featherweights competed against one another in the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter as opposing coaches.

There didn’t seem to be virtually any bad blood between the two, but that certainly changed during their filming of TUF. Volkanovski and Ortega went back-and-forth during the season with the champion going as far as calling Ortega “fake”.

The UFC fanbase is still a bit divided on Volkanovski, after two controversial fights against Holloway. He’s looking to prove that getting the belt wasn’t an accident, while Ortega seeks a shot at redemption in his second title shot.

Who will win at UFC 266: Alexander Volkanovski or Brian Ortega?

Volkanovski vs. Ortega promises to be a stellar matchup to top off a stacked UFC 266 card. Both fighters have demonstrated the ability to get out of early trouble and emerge victoriously.

Volkanovski has mostly been known as a relentless striker during his MMA career and has utilized brutal leg kicks to control the range in his fights. His grappling has also gotten better over time and he has shown the ability to battle with some of the best Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the division.

Ortega has some of the most unique grappling backgrounds in the featherweight title picture. Ortega has arguably some of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the division as evidenced by his incredible submissions over Diego Brandao and veteran Cub Swanson.

When looking at the numbers, Volkanovski has the chance to win this fight fairly easily. He holds steep advantages in striking accuracy,  strikes landed per-minute, striking defense, and takedowns average. Ortega holds a slight height advantage to go with a more accomplished grappling prowess.

Ultimately, the relentless pace that Volkanovski shows in the octagon could be too much for Ortega in the later rounds. Ortega has shown that he tends to slow down as the fight goes on while Volkanovski keeps up a ferocious pace throughout.

Expect Ortega to have his way with his grappling early on, but Volkanovski will pour it on in the later rounds with his clinching and kickboxing.

Prediction: Volkanovski by unanimous decision

UFC 266 takes place on Saturday, Sept. 23, live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided MMA who will be on-site for all your news and highlights.

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