Flyweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and no. 2 ranked Brian Ortega finally met inside the Octagon on Saturday in the UFC 266 main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The two were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 260 in March, but Volkanovski was forced to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols. They were then lined up to coach The Ultimate Fighter 29 and developed a rivalry during the filming. On Saturday, they settled their differences in the cage.
Volkanovski took the center of the cage and pressured Ortega in the early going. He landed leg kicks and right hands. Ortega moved along the outside trying to land counter punches of Volkanovski’s kicks. At the end of the round, both fighters had small cuts around their eyes.
In the second frame, Ortega connected with a combination easy that got the champ’s attention. Volkanovski continued to dictate the pace, land leg kicks and find a home for his right hand. At the end of the round, the two exchanged words before going back to their corners.
Volkanovski continued to throw and land leg kicks in the third round. The pace picked up and the exchanged occurred more frequently. A clash of heads bloodied Ortega’s nose and forced him to retreat. Volkanovski landed more right hands but the fight took a dramatic turn when Ortega caught a kick and knocked Volkanovski down with a right hand. Ortega immediately applied a guillotine and mounted Volkanovski. The champion kicked and squirmed and eventually freed himself from the choke.
After escaping the submission attempt, Volkanovski landed punches but soon found himself in a triangle choke. Volkanovski somehow escaped and delivered a series of hard punches and elbows. At the end of the frame, Ortega was slow getting back to his feet.
The doctor was brought in to check Ortega and his badly swollen eye. After a quick how many fingers am I holding up evaluation, Ortega was allowed to continue.
Ortega, who was battered in the previous round, took the fight to Volkanovski. He secured a takedown and looked for another guillotine choke. Volkanovski shook off the attempt and gained top position. He postured up and delivered heavy shots. With seconds remaining, Volkanovski motioned for Ortega to get up. The round ended with Ortega landing a right hand.
In the final frame, Volkanovski looked to have slowed. Ortega began connecting with his punches. Volkanovski fired back and the two slugged it out for the remainder of the round. After 25 minutes of fighting, the judges scored the fight for Volkanovski by unanimous decision. The scorecards read 49-46, 50-45, and 50-44.
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“Obviously when he got some of the submissions, some of them were pretty tight. For some reason I stayed on the ground with him. Man he’s good,” Volkanovski said following the win. “Obviously I’m going to talk and say that he’s not on my level. I was trying to get in his head as much as I could. I thought I was in his head and then he’d come back even stronger.”
“He proved himself,” said the champion.
For Ortega, it was the second time he’s lost in a title fight. He plans to heal up, go back to the gym and start his climb back to a third.
“I thought it was done (when I had him in the submissions in the third round). That’s what we trained for exactly my whole camp,” Ortega said. “Trust me, I tried to finish him.”
“It’s time to go back in there and climb this ladder again and get better. You see it man. I’m evolving,” he said.
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