This weekend, September 25th, 2021 in Las Vegas, UFC 266 is putting on the most stacked card in recent memory. With three five-round fights, two titles on the line, and several clear winners, I’m pumped as a fan and gambler.
We’re breaking down the main card, and showing odds and stats for all fourteen fights. You’ll get my most confident bets and a look at odds and relevant information for each fight.
We’re starting with the Main Event. There’s no love lost between these two TUF coaches!
Alexander Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega!
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) September 20, 2021
Fight 14: Alexander Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega (Title Bout)
A five-Round Featherweight Bout
|Alexander Volkanovski||Brian Ortega|
|71″ / Orthodox||Reach / Stance||69″ / Switch|
|3 submissions, 11 TKO||Submissions / TKO||7 submissions, 3 TKO|
|-189||Last Fight Odds||+170|
Volkanovski is paying out at slightly better than he has for the past two fights, coming in as an underdog in his win over Jose Aldo three fights ago.
The UFC sportsbooks can’t pin Brian Ortega, making him a favorite in losses and the underdog in wins three fights running. His loss to Max Holloway is important for this bout, seeing that Alex beat Max Handley two fights in a row.
In comparing the Holloway fights, you’ll see Alex taking an easy striking win on paper. Alex landed around 30 strikes more than Max in two fights, In the second fight, a split decision, Max landed more strikes to the head, but took some 47% of total strikes landed by Volkanovski in the form of leg kicks.
Brian Ortega was TKO’d by Max in the fourth round. He landed one shot for every three of Max’s in a beating similar to the one Max served Calvin Kattar.
Brian Ortega’s submission game could play a major factor, and Volkanovski has publicly acknowledged this, hiring a crew of champion BJJ practitioners to develop his submission game. I don’t see a submission coming easy for Brian, but I do think Volkanovski will be tentative to shoot for takedowns given Brian’s history of catching a guillotine on experienced wrestlers.
The over/under 2½ rounds for this bout -235/+195.
I believe his striking is too much for Brian. I think that even his cage takedowns and clench work could play a major factor and I don’t see a clear path to victory for Ortega. See my detailed analysis on this fight here.
Fight 13: Valentina Shevchenko vs Lauren Murphy (Title Fight)
A five-Round Flyweight Bout
|Valentina Shevchenko||Lauren Murphy|
|66″ / Southpaw||Reach / Stance||67″ / Orthodox|
|7 submissions, 7 TKO||Submissions / TKO||1 submissions, 8 TKO|
|-1300||Last Fight Odds||+130|
Valentina Shevchenko is one of the most dominant champions of all time and continues to improve. Her last bout with Jessica Andrade had her out striking Jessica 27 to 2 in head strikes before an inevitable TKO finish. It’s tough to deny her legendary status.
12 days until @BulletValentina defends her throne 🏆
— UFC (@ufc) September 13, 2021
Murphy was a knockout puncher but has only finished one of her last eight by TKO. She’s a good fighter, and in her prime, maybe five years ago, she would have been a real challenge for Valentina.
Murphey’s current stats show that she absorbs four significant strikes for every three she lands. That simply isn’t going to cut it against Valentina. I expect Murphey to swing for the fences and get picked apart by the champ.
Prop bets include an over/under 2 ½ rounds of -110/-110. Considering that Valentina’s wins have been twice in the under and four times in the over for the last six, I’m tentative to make these bets. Over 1½ rounds is at -200. I’m more comfortable with that bet and it beats the breaks off -1700.
This prop is currently only available at Betway sportsbook.
Fight 12: Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler (Welterweight)
|Nick Diaz||Robbie Lawler|
|76″ / Southpaw||Reach / Stance||74″ / Southpaw|
|26-9, 2 NC||Record||28-15, 1NC|
|8 submissions, 13 TKO||Submissions / TKO||1 submissions, 20 TKO|
|+320||Last Fight Odds||+203|
Diaz and Lawler is a rematch that brings fight fans far and wide nostalgia for UFC’s early days. The rematch will be Nick Diaz’s first fight back since a suspension sent him out of the UFC.
Lawler returns from his loss against Neil Magny with newfound determination. It’s good to see Lawler stepping away from top ten contenders, and avenging his loss to Diaz makes sense for the fallen champ’s career.
From the UFC stats, Nick wins in almost every category. He throws more punches, lands more often, absorbs fewer strikes, wins more takedowns, and attempts more submissions.
I see the oddsmakers deciding this is an even fight due to the activity and performance of Lawler against top ten contenders in recent years. Robbie has fought four times since Diaz’s last bout. He’s just been more active, more willing to climb the ranks and that can make you wonder if Nick’s heart is still in the fight game.
For my full breakdown of this bout and all the ways it could go, check out my analysis here.
Fight 11: Curtis Blaydes vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (Heavyweight)
|Curtis Blaydes||Jairzinho Rozenstruik|
|80″ / Orthodox||Reach / Stance||78″ / Orthodox|
|0 submissions, 10 TKO||Submissions / TKO||0 submissions, 11 TKO|
|-390||Last Fight Odds||-115|
Curtis Blaydes is a strong favorite, paying $.32 per dollar wagered. Blaydes has never been the underdog inside the UFC including in his losses to Francis Ngannou twice and Derrick Lewis. All four of his decision wins have been in the UFC.
Jairzinho is equally dangerous, losing only to Cyril Gane and Francis Ngannou. He’s knocked out eleven of his twelve opponents, He’s knocked out every UFC opponent he hasn’t lost to.
First, that Blaydes is the best wrestler Rozenstruik has faced on paper. From the perspective of average takedowns per fight and takedown percentage accuracy, I expect to see Rozenstruik on his back in at least two of the three rounds assuming it goes the distance.
Rozenstruik also has issues with managing distance against the reach advantage. Rozenstruik has had the reach advantage in every bout except his two losses and his win over Overeem. In the Overeem fight, Rozenstruik ate a number of crosses and jabs in an even fight. Overeem landed 101 to Rozenstruik’s 109 before the TKO.
I see Blaydes outboxing, outworking, and managing the power of Rozenstruik. Blaydes absorbs an average of 1.9 strikes per minute. He’s a better defensive striker by a big margin.
Fight 10: Jessica Andrade vs Cynthia Calvillo (Women’s Flyweight)
|Jessica Andrade||Cynthia Calvillo|
|62″ / Orthodox||Reach / Stance||64″ / Orthodox|
|7 submissions, 8 TKO||Submissions / TKO||3 submissions, 2 TKO|
|+410||Last Fight Odds||-240|
Andrade’s loss to Valentina came in April 2021, making her 2-3 of the last five.
At strawweight, she defeated great fighters in the past like current strawweight champ Rose Namajunas. She lost her title fight to Zhang, then lost in the rematch to Rose before moving up to 125 lbs.
Andrade sports a 55% takedown accuracy and 2.97 takedowns per fifteen-minute fight. This is a rare combination. Many fighters with high takedowns per fight have lower accuracy, as they are toggling back and forth between shooting and striking.
Cynthia has only three fights outside of the UFC and has developed inside the flyweight division. Her TKO’s happened outside of the promotion, and all three of her submission wins took place against fighters in their first or third UFC bout.
Andrade should outwrestle and outstrike Cynthia. There is nothing about Cynthia’s past performances that show me she’ll beat Andrade in either area and will have difficulty out-pacing the fighter five years her younger.
Props for this bout include Over/Under 1½ rounds at -260/+200. Cynthia tends to fight longer fights, but Andrade puts people away at random, so I’m not interested.
Fight 9: Marlon Moraes vs Merab Dvalishvili (Bantamweight)
|Marlon Moraes||Merab Dvalishvili|
|67″ / Orthodox||Reach / Stance||68″ / Orthodox|
|6 submissions, 10 TKO||Submissions / TKO||1 submissions, 2 TKO|
|-170||Last Fight Odds||-250|
Merab is the fighter that could evolve into a kind of Khabib with less power. His rocky start in the UFC is now overshadowed by a six-fight win streak, all via Unanimous Decision. He’s a grappler and has achieved fifty-four takedowns total in eight fights. He’s crafty and uses advanced techniques like slipping under punches for the trip, pulling a bodylock off the cage for sacrifice throws, overhook trips, and leg rides.
Marlon Moraes has been knocked out three times in five fights, facing off against many of the bantamweight divisions’ best. He’s landed only 23 strikes in the past two fights. Luckily, Merab isn’t a striker by any stretch of the imagination, so Marlon shouldn’t get starched yet again.
This comes down to two stats:
- Marlon’s takedown defense percentage. It’s 66%, giving up an average of one in three takedowns. It’s not high enough and he’s going to get taken down a lot.
- The second stat is Marlon’s striking accuracy, which is 39%. I could see him winning the way he did against Sterling, a flash knockout with a knee to the chin of an opponent attempting a takedown.
The over/under 1½ rounds prop is -365/+275. The over pays less than a Merab win, so it’s not worthwhile. The under is a nice raise if you believe Marlon will finish it, but I do not.
(-260) pays out at $0.38 on the dollar wagered, and if this streak continues, Merab victories will pay less and less.
Fight 8: Dan Hooker vs Nasrat Haqparast (Lightweight)
|Dan Hooker||Nasrat Haqparast|
|75″ / Switch||Reach / Stance||72″ / Southpaw|
|7 submissions, 10 TKO||Submissions / TKO||0 submissions, 9 TKO|
|-150||Last Fight Odds||-450|
Dan Hooker is coming off two losses, one to Michael Chandler and another to Dustin Poirier. He’s taking a stepback to defend his position in the top five lightweights against Nasrat, a well-rounded volume puncher.
Nasrat Haqparast is on a two-fight win streak after being knocked out by Drew Dober. Nastrat is 5-2 in the UFC. His biggest win to date has been against Joaquim Silva, who went 4-3 in the UFC before being released.
This is a massive opportunity for Nastrat, but I don’t quite see how he can do it. His takedown accuracy pales in comparison to Hooker’s 80% takedown defense. His 47% striking accuracy is good, especially considering Dan Hooker’s 4.9 strikes absorbed per minute, but these stats are largely meaningless given the difference in level of competition.
Prop bets include over/under 1½ rounds at -225/+175.
Dan Hooker has seven finishes in the UFC that fall into this ‘Under’ prop bet category. I believe this is a fight to get Hooker’s career back on the rails and we’ll see a spectacular finish. Even if Nasrat can pull it off, it’s going to be because he attempts to emulate the Chandler strategy of overwhelming Hooker early.
Betting Hooker pays out $0.69 per dollar wagered, but I’m confident enough to take the extra risk and bet the under for $1.75, a 230% raise.
Fight 7: Shamil Abdurakhimov vs Chris Daukaus (Heavyweight)
|Shamil Abdurakhimov||Chris Daukaus|
|76″ / Orthodox||Reach / Stance||76″ / Orthodox|
|4 submissions, 9 TKO||Submissions / TKO||0 submissions, 10 TKO|
|+425||Last Fight Odds||-190|
Shamil Abdurakhimov has won three of his last five, losing his most recent bout with Curtis Blaydes back in 2019 by a second-round elbow strike. Prior to that, he had two knockouts and five wins in the UFC. Shamil looks like a fighter that could make light-heavyweight if he wasn’t 40.
Chris Daukaus is an up-and-comer on a three-fight win streak. He’s never lost inside the UFC and averages 11.78 strikes per minute inside the promotion. If he had met the required five-fight minimum, this would be a record crushing Paulo Costa’s 8.1 per minute.
Shamil has a moderate takedown game, averaging one takedown per fight. He’s going to need to turn that way up to be competitive here.
Props include over/under 1½ rounds at -155/+125. Considering Chris has won every fight in the under with first-round knockouts, Shamil looks like the right candidate to continue the trend. Chris pays out at $0.48 per dollar, but the under pays $1.25 per dollar wagered.
I’m just following the stats here. It’s risky to bet the under too often, but Chris is a beast, and I’ll capitalize off unhinged aggression as long as he keeps coming out swinging.
Fight 6: Roxanne Modafferi vs Taila Santos (Women’s Flyweight)
|Roxanne Modafferi||Taila Santos|
|69″ / Orthodox||Reach / Stance||68″ / Orthodox|
|5 submissions, 4 TKO||Submissions / TKO||2 submissions, 10 TKO|
|+260||Last Fight Odds||+128|
Roxanne Modafferi is 4-8 in the UFC and has won two of her last five. She land’s at three strikes a minute and absorbs just over five. Her style is predicated on getting the fight to the ground, and in each of her wins she has between five and ten minutes of ground control time.
Talia Santos is 3-1 in the UFC with all fights going the distance. Her takedown defense is a stunning 85%, and she’s fought McCann and Robertson, fighters that boast a higher average number of takedowns per fight than Roxanne.
I see Talia winning, but the question is can we use props to get a better payout than her $0.24 per dollar wagered?
The over/under 1½ rounds pays out -460/+335. The oddsmakers see a Talia decision win and set the over high enough to block us from capitalizing.
Fight 5: Uros Medic vs Jalin Turner (Lightweight )
|Uros Medic||Jalin Turner|
|71″ / Southpaw||Reach / Stance||77″ / Southpaw|
|2 submissions, 5 TKO||Submissions / TKO||2 submissions, 8 TKO|
|-172||Last Fight Odds||-440|
Uros Medic pays out $083 per dollar and Jalin pays out $1 per dollar wager. This is the second closest fight on the card, close behind Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler.
In an exciting lightweight bout between two finishers, neither fighter has had a win-go-to decision. The only fight between them going the distance is Jalin Turner’s loss to the cunning Matt Frevola.
Both of these fighters are tall and lanky for the lightweight division. Jalin sports eight more fights, but only three more finishes. Uros Medic was a slight favorite in both of his previous UFC appearances, and Jalin has been the favorite in all bouts accept his KO loss to Vincent Luque.
Uros lands an absurd 19.1 punches per minute in his first two bouts in the UFC, mostly due to the brutal beating he laid on Aalon Cruz in his last bout. His first bout was a DWCS knockout. Jalin is Uros’s most difficult opponent of his career by a long shot, while Jalin has fought several game opponents.
Turner lands a respectable 6.6 punches per minute and has been in there with several talented fighters. His 66% takedown accuracy is a testament to picking his moment for the takedown, he doesn’t like to spam shots or waste energy vying for control.
Prop bets for the bout include over/under 1½ rounds at -165/+135. Turner likes to sit on the outside and pick his shots and his six UFC bouts are split with three of each falling into either prop. Uros will attempt to force the pace on any fighter, though we may see him more composed against a threat like Jalin.
From a style perspective, Medic throws a solid right-side wheel kick. Southpaw vs southpaw often comes down to who throws the stronger lead side strikes. With both fighters looking to finish, Jalin’s sit on the outside and land the cross method isn’t a useful one against a fellow lanky southpaw.
Early Prelim Fights
Some of these bouts I’m tentative to make a decision on, because I don’t know the fighters well enough. I’m still making a pick, and I’ll give you a little information and my best pick given my stats analysis.
Fight 4: Manon Fiorot (-236) vs Mayra Bueno Silva (+201)
These fighters are incredibly evenly matched, save for the fact that Manon lands a stunning eight strikes per minute with an 80% strike defense rate in her first two UFC appearances.
I pick Manon Fiorot -236
Fight 3: Karl Roberson (-105) vs Nick Maximov (-115)
Maximov is an undefeated DWCS newcomer jumping right into a UFC prelim card. Roberson is a 5-4 UFC veteran. Many of the DWCS fighters that have rushed in haven’t done well against vets due to the massive jump in experience.
Maximov is young, and will have trouble finishing Karl. I think Roberson gives him a rude awakening.
I pick Karl Roberson -105
Fight 2: Matthew Semelsberger (-600) vs Martin Sano (+400)
Martin Sano is making his UFC debut from Bellator. He’s 4-2-1 coming off two losses and a tie. This must be the UFC building up Semelsberger, who is 2-1 after a loss to Chaos Williams.
I pick Matthew Semelsberger -600
Fight 1: Jonathan Pearce (+132) vs Omar Morales (-152)
Pearce is 2-1 in the UFC, losing to Joe Lauzon and winning against Kai Kamaka and Jacob Rosales. He forces the action, absorbing 6.6 strikes per minute and landing 8.8.
Morales is 4-1 in the UFC, losing to Giga Chikadze by decision. I’m impressed with his ability to survive against Giga. However, Morales’s 87% takedown defense stat hasn’t been tested against the average 5.9 takedowns per fight of Pearce.
I pick Jonathon Pearce +132