Alexander Volkanovski defended his featherweight title with a bloody, tumultuous unanimous decision over Brian Ortega, and Valentina Shevchenko defended her flyweight belt with a fourth-round stoppage of Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 on Saturday night. Nick Diaz also lost his first mixed martial arts fight in nearly seven years, declining to travel on after Robbie Lawler knocked him down with punches early within the third round at T-Mobile Arena.
Volkanovski (23-1) dominated the scorecards — 49-46, 50-45, and 50-44 — in his 20th consecutive victory, but the Australian still had to survive an unprecedented challenge from the relentless Ortega (15-2), who didn’t quit despite a bloodied face and a clearly damaged nose. Volkanovski survived a spectacular third round during which both fighters seemed to be moments from finishing the opposite . “I thought I used to be in his head, then he came back even stronger,” Volkanovski said. “Credit to him. … It’s just preparation. I’m a traditional person. diligence got me to where i’m. Everyone can do what I’ve done.”
Volkanovski largely controlled the primary two rounds together with his usual impressive work rate and striking, but a bloodied Ortega knocked him down dramatically with a left within the third round. Ortega pounced and nearly finished the champ with a guillotine choke, but Volkanovski willed his answer of it and came on top — just for Ortega to flee and to trap Volkanovski during a triangle choke that the champ also barely escaped.
Ortega was allowed to continue after a visit from the ringside doctor despite his apparently broken nose. within the fourth, Ortega got another takedown and nearly landed another choke, but Volkanovski gave a thumbs-up to the referee before escaping and finishing the round raining blows down on a prone Ortega, whose face was bloodied again. Volkanovski finished the fifth round strong, and both fighters received multiple standing ovations. “I thought he was done,” Ortega said. “I was trying to travel for his head, but he’s tough as hell. I attempted to end him. I heard him gargling, but he slipped out. He’s the champ for a reason.”
Shevchenko (22-3) cemented her status together of MMA’s most dominant champions together with her eighth consecutive victory over the last four years, including six stoppages. The champion from Kyrgyzstan steadily wore down Murphy (15-5) over the primary three rounds before stunning Murphy with a right hook then battering her across the cage and onto the canvas, where she finished with punches and elbows on the bottom .
The 38-year-old Murphy had won five straight bouts since July 2018 to earn the primary UFC title shot of her late-blooming MMA career. Yet she was little quite a troublesome boxing match for Shevchenko, who hasn’t lost to anyone within the past 11 years, except two-belt champion Amanda Nunes. The raucous Vegas crowd cheered the loudest for Diaz (26-10), a wildly popular 38-year-old fighter who walked faraway from the game in early 2015. In his return, Diaz traded a high volume of strikes with Lawler (29-15) for 2 exciting rounds during his return at T-Mobile Arena. But Diaz then crumpled awkwardly to his knees after Lawler caught him with a check right hook early within the third.
Diaz rolled onto his back when Lawler hit him again with a left , but Lawler declined to travel to the bottom with Diaz, instead gesturing at him to urge up. The referee then spoke to Diaz, who indicated he wouldn’t or couldn’t continue 44 seconds into the third round. Afterward, Diaz disclosed he may need injured his knee, but made no excuses or apologies for his performance in his return. “I’m glad a minimum of I placed on a show,” Diaz said. “I knew I had it coming. There was tons of stress coming into this one. … I do not have any excuses. it had been an extended day off .” The 39-year-old Lawler ended his own four-fight streak by winning the rematch of those MMA pioneers’ famed 2004 meeting at UFC 47. Diaz stopped Lawler therein bout for one among his most memorable victories.
Lawler seemed to be much sharper within the rematch than Diaz, who finally found a striking rhythm late within the first round before tiring within the second. “It was a fun fight, and that is the things I prefer to try to do,” Lawler said. Diaz may be a former Strikeforce welterweight champion and a beloved MMA iconoclast who competed in a number of the foremost memorable bouts of the 2000s before walking far away from the game after his loss in January 2015 to Anderson Silva, his third straight defeat. Diaz still claims he doesn’t enjoy MMA competition, and he protected his words by refusing the UFC’s lucrative offers for 6 years. His absence only boosted his popularity among fans who adore his antiauthoritarian attitudes and tough-guy image. Lawler is additionally a veteran with a decorated career, including a stint because the UFC’s welterweight champion from 2014-16. Lawler had faded in recent years, losing five of six bouts heading into this rematch with Diaz.