UFC 266 turned out to be a huge success. If I’m fair, it’s hard to think of the last time the UFC had a disappointing pay-per-view, but there have been several fights worthy of FOTN consideration, a few perhaps deserving of FOTY consideration. At the very least, there were some rounds that were instant classics. One of those fights may have turned featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski into a star, achieving a rare performance in which he was dominant but was still in danger of losing his title to a Brian Ortega match. Of course, the fight most fans wanted at the event came as Robbie Lawler and Nick Diaz delivered a satisfying callback to their 2004 classic. In between, it’s enough to make everyone forget. that Valentina Shevchenko has turned into another dominant title defense. It was a hell of a good night of violence, let’s get into my Unofficial Prices for a unique glimpse of the event ….
Biggest jump in stock: Those who pay attention have already believed Volkanovski as one of the best fighters in the world before the event, regardless of weight class. And yet, before this fight, I heard and saw arguments that Volkanovski was the fourth best featherweight in the world behind Max Holloway, Ortega and champion Bellator AJ McKee. While it’s not impossible to see any of these three beat him, none have officially done so, no matter what many want to say about Volkanovski’s second fight with Holloway. His performance against Ortega was just what he needed to start recovering from the casual viewer. While Volkanovsky was dominant, there was enough drama in the fight that many walked away by declaring the contest the FOTY. Most importantly, it left a strong impression in the eyes of viewers. Volkanovski’s cerebral approach often made it difficult to remember anything specific about him. This shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Biggest drop in stock: No one suffered a steep fall which completely changed the way most people viewed them before the event, so fall may be too strong a word. Maybe soaking is a better word in this case. Having said that, it’s safe to say Shamil Abdurakhimov is never going to return to the high position he occupied in heavyweight standards again. Obviously, his age has a lot to do with it, as he is 40 years old and seemed a half step slower than before. Not that Abdurakhimov ever looked particularly fast, but he could surprise with an occasional flurry. It never happened against Chris Daukaus. There are still fights for Abdurakhimov to win, but his top ten days are over.
Best Newcomer: There weren’t many newcomers to this map. Considering only one of them came away with a win, this made the selection easier. Some may be a bit below the performance of Nick maximov given that he did not finish his opponent, Nick Brundage, given that Brundage entered the contest on short notice. Fans tend to forget that finishes aren’t everything. At 23, Maximov put in a remarkably mature performance, exerting excellent control over Brundage and avoiding any real damage. There are a lot of things he could iron out, but that’s true for any fighter his age. Great job by Maximov to get acquainted with the big show.
Start typing a CV: Martin Sano should never have been in the UFC in the first place, but Diaz wouldn’t agree to return unless his training partner fights in the UFC. Considering that Sano only lasted 15 seconds, he is the perfect example of why people hate nepotism. He got his job based on his knowledge as opposed to his job and many fans would say he got what he deserved. I don’t wish Sano any ill will, but I agree with those who say he should never have been on the list in the first place. Hoping he doesn’t get the usually usual second fight.
Registered their work (s): I don’t know how uncle Dana looked at him, but I would have cut Matthieu Semelsberger coward if he had lost to Sano. Losing to a guy who only appeared on the UFC radar because of who he trains wouldn’t reflect well on him, regardless of his previous successes. Instead, Semelsberger made a short day at the office. Yours truly.
No excuses: The fight between Dan Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast may have been one-sided, but the fact that they even managed to fight was a victory in itself. However, not only did they manage to fight despite their visa issues, but they put on weight. It’s hard to give the other fighters who are underweight a wiggle room when Hooker and Haqparast reduce their weight while having to fly halfway around the world. Kudos to both of them for reaching their contracted weight when both have every apology in the world for asking for a catch weight and didn’t.
Biggest WOW moment: The room I was in exploded, Ortega caught Volkanovsky in the mounted guillotine on the third round. We all thought it was over. It got stronger when Volkanovsky escaped and started hitting the submission specialist. Then Ortega found a triangle… only for Volkanovsky to escape it as well and apparently beat Ortega within an inch of his life. It was one of the craziest rounds I have ever seen, multiple end-of-fight streaks back to back only to keep both of them surviving the round. No one who participated in this round of action will forget this round.
Never seen this before: Part of what made the round between Volkanovski and Ortega so special is Ortega’s reputation as a submissive artist. I don’t remember anyone escaping any of their chokes once they had it locked up securely. Cub Swanson had survived long enough for the round to end, but did not escape on his own. I don’t know what he did, but Volkanovsky somehow pulled his head out of the guillotine and survived. Given how the sport played out, we knew we would see someone come out of an Ortega submission at some point, but unfortunately for him that was when the stakes were at their highest.
As good as I’ve ever been … Lawler is a sports legend. We’re very unlikely to see a stretch like his run from 2013 to 2016 when he returned to the UFC and became the champion. As has been well documented, he suffered an insane amount of damage during that time and hasn’t been the same since. However, there is a common belief that for just one night old legends can find within themselves that they are as good as they were in their prime for just one night. Think of Kobe Bryant scoring 60 points in the last game of his career. Well, I wouldn’t say Lawler was in his prime, but it was the best version of him we’ve seen since he last held the title. Given that Diaz is notoriously difficult, finishing him is an impressive feat, even though Diaz hasn’t fought for nearly seven years.
Best Legend: For my part, I was disappointed by the legends that were made. No one was specific, leaving aside the element of making a personal legend that typical carries them through. Curtis Blaydes and Daukaus have both published a list of names, neither of which are likely to be of interest to them. Blaydes was one of the names Daukaus asked for (he actually said Blaydes-Jairzinho winner Rozenstruik, but we’ll count him), but Blaydes had no interest in the idea, not bothering to recognize the call from Daukaus. It’s possible to make an announcement that is personal enough to grab the target’s attention without being a jerk about it, but fighters can’t seem to do it. So, I’m not giving this award to anyone … not that they actually care.
Quiet domination: While I don’t think Amanda Nunes is getting the attention she deserves for her dominance, I do think she gets more attention than Shevchenko. Considering that Nunes has closer content to his bantamweight title reign than Shevchenko, it’s fair to say Shevchenko deserves so much attention. Some may point out that it took Shevchenko to take Murphy down, but that’s because Shevchenko is just waiting for the right time to deliver the final streak. Shevchenko dominated the entirety of the fight, extending his winning streak to eight and his number of title defenses to six.
Nine lives: How the hell is that Merab Dvalishvili survive the early onslaught of Marlon Moraes? I could have sworn Moraes had killed him properly, Moraes hitting the mat and stumbling with a severe case of a stinky leg for a long time after he miraculously got back to his feet. Moraes called the penalty on thick, but Dvalishvili not only survived, he reversed the momentum of the fight before the end of the round. I’m convinced that a fighter can only shoot a similar type of streak so many times before his body can no longer take that type of punishment. How many of those lives Dvalishvili left I can’t say, but he put it to good use this time around.
To get old ? One of the major themes of the fight was the stark contrast in age between the winners and losers in several of the fights. There have been well over six years between Omar Morales and Jonathan Pearce, about eleven years between Roxanne Modafferi and Taila Santos, eight years between Daukaus and Abdurakhimov, and almost five years between Shevchenko and Murphy. In any case, the young fighter came out victorious. There were several other contests with age gaps between 3 and 5 years old in which the youngest won, but these were the most notable. There’s still a youth movement of sorts, but it was a lot more defined at UFC 266 than usual.