No matter who wins the main event at UFC 266 on Saturday in Las Vegas, Max Holloway should be the one waiting for the winner of the fight.
Holloway, 29, from Hawaii, remains one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. The former UFC featherweight champion is the No. 1-ranked contender in the stacked 145-pound division, and he’s likely to grab the next title shot no matter which UFC star prevails in the upcoming title bout between Alex Volkanovski and Brian Ortega at UFC 266.
Volkanovksi, 32, from Australia, defends his 145-pound title against dangerous contender Ortega, 30, from the U.S., on September 25.
It could turn out to be one of the best fights of the year.
UFC 266 is stacked with all sorts of elite-level MMA action. In addition to Volkanovski vs. Ortega, the card includes UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko taking on rugged challenger Lauren Murphy.
UFC 266 takes place September 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern time at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
In another big fight, UFC superstar Nick Diaz is returning to action to face former welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler.
Still, as it goes with any other UFC pay-per-view event, most of the intrigue about the action surrounds the main event battle at UFC 266.
Who wins this weekend between Volkanovski and Ortega?
Who should that winner fight next?
The first question will be answered on fight night, but the next one might already be clear.
The winner of Volkanovski vs. Ortega should immediately be called to action to face Holloway.
No matter what, that would be a megafight. And since both Volkanoski and Ortega have already faced Holloway, it would also be a rematch.
Holloway’s Historic Run at Featherweight Remains Impressive
Holloway’s run at 145 pounds is one of the most impressive title reigns in UFC history.
According to UFC Record Book, Holloway netted more wins in the 145-pound division than any other fighter in UFC history (17). He scored more finishes (10) and knockouts (8) in the weight class than anyone else, and his 13-fight win steak that ended last year against Volkanovski remains the longest in featherweight history, too.
In 2020, Holloway was labeled by MMA Junkie “one of the most dominant champions in the sport.” Moreover, many pundits believe the 29-year-old still has what it takes to grab gold again.
After losing his belt to Volkanovski in 2019 and failing to convince the judges he should get it back in the immediate rematch in 2020, Holloway dominated Calvin Kattar in January 2021 to remind people just what an amazing fighter he’s become over the years.
In that fight, Holloway outlanded Kattar in significant strikes 445-133.
So Holloway is still considered one of the best fighters in the world. He’s arguably the UFC’s most prolific striker, and he might still conceivably have his best years ahead of him.
Holloway Remains On Minds at UFC 266
Despite Volkanovski and Ortega having their upcoming fight against each other on the way at UFC 266, both stars have already admitted they’re thinking about Holloway right now, too.
Holloway lost two competitive fights to Volkanovksi, and he decimated Ortega by stoppage in 2018.
“The last fight that we did on Fight Island, you don’t want to make excuses, but I don’t think I turned up at all, and I was still able to get the job done,” Volkanovski told MMA News. “That just shows what level (I’m at). And again, you have to give credit where credit’s due, because the way he showed up from the first to the second fight…it was incredible.”
Since 2014, Holloway has outlanded every single opponent he’s faced in that same category except for Volkanovski. The champ believes he would beat Holloway again in a third fight.
“But for me to be able to bring that fight back, I didn’t turn it up that day and I still got the job done. That just shows you that there are levels to this, and that I’m no joke. I’m going to turn up the next fight 100 percent, and I’m not going to give him any rounds just like the first fight. I’m going to start off stronger and I’m going to finish even stronger. But again, Max is a great fighter, hence why he is getting a third fight. He’s going out and taking out other guys and earning that No. 1 spot because he deserves to be right up there as well.”
Meanwhile, Ortega has revenge on his mind.
“That would be ideal,” Ortega told TMZSports. “I’m not trying to speak ahead, nor am I trying to get past Volkanovski, because he beat Max twice. So I’m not sitting here to say I’ve already started celebrating, but that would be ideal (to fight Holloway again).”
Ortega explained in that same interview why he thinks he would win his rematch.
“I’m a better person and a better fighter than when I fought him…,” Ortega said.
Volkanovski and Ortega face each other this week at UFC 266, but they both seem to be looking ahead at the possibility of facing Holloway next.
Volkanovski Favored by Oddsmakers, but Ortega Looked Better Than Ever Last Fight
Volkanovski is favored to win at UFC 266, but some pundits believe Ortega is peaking at the right time.
In dominating Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie”, in his last fight, Ortega proved why he deserved next crack at the champ. He also showed why he might be a problem for Volkanovski or any other featherweight star.
According to Caesars Sportsbook on Thursday, Volkanovski is the -155 favorite on the betting market, while Ortega is the +135 underdog.
So even though Volkanovksi has been as dominant as any fighter in the history of the featherweight division, it still seems that some people just aren’t all that sure how to rate him yet.
A look at the statistics heading into UFC 266 revealed Volkanovski to be the dominant star in most categories.
But Ortega looked better than ever in his last outing, so some believe he could be on his way to pulling the upset.
UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega on Sept. 25
UFC 266 features a stirring featherweight showdown between UFC featherweight champion Volkanovski and Ortega.
The stacked card also features UFC women’s flyweight champion Shevchenko taking on Murphy in the co-main event, and there are plenty of other big fights, too.
You can see all the main card action scheduled for UFC 266 on September 25 in the list below.
Main Card (PPV)*
Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Brian Ortega, UFC featherweight championship
Valentina Shevchenko (c) vs. Lauren Murphy, UFC women’s flyweight championship
Robbie Lawler vs. Nick Diaz, middleweights
Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik, heavyweights
Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo, women’s flyweights
Below are the undercard fights.
Prelims and Early Prelims (ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass)*
Marlon Moraes vs. Merab Dvalishvili, bantamweights
Dan Hooker vs. Nasrat Haqparast, lightweights
Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Chris Daukaus, heavyweights
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Taila Santos, women’s flyweights
Ricky Simon vs. Timur Valiev, bantamweights
Uros Medic vs. Jalin Turner, lightweights
Manon Fiorot vs. Mayra Bueno Silva, women’s flyweights
Karl Roberson vs. Nick Maximov, middleweight
Matthew Semelsberger vs. Martin Sano, welterweight
*card subject to change
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