UFC 266: Ranking the Fights Best to Worst

Nick Diaz

Getty Nick Diaz returns at UFC 266.

As a UFC fan, you’re already accustomed to watching monthly pay-per-view cards stacked with talented fighters competing in important divisional battles and world championship fights.

So UFC 266 on Saturday, September 25 will be no different.

The next UFC pay-per-view card on the horizon features the long-awaited showdown between UFC featherweight champion Alex “The Great” Volkanovski and hard-charging contender Brian “T-City” Ortega.

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+.

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The co-main event will see UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defend her belt against “Lucky” Lauren Murphy.

Other top UFC stars will also be in action, including popular favorites Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler competing in a rematch 17 years in the making.

But not all fights are created equal, so Heavy compiled a ranking of the UFC 266 main card pay-per-view fights.

The fights are ranked from best to worst.

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UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega on Sept. 25

You can see below the main card fights currently scheduled to happen at UFC 266 on September 25.

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, welterweights
Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik, heavyweights
Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo, women’s flyweights

While we won’t be ranking the rest of the fights on the card, you can see a list of the undercard bouts below.

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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No. 1: Volkanovski vs. Ortega

While UFC pay-per-view cards are usually stacked with interesting fights, and that especially seems true when you compare numbered UFC cards to those offered by its competitors in MMA, or even to the pay-per-view cards put on by boxing promoters, the truth of the matter is that almost everyone buys any pay-per-view card for its main event matchup.

So, since that’s pretty much always the case, it’s important for the main event matchup to be compelling on paper.

The featherweight title fight between Volkanovski and Ortega is exactly that.

Volkanovski enters UFC 266 needing to solidify his standing as the 145-pound king. He won the title against longtime champion Max Holloway in 2019, and he defended it against Holloway in an immediate rematch the following year. But the second fight was a lot closer than the first (and somewhat controversial), so Volkanovski could use a stand-out performance at UFC 266 to remind fans of his elite talent.

Meanwhile, Ortega enters the bout coming off arguably the best performance of his career. In dominating Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie”, Ortega renewed hopes among MMA fans that he might have what it takes to grab gold.

He has the chance to do exactly that against Volkanovski at UFC 266.

No. 2: Lawler vs. Diaz 2

Both Lawler and Diaz are tremendously popular stars, and each man enters UFC 266 needing a win to solidify his standing among the rest of the stacked 170-pound division. Lawler is just 1-5 over his last six fights, and Diaz hasn’t competed in six years.

The former UFC welterweight champion, Lawler, would love to get back in the mix again in the division, but he’s probably closer to getting cut by the company than he is grabbing gold. Still, beating the returning Diaz in a five-round megafight would go a long way toward getting him back to the spotlight in at least some capacity.

Meanwhile, Diaz is returning to the UFC after six long years of inactivity. Maybe even worse for him? Diaz hasn’t won a fight since 2011.

Still, Diaz remains one of the most popular figures in the sport, at least among the prior generation of stars, and his pairing with Lawler makes sense due to their shared history and current standings in the sport.

Diaz defeated Lawler via second-round knockout in 2004, but how the second fight might go all these years later is anybody’s guess.

No. 3: Blaydes vs. Rozenstruik

Blaydes vs. Rozenstruik proves just how deep the heavyweight division is right now. The fight is an incredibly interesting one on paper in that Blaydes has been able to wrestle his way to wins over everyone but the very best strikers, and Rozenstruik has been able to kickbox his way to wins over everyone but the same group of elite heavyweights.

So Blaydes and Rozenstruik might not be the biggest names in the division and they might not possess the star power of other fighters on the UFC pay-per-view card, but their battle is truly a fight that could go either way.

Moreover, the winner of Blaydes vs. Rozenstruik will be one of the top contenders in the stacked heavyweight division.

No. 4: Shevchenko vs. Murphy

That Shevchenko’s upcoming title defense against Murphy is ranked so near the bottom of this list is more a testament of the champion’s brilliance than anything else. It’s also good evidence that the card is stacked with solid fights.

In any event, Shevchenko is one of the most dominant UFC champions in the sport. She’s been virtually unbeatable at flyweight, and the trend is likely to continue against Murphy in the co-main event.

Still, Murphy possesses an iron will and dogged determination that could make Shevchenko’s latest title defense one of her more interesting exploits in recent memory.

Shevchenko is likely to be a huge favorite on fight night according to the oddsmakers, but Murphy still might be able to make things tough on her.

No. 5: Andrade vs. Calvillo

Both Andrade and Calvillo have enjoyed excellent runs in a weight class below, but now the flyweight contenders are hoping to keep pace with the rest of the group that’s chasing Shevchenko for divisional gold.

Even though it’s technically ranked the “worst” UFC 266 main card pay-per-view fight on our list, Andrade and Calvillo make an interesting pairing in a vacuum.

Andrade is a former women’s strawweight champion, and she’s one of the most powerful finishers in women’s MMA.

Calvillo has also enjoyed success at 115, but she moved up to 125 after missing weight twice in three fights.

Both stars are coming off losses.

Andrade was decimated by Shevchenko in just two rounds at UFC 261, and Calvillo fell short against perennial contender Katlyn Chookagian.

Andrade vs. Calvillo isn’t anywhere close to being the best fight on the card, but it’s still a meaningful fight in the division.

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Twitter: @Kelsey_McCarson

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