Run It Back
Before we get too excited, I’m not announcing the return of my former podcast, “Run It Back Radio with Deonte and Ant”, but the joy that I feel over this weekend’s stacked UFC card is equivalent to the emotions I would feel if my co-host Deonte Hardy called and said, “Ant, we’re back!”
Back to the matter at hand! UFC 266 will emanate live from the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, Nevada this Saturday night, placing the cap on International Fight Week. It features a stacked lineup of bouts that at least on paper, warrants it “Card/Event of the Year” nominations. For starters, kicking off the prelims is one of my favorite lady fighters, Roxanne Modaferri. On the surface, she looks like a computer wiz, but her hands, feet and grappling let us know she’s not in the information technology field. Capping off the aforementioned section of the card is my favorite active bantamweight outside of Aljamain SterlingMerab Dvalishvili, who is aptly named “The Machine”. Tune into ESPN+ to see why.
And then there is the main card. I know we have two amazing title fights on tap, but it’s the rematch that’s 17 years in the making for me.
Without further ado, please allow to forecast this explosive main card:
Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo: Women’s Flyweight Bout
While Calvillo poses a reach advantage with a three-inch height advantage and two inches in the reach department, I think the frequency of Andrade’s strikes and three takedowns-per-fight per bout will be too overwhelming. Give me Andrade by way of knockout!
Curtis “Razor” Blaydes vs. Jairzinho “Bigi Boi”Rozenstruik: Heavyweight Bout
When it comes to cringeworthy punching power, Rozenstruik only trails heavyweight and interim heavyweight champions Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. The question is, what does he offer beyond that? Blaydes is arguably the most skilled fighter in the division. Striking…check; wrestling…check; grappling/submissions…check. If Blaydes is able to avoid a perfectly timed punch, similar to the one that resulted in him being knocked out by Lewis in his last outing, he should have a rather favorably night against Bigi Boi. I’m taking Blaydes to get the W via submission.
Nick Diaz vs. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler: Welterweight Bout
If anyone tells you there’s no way possible to get excited over a rematch that’s decade beyond its original meeting, this match here has made a complete liar out of that contrarian. The inaugural pairing took place 17 years ago at UFC 47. It was an absolute classic! Please go back and watch it via whatever historical library allows it.
Many will say, “we haven’t seen Diaz in over five years”. As valid as that is, if you think Diaz won’t be ready to go this Saturday night, you’re absolutely clueless as to how the Diaz brothers are set up.
Now on to the fight itself! It’s clear that both fighters have evolved since their meeting almost two decades ago. Still there is no denying the skillset of one of Stockton’s sons. As much as I like both fighters, Diaz’s return will be a triumphant one, causing the “Ruthless” one to fall into an 0-2 hole in this pairing. Diaz by decision!
Valentina “The Bullet” Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy: Co-Main Event, Women’s Flyweight Title Bout
The sentiment amongst the MMA community, regarding Shevchenko’s championship reign, is she’s in for a lengthy title run. While she continues her campaign as the most dominant champion on the roster, a legitimate challenge comes her way in the form of Murphy. Murphy actually lands one more significant strike per minute than the champion (4-3). This could be the first time “The Bullet” goes into the championship rounds since her last outing against women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes. While I still believe Shevchenko will win, I foresee this as her toughest challenge to date. Bruce Buffer will shout, “AAAAND STIIILL”, but he’ll do so as a result of a decision.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian “T-City” Ortega: Main Event, Men’s Featherweight Title Bout
Ortega is without question, a pedigree combatant, worthy of title contention. His striking continues to evolve and he can trap you into submissions from any angle. He is very likely to capture championship gold. Saturday, September 25th won’t be that day. With all that “T-City” offers, he’s never shared the octagon with anyone like Volkanovski. The champion may be at a slight height disadvantage (two inches), but he compensates for that with an exact reach advantage. His striking is top notch and he averages two takedowns per bout. On top of all that, he used to be a 215-pound rugby player. While he’s not that size anymore, obviously, the strength of his former frame, at least I believe, still resides within him. My call is for the champ to have his way, causing for the buildings in “T-City” to crumble to likes of which the Dogg Pound came through and crush the buildings. Hip hop fans know!!! Volkanovski wins via TKO.
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