Alex Volkanovski, Brian Ortega, Valentina Shevchenko and Nick Diaz reminded us how great real fights can be

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Why can’t all evenings of fighting be like this? Why do we get swept up in trashy melodramas when we instead could promote our minds and endorphins with a evening of preventing such as what we just witnessed at UFC 266?

Saturday night had almost everything.

Alexander Volkanovski stood up to another problem in the key celebration, as he quietly has been performing for decades, ready for someone to observe. The Aussie’s 20th straight victory, a bloody battering of featherweight challenger Brian Ortega, was a 5-round battle in which the champ two times had to escape restricted submission makes an attempt by a fighter ideal regarded for his jiu-jitsu video game. Even with two recorded victories about Max Holloway, this gain ought to lastly attract a minimal far more deserved consideration to “Alexander The Excellent.”

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A different good put on a demonstrate in the co-principal event. Valentina Shevchenko confirmed off why she is most likely the sport’s most dominant winner, totally outclassing flyweight challenger Lauren Murphy in a fourth-spherical TKO. No fighter is over currently being defeated on a supplied night time, but there just is no 125-pounder who appears capable of hanging with Shevchenko. And even as a -1,500 betting favored, she was thrilling to enjoy — right down to when she resolved the enthusiasts in 4 languages. What can not she do?

The night’s starriest attraction, however, was Nick Diaz. During his six-yr absence from combating, we could have overlooked that he is a wizard at drawing from all of us each emotion we’re able of experiencing. He reminded us by engaging in a struggle with Robbie Lawler that turned again the clock a small. Not to their 1st conference 17 decades back, but definitely to a time when Lawler was not mired in a 4-combat losing streak and Diaz’s need to combat was not being questioned.

Neither Diaz nor Lawler seemed to be in his primary, but neither was this unfortunate spectacle some may well have feared. Lawler received the TKO in the third spherical soon after a relentless back again-and-forth that had T-Cellular Arena reach deafening heights. Here’s hoping each adult men took in the fan adulation gushing from each corner of the creating. They have constantly saved it true, and Saturday night time was no unique.



Marlon Moraes and Merab Dvalishvili show off their incredible endurance in Round 1 of their UFC 266 bout.

All those three bouts had been just the culmination of a night that was important for combat sports. In a time when the YouTuber-as-boxer pattern is inching its way from the distant fringe to at minimum a tributary of the athletics mainstream, a evening of true fighters performing serious fights is no for a longer period a luxury. It is a needed ingredient for MMA to sustain its location in the landscape — and boxing, much too. Previously in the day, Oleksandr Usyk dethroned heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua in front of 66,000 enthusiasts in London.

But UFC 266 was a sustained feast of battling. Prior to the two title bouts and the Diaz return, there had been clashes among rated fighters at both heavyweight (Curtis Blaydes dominated Jairzinho Rozenstruik) and women’s flyweight (Jessica Andrade knocked out Cynthia Calvillo). We also saw Merab Dvalishvili pull off an astounding comeback, surging from the brink of remaining knocked out by Marlon Moraes to convert factors about for a TKO win of his own — on the power of a triple-digits barrage of unanswered strikes.

And there was even extra. This was one of individuals evenings that would have built late-evening Television infomercial huckster Ron Popeil happy. That is an previous-time reference, to be sure, but probably it really is suitable on a night that was a little something of a throwback to the days when struggle playing cards were being packed with the right kind of drama. And true fights.



Robbie Lawler and Nick Diaz place on a show for the enthusiasts at UFC 266.

Diaz showed symptoms of his outdated self, but it is time to phase away

Raimondi: I was a person of the initially men and women in the globe to observe Nick Diaz’s uncooked interview with Brett Okamoto previously this 7 days. And I’ve managed for the very last quite a few days that I wasn’t extremely concerned with what Diaz was expressing. We’ve acknowledged about Diaz’s mixed inner thoughts about the activity of MMA for a 10 years now. Diaz has hardly ever been shy about telling us he by no means liked to struggle, it was just one thing he did out of requirement. He was born to do it, even even though it was some thing he in the long run loathed. Even right after Diaz bowed out of his UFC 266 struggle with Robbie Lawler in the 3rd round, I don’t come to feel far too substantially in another way than I did prior to the battle.

Let’s be apparent below. Diaz did not search slower than usual and in even worse form than normal due to the fact of anything he claimed in that job interview. Those were being simply because he is 38 decades aged and experienced not fought in practically seven decades. Diaz introduced the fight to Lawler. He landed much more important strikes — 150 to 131, in accordance to ESPN Stats & Information — and landed the most significant strikes in a loss in a bout that finished as early as this 1 did in UFC history. Diaz’s punches have been slow, but he landed a bunch of mixtures and won at the very least just one round towards Lawler.

If the pay-for every-watch is obtained, all fights from UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega will be available to view on ESPN+.

• Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Brian Ortega
• Valentina Shevchenko (c) vs. Lauren Murphy
• Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler
• Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
• Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo
• Marlon Moraes vs. Merab Dvalishvili
• Dan Hooker vs. Nasrat Haqparast
• Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Chris Daukaus
• Roxanne Modafferi vs. Taila Santos
• Uros Medic vs. Jalin Turner
• Cody Brundage vs. Nick Maximov
• Matthew Semelsberger vs. Martin Sano
• Jonathan Pearce vs. Omar Morales

Enjoy the finish card on ESPN+

Diaz advised Okamoto this week that he would regret not having this chance to return now ahead of it was far too late. He explained he wasn’t guaranteed how he’d feel about himself if he didn’t at the very least get the chance. Well, now he has accomplished so. And, irrespective of possessing some good times versus Lawler, it’s time for him to dangle up the gloves for superior. Exterior of a several growing old legends like himself, I am not certain how comfortable I might be with looking at Diaz from anyone else the UFC may line up for him next. Lawler was an superb matchup, an additional growing old warrior whose finest days are in the rear-check out mirror.

In the conclusion, this was not a finish catastrophe, nor was it a rousing good results. It was someplace in the center. I’m happy Diaz understood when to say he was accomplished. He had that presence of head before points started out to go downhill promptly. With any luck ,, he can now be at peace with retirement with no opportunity regrets about his MMA career. He’s offered us all sufficient and now it can be time for him to acquire a stage toward the relaxation of his existence.

Diaz has offered us virtually two many years of combating amusement. He is not 1 of the finest fighters of all time. But he’s one particular of the most preferred fighters of all time, due to the fact you always realized what you have been going to get — an absolute war. That is what it was from Lawler on Saturday night time and Diaz knew when to wave the white flag. It’s time to do the exact with regards to his storied occupation.

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Valentina Shevchenko makes it glance straightforward vs. Lauren Murphy en route to her sixth straight title protection.

Recognize Valentina Shevchenko, even if she’s erased the drama in a activity that relies on it

Okamoto: For the document, I consider we do appreciate Shevchenko. I do think this activity is informed of just how uniquely specific she is. This sport offers Shevchenko her because of.

But it can be not normally easy, right? It’s effortless to ignore her, since we, as viewers, want the not known. Of training course we admire greatness, but you can find only so a great deal dominance we’re ready to acquire right before our desire wanes. And suitable now, Shevchenko could be headed into that territory. She’s demolished each flyweight she’s faced, and she’s by now taken out the greatest challengers offered to her.

If we squinted genuine really hard, and made use of our creativeness, maybe we believed those people challengers had a prospect. The Joanna Jedrzejczyks and Jessica Andrades of the environment. Shevchenko ate them up. Now, just to get new matchups, we are heading to preserve heading down the 125-pound rankings. And the betting odds are likely to continue to be extremely, very high in Shevchenko’s favor. And as viewers, in some cases that’s heading to be difficult to get up for.

But the way Shevchenko has honed her craft, and carries on to devote herself and increase in a sport that needs so much — that is worthy of paying out awareness to. So, preserve seeing Shevchenko. And hold admiring her for what she is. Even if it is really like seeing a movie you have now observed 100 occasions around.



Dan Hooker earns a unanimous selection victory with an impressive efficiency from Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266.

Dan Hooker must get huge title up coming

Legaspi: The battle transpired, which was a major plenty of offer in and of itself. Both equally fighters’ visas arrived at the very last moment, and we received a dominant display screen from Dan Hooker above Nasrat Haqparast. Neither asked for a catchweight — it was essential for Hooker to continue to be at lightweight in buy to prove that he belongs near to the leading 5 in the division once more.

Michael Chandler’s early knockout over the New Zealander created a great deal of folks forget about that Hooker was portion of some of the very best fights of 2020. Two 25-moment wars, versus Paul Felder and Dustin Poirier, got Hooker into title rivalry talks, and he ought to continue to be there just after what we observed on Saturday. He had less than 72 hrs to fly from Auckland to Las Vegas, make pounds and beat Haqparast. He was good on the ft, and put with each other a respectable effectiveness on the floor with his much-enhanced wrestling.

It might be a fantastic time for him and some of his City Kickboxing teammates, like middleweight winner Israel Adesanya, to make a brief-time period final decision to devote far more time in the U.S., because quarantine protocols and embassy shutdowns will proceed to complicate attempts to lock down significant fights in a stacked division. Rafael dos Anjos, Tony Ferguson and Beniel Dariush would each and every be terrific matchups. Hooker can also be a fantastic test for the up and coming Arman Tsarukyan.

Just after all the difficulties he had receiving to Las Vegas this struggle, Hooker was a single of the most significant winners of UFC 266. And he warrants a reward for his efficiency in the kind of an additional large struggle.