Alexander Volkanovski proved his worth in the championship on Saturday night.
The Australian UFC featherweight champion nearly submitted twice during the third round of his UFC 266 main event against challenger Brian Ortega of Torrance, California. But after escaping the second of two chokes, Volkanovski (23-1) took a hell of a beating. with Ortega (15-2) saved by the horn.
Ortega’s unreal toughness allowed him to go all the way in the 5-round fight, but Volkanovski retained his title in a Fight of the Year candidate at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The judges’ scores were 49-46, 50-45, 50-44 by unanimous decision. It was Volkanovski’s second successful title defense and his 20th consecutive victory.
“All those who doubt, I will continue to prove them wrong, over and over again,” Volkanovski said.
The night’s co-main event was the latest chapter in what is becoming the next dominant reign of the UFC title.
Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (22-3) of Kyrgyzstan played with Lauren Murphy (15-5) of Houston for three rounds before turning up the heat and finishing things off in the fourth. A right hand dropped Murphy, then a running lunge ended things at the 4:00 mark. The victory marked Shevchenko’s sixth successful title defense.
“I’m ready for anyone, I’m the champion,” Shevchenko said.
While the title fights had the highest turnover, the most anticipated fight of the night was a 17-year rematch between fan favorite Nick Diaz (26-10) of Stockton, California, and the former welterweight champion. for UFC Robbie Lawler.
Diaz delivered one of the most memorable knockouts in MMA history at UFC 47 in 2004. On Saturday night, in a middleweight showdown, Lawler (29-15) defeated Diaz, who was fighting for the first time since 2015. A right hook was the hard hitting as Lawler won by TKO at 0:44 of the third round.
“I always had respect for Diaz, he brings it all the time,” Lawler said.