Who should the UFC 266 losers on the main card fight next? In a Fight of the Year contender, Alexander Volkanovski was able to survive two submission attempts en route to a unanimous decision win against Brian Ortega. Here are my thoughts on what the future may hold for the five fighters who lost on the main card on Saturday.
Coming into the night as the fifth-ranked Flyweight, Cynthia Calvillo likely would have been next in line for a title shot with a win over Jessica Andrade. Andrade, however, completely dominated Calvillo with her power, leading to a stoppage by TKO at the end of the first round. This loss leaves Calvillo at least one more fight away from getting a shot at Valentina Shevchenko.
Since Valentina has now taken the top four contenders, there aren’t a whole lot of options left for The Bullet. The matchup that makes the most for Cynthia Calvillo is sixth-ranked Joanne Calderwood. Throughout her career, Calderwood has always been one fight away from a title shot but never able to get over that proverbial hump. Cynthia Calvillo and Joanne Calderwood could compete in a title eliminator to be the next fighter to come in as a massive underdog against Valentina.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik has scary knockout power, but fans had yet to see how he would look against a dominant wrestler. Facing Curtis Blaydes as a massive underdog, Rozenstruik did more damage to his opponent but ultimately got controlled on the ground en route to a unanimous decision loss. With Rozenstruik coming in as the number six ranked contender, this loss puts him further away from a title shot.
Fifth and eighth-ranked contenders Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura are set to fight in late October at UFC 267. Matching Rozenstruik up with the loser of that bout would make sense. However, the fight that makes the most sense for “Bigi Boy” is Chris Daukaus. Daukaus earned the biggest win of his career on Saturday in the prelims, taking out Shamil Abdurakhimov with a massive right hook. Daukaus and Rozenstruik both have a ton of power, and this fight could even be the main event.
Fans had no idea what to expect from Nick Diaz, and that was clear right away as he opened up with an arrant spinning hook kick that missed. Diaz certainly looked a lot slower than he did in his prime, but the cardio machine was still able to throw 339 strikes and land 150 of them in a fight that went under 11 minutes.
As a new-school MMA fan, I’m honored to have been able to watch Nick Diaz fight live if that was the last time he steps in the cage. While the hype around Diaz will always be great, it’s clear that his heart is not in the game anymore. It was clear that Diaz did not want to take the fight but had to, likely for financial reasons. For the sake of his health and happiness, he should retire.
Lauren Murphy had all the heart and toughness in the world, and she showed that on Saturday. However, when you step in the cage with Valentina Shevchenko, heart and toughness can only get a fighter so far. The Bullet was clearly levels above Murphy with her striking, resulting in a lackluster fight that ended in a fourth-round TKO win for Shevchenko. Now 37 years old, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Murphy.
One possible matchup for Murphy is Viviane Araujo. Araujo is the seventh-ranked flyweight and a rising contender who is coming off of a close decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian. However, the fight that makes the most sense for Murphy is Jennifer Maia. Maia was defeated by Shevchenko late in 2020 but has since rebounded with a win over Jessica Eye. A win for either Murphy or Maia would get them closer to another title shot.
If Saturday night’s main event was not the Fight of the Year, then it was undoubtedly in the top five. Volkanovski largely outstruck Brian Ortega, especially with ground and pound, but T City nearly finished the fight twice in the third round with a guillotine and later a triangle choke. Even when it looked like Ortega had nothing left, he kept firing in the fifth round, which was arguably his best round of the fight. If nothing else, both fighters earned so much more respect from the fans.
On the outside looking in again, Ortega will have to play gatekeeper when he returns to the cage. Eighth-ranked Giga Chikadze is one of the hottest prospects on the roster at the moment and is looking to get a title shot soon, but it seems unlikely Ortega will take that fight. Yair Rodriguez and Max Holloway are set for the main event on November 13. The winner of that fight gets the next crack at Volkanovski. Seeing as Ortega took a long layoff after losing to Holloway in 2018, it would make sense that he will do the same again and eventually take on the loser of that November 13 bout.
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