Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski reasserted his dominance in the featherweight division with a thrilling win against Brian Ortega at UFC 266 in a fight which prompted a wave of fanfare from some of the UFC’s biggest names.
Volkanovski has been near flawless in his run to 145lb supremacy, winning 19 straight fights before he took to the cage against Ortega on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
The Australian certainly didn’t have everything his own way but was able to survive a pair of tight submissions in the third round to take a unanimous decision victory after 25 minutes of furious action in what is being hailed as a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender.
For long spells of the fight, Volkanovski appeared in complete control. The former rugby player saw the better of the early exchanges, finding a home for his right hook as Ortega attempted to establish a jab to keep Volkanovski at bay. The pace of the opening exchanges was obvious on both fighters’ bloodied faces as the first round ended.
The second saw Volkanovski up the pace as Ortega struggled to contend with the champion’s power shots and scything leg kicks – but it was the third round of this fight which will live long in the memory.
After dropping Volkanovski with a short left hand, submission specialist Ortega pounced on a guillotine choke which seemed to have the champ in grave danger only for him to gut it out – before being again caught in a tight triangle submission.
Volkanovski, though, has been here before. He gritted his teeth and survived what was the closest he has come to defeat since suffering his sole career loss in 2013 and poured on further damage as the fight entered the championship rounds.
— Takedown Defense (@ChillemThreebo) September 26, 2021
Ortega attempted a late rally but it was Volkanovski who hung tough to score a clear unanimous decision win and underscore his status as the world’s best featherweight in the process.
“I’m a normal human being. Just hard work got me to where I am,” Volkanovski said afterwards. “Sky’s the limit for any of you. All them doubters, I’m going to keep proving you wrong time and time again.
“He’s good,” he added of the his rival Ortega. “I thought I was in his head and then he came back even stronger. I feel like an idiot saying some of the things I did, ’cause he proved himself.
“Keep doubting me! I love it! I’ll be the underdog until the day I die. That’s just going to make me work harder.”
Ortega, too, admitted that the champion was better than he expected. “I thought it was done,” he said about his third round submission attempts.
“That’s what we trained for the whole time. I tried to come for his head but that little b*stard’s f*cking tough. He’s a champ for a reason.”
Not a bad fight. Congrats shartsy
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) September 26, 2021
Holy shit! What an incredible fight. So impressed by @BrianTcity and the heart he showed. Of course the night belonged to @alexvolkanovski He truly is the champion of the world, but both men should take a bow! Congrats fellas!!! Inspired
— michael (@bisping) September 26, 2021
— Raphael Assuncao (@RaphaAssuncao) September 26, 2021
“Not a bad fight,” former featherweight champion Conor McGregor admitted on Twitter. “Congrats, shartsy.”
“Holy sh*t!” added another former champion, Michael Bisping. “What an incredible fight. So impressed by Brian Ortega and the heart he showed.
“Of course, the night belonged to Alexander Volkanovski. He truly is the champion of the world, but both men should take a bow! Congrats, fellas. Inspired.”
Another UFC fighter with title aspirations of his own, Raphael Assuncao, also paid tribute to the heart and grit displayed by both fighters.
“Game of true warriors,” he wrote on Twitter.
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