Profitable tipster Will Dean casts an expert eye over UFC 266, where Alexander Volkanovski should prove too good for Brian Ortega.
2pts Alexander Volkanovski to win in R4, R5 or by decision at evens (Paddy Power, Betfair)
3pts Merab Dvalishvili to win in R3 or by decision at 10/11 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
1pt Jalin Turner to win by KO or submission at 11/4 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
Having finished six fights back-to-back from 2015 to 2018, Brian Ortega was known for producing submission and knockout victories from the brink of defeat. His popularity gained him a fight against then-champion Max Holloway, who subsequently delivered one of the most one-sided beatdowns in UFC title fight history. Having been finished in the fourth round and broken a record for the most significant strikes absorbed in a UFC fight, Ortega disappeared for almost two years to work on his striking.
T-City’s return fight against Chan Sung Jung late last year was nothing short of remarkable, as his boxing had come on leaps and bounds and barely resembled the fighter that was starched by Holloway. The performance shocked everyone and earned Ortega another shot at UFC gold, this time against ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI.
While Ortega was on the sidelines making improvements, Volkanovski beat Holloway by decision across two closely contested title fights, taking the gold back to Australia. Alexander The Great out-struck Holloway in eight of the 10 total rounds, showing an impressive ability to make adjustments throughout each fight.
Were it not for Ortega’s impressive performance last time out, Volkanovski would be at least a 1/3 favourite in this fight. Post-fight interviews also reveal that a beautiful spinning elbow that Ortega landed in the second round actually concussed Jung, who claims to have no recollection of the latter three rounds. Rewatching the fight does confirm that the South Korean was compromised and fighting on auto-pilot, which could have played a part in how dominant Ortega looked.
With all things considered, I believe Volkanovski is going to be the overall winner in this bout, and his fight IQ inside the cage should see him make the adjustments needed to overcome Ortega. The oddsmakers seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on Ortega’s most recent victory, but Volkanovski’s wins over Holloway were even more eye-opening.
If Ortega’s improvements have been overblown, then Volkanovski may find a late finish after an accumulation of strikes, just like Holloway did. The Australian has won on the scorecards in six of his nine UFC bouts, so backing VOLKANOVSKI TO WIN IN R4, R5 OR BY SUBMISSION at evens provides the needed insurance to cover most of the defending champion’s win conditions.
JALIN TURNER’s 10-5 record is certainly deceiving, as the Lightweight is a well-rounded competitor who can certainly make waves in the division. On the feet, he uses his impressive reach to land straight shots from distance, as well as barraging his opponents with knees and elbows should they enter the pocket. The Tarantula also has a Jiu Jitsu purple belt, and uses his long frame to control his opponents when fights hit the mat.
An impressive string of seven quick stoppage victories booked Uros Medic as Turner’s opponent on Saturday night, with the Serbian finishing all of his fights inside six minutes. While his killer instinct is hard to deny, there are always concerns when a relatively inexperienced fighter has not yet been forced to demonstrate their endurance over a longer distance. Any thoughts regarding Medic’s knockout power in the latter half of the fight are purely speculative, and he may suffer from fatigue if the fight goes longer. Turner, on the other hand, has seen round three on numerous occasions and has demonstrated a good tempo across his UFC bouts so far.
Turner should also have a significant grappling edge, as some of Medic’s regional footage demonstrated a lack of urgency once his back hit the mat. Turner will have to be wary of submissions from the bottom, but the purple belt should be savvy enough to stay out of trouble and move to a safe position to land devastating ground strikes and push Medic’s cardio further than ever before.
I struggle to see exactly why Turner is playing the role of the underdog in this fight, as he has superior grappling, the more proven experience against stiffer competition and, most importantly, a trustworthy gas tank. Turner has won all 10 of his bouts inside the distance, so backing TURNER TO WIN BY KO OR SUBMISSION at 11/4 rates the value play.
MERAB DVALISHVILI may have the best endurance on the UFC roster, with the Georgian effortlessly churning out wrestling-heavy decision victories every time he fights. The Machine’s smothering pressure and pace make him appear impossible to beat over 15 minutes, and backing him to win by decision has been a reliable way to go in recent bouts.
Dvalishvili’s opponent, Marlon Moraes, will be up for the challenge of finding a stoppage victory in the early goings of the fight, but the former title challenger’s cardio has always been his biggest weakness. Facing a pressure wrestler like Dvalishvili is one of the most exhausting tasks a fighter can take on in the Octagon, so coupling this with Moraes’ unreliable gas tank has me questioning if the Georgian can finally find a late stoppage.
Dvalishvili is not the most threatening of fighters, with marginal power and limited striking ability on the feet. His submission game is also underwhelming, having attempted just three submissions across two whole hours in the UFC’s cage.
Having fought for 15 minutes in each of his eight bouts, it’s highly likely that the trend continues, but Moraes’ third round cardio will give the Georgian a better opportunity than ever before to find his first finish. Backing DVALISHVILI TO WIN IN R3 OR BY DECISION is therefore the safest option at 10/11, as it compensates for Moraes’ questionable endurance and is priced close enough to the decision method itself.
Posted at 1200 BST on 23/09/21
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