Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega UFC 266 Odds, Pick & Prediction (Saturday, Sept. 25)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured (L-R): UFC fighters Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega.
- Alexander Volkanovski is favored to retain his UFC Featherweight Championship against Brian Ortega at UFC 266.
- The Australian fighter makes his first defense against someone not named Max Holloway.
- Sean Zerillo breaks down the main event and makes his pick for the fight below.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega Odds
The main event at UFC 266 will feature a featherweight title bout between the reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski and No. 2-ranked contender Brian Ortega, who each served as competing coaches on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Volkanovski comes off a pair of victories against No. 1 contender Max Holloway — against whom he secured featherweight gold (at UFC 245) and later defended the belt (at UFC 251) — but the champ hasn’t competed since July 2020, which is the longest layoff of his career.
After losing his title challenge against Holloway, Ortega returned from a lengthy 20-month layoff last October against Chan Sung Jung and turned in arguably the best performance of his career while showing improved striking skills. The performance was enough to earn him a second title shot against Volkanovski.
Below, I’ll preview this main event in-depth and provide my thoughts on where you can find actionable value on Saturday night. For more analysis on the rest of the card, you can also check out my projections for the entire slate.
Tale of the Tape
|Record||22-1||15-1 (1 NC)|
|Avg. Fight Time||15:09||12:35|
|Weight (pounds)||145 lbs.||145 lbs.|
|Date of birth||9/29/88||2/21/91|
|Sig Strikes Per Min||6.02||4.29|
|SS Absorbed Per Min||3.31||6.28|
|Take Down Avg||2.09||0.80|
On paper, Volkanovski has far superior metrics: +2.71 to -1.99 significant strike differential; 115 to 90 combined efficiency; and 72% takedown defense to combat Ortega’s 21% takedown accuracy.
While the champ has a 2-inch height disadvantage, Volkanovski does have a 2-inch reach advantage against Ortega. The former rugby star also appears to be highly durable, with a heavyweight-sized head on the body of a 145-pound man.
Volk spent 50 minutes locked in a cage with Holloway and out-struck the Hawaiian 294-236 while landing a far higher percentage of his strikes (51.1% to 41.3%). Granted, 48% of his strikes landed were leg kicks, but the fact remains, Volkanovski is the only man other than Conor McGregor to out-land Holloway from distance, and he did it twice.
Moreover, Holloway set a UFC record in his subsequent fight with Calvin Kattar, out-striking the Boston native 445-133 (with a 59% to 47% advantage in striking accuracy) throughout five rounds.
Ortega’s fight with Holloway was far less competitive than the two wars with Volkanovski. “T-City” lost the striking battle 290-110 (59% to 37% on accuracy) while eating 54-of-58 leg kicks. It was so lopsided that Holloway tried to teach Ortega how to defend himself in the middle of the fight, one of the coldest moves in combat sports history.
Ortega took offense to the beatdown and worked to improve his striking skills during his lengthy layoff. He picked apart the Korean Zombie (“TKZ”) last October (118-62 from distance; 59% to 38% on accuracy) in a well-rounded performance (secured three of his 10 takedown attempts).
Still, TKZ is a low-volume counter-striker, while Volkanovski (like Holloway) will apply significantly more pressure, pace, and volume.
Conversely, Volkanovski hasn’t necessarily faced a Jiu-Jitsu threat of Ortega’s caliber in the UFC. And while Ortega’s wrestling isn’t super potent, and he tends to fall behind in his fights, all he needs is one mistake to snatch a neck and turn the tides on his opponents:
Despite Ortega’s noticeable improvements, Volkanovski still represents a significant jump in competition, and it’s hard not to see him as the much more likely minute winner in this fight.
Before the TKZ fight, Ortega was largely considered finish reliant. While I don’t think that that’s necessarily the case anymore against top five or top 10 competition, I see this as a relatively binary fight: Volkanovski wins by decision, or Ortega wins by finish.
Volkanovski vs. Ortega Pick
The champion opened as a -185 favorite (roughly 65% implied) for his second title defense. His line dipped as low as -165 (62.3% implied) last Sunday, but has climbed back towards those opening odds at writing.
I projected Volkanovski as a 66.2% favorite in this fight (-196 implied). I see value on his moneyline up to roughly -175 (63.7% implied) at a 2.5% betting edge; however, that’s not my favorite way to play this fight.
I projected this bout to go the distance 58% of the time (implied odds of -139), so I also see slight value on the Fight to Go the Distance prop (“Yes” is listed -120).
However, I would prefer to play Volkanovski to win by decision (listed +150) since I projected that prop closer to even money (+102), and I see significantly more value in that number. Typically, when I project value both on a fighter’s moneyline and the fight to go the distance, I end up betting their decision prop.
That said, I also show value on Ortega to win by submission (projected +393, listed +450), so if you’re looking to play the other side of this fight, that’s the way that I would bet the underdog; as opposed to his moneyline.
Alternatively, you can bet Ortega to win inside the distance or by KO, TKO, DQ/Submission (titled differently depending on the book) at odds of +300, compared to my projection of +295.
I offered five ways for you to attack this fight from a betting perspective. I’m picking the champion, and my preferred bet is Volkanovski to win by decision, but as I mentioned above, I think the result could be reasonably binary — Volkanovski by decision, or Ortega by finish.
The cardio, pace, pressure, and volume of the champion should largely dictate the outcome.
The Pick: Alexander Volkanovski wins by Decision (+150)