UFC 266 is here, and Nick Diaz is fighting. Yep. Nick Diaz, he’s back. He’s fighting Robbie Lawler, a rematch 17 years in the making. Oh, and it is five rounds. In the main event, the grudge match between featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Orega is finally going down. The pair were originally supposed to fight in March. Finally, the co-main event sees Valentina Shevchenko going for sixth title defense against Lauren Murphy. However, if you look past those three fights, there are some under-the-radar storylines on UFC 266.
The Hangman on the prelims?
Dan Hooker has not been on the prelims since UFC 226, which was July of 2018. On that night, he knocked out Gilbert Burns. Since then, he has main evented two UFC events and has been the co-main event three times. Hooker is a star. It is kind of crazy to see him not on the main card, but UFC 266 is stacked. He is defending his No. 8 ranking against Nasrat Haqparast, a prospect with a lot of steam behind him. Hooker is also on the first two-fight losing streak of his UFC career, so he really needs a win as well. On top of all of this, he has had to jump through a ton of hoops to even make it to UFC 266; between work visas, passports, no flights, Hooker’s UFC 266 fight week is going to be memorable.
Curtis Blaydes’ Return
‘Razor’ Blaydes has been out of action since February when Derrick Lewis brutally knocked him out. He returns against another knockout artist, Jairzinho Rozenstruik. There was some speculation that this was the last fight on Blaydes’ contract; however, he told journalist James Lynch that he has signed a new four-fight contract, which keeps him in the UFC. Blaydes would probably be champion right now if it weren’t for Francis Ngannou, but that’s not how reality works. The good thing is that Blaydes is only 30-years old, which is very young, especially in the heavyweight division. A dominant win over Rozenstruik this weekend gets him right back into the title mix.
Banger of the week
Uros Medic vs. Jalin Turner is going to be very fun and is the banger of the week. Medic goes into his second UFC fight this weekend after he knocked out Aalon Cruz in his debut. The Serbian fighter is undefeated at 7-0 with a 100% finish rate. Turner also has a 100% finish rate and is riding a two-fight win streak. This fight will not be going to the judge’s scorecards; I promise you that. Don’t blink; both fighters tend to finish their opponents early.
Welcome to the UFC, Nick Maximov
Maximov was supposed to be fighting Karl Roberson this weekend, but on Wednesday, it was revealed that Roberson was forced to withdraw from the event due to some medical issues. Maximov, thankfully is staying on the card and is now fighting Cody Brundage. The pair were actually supposed to fight on season five of Dana White’s Contender Series, but Maximov signed with the UFC instead. Brundage was set to fight in a few weeks on the Contender Series. Well, he is a UFC fighter now. Maximov is a product of the Nick Diaz Academy. He is 6-0 and is a wizard on the ground. It is only right that his UFC debut is on a Nick Diaz fight card.
The Veteran vs. The Up and Comer
To get to the top of the women’s flyweight division, you have to get through Roxanne Modafferi, a true MMA pioneer. The 43-fight veteran ranked No. 9 in the division and is taking on Taila Santos, who is No. 12. After losing a split decision in her UFC debut, Santos has looked like a brand new fighter, dominantly defeating her last two opponents. To get to the next level, she must get through “The Happy Warrior,” who is almost always a tough out. Modafferi has alternated wins and losses since returning to the UFC in 2017. She is also coming off a meniscus tear. The UFC knows what they are doing with this match-up; they want to see if Santos can make her name off Modafferi’s.
Why is no one talking about Chris Daukaus?
Daukaus returns for his fourth UFC fight this weekend against No. 7 ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov. He is coming off a first-round finish of Aleksei Oleinik. I don’t feel like Daukaus is being talked about enough. In comparison, Daukaus defeated a ranked opponent before Ciryl Gane and finished all three of his opponents, yet Gane got pushed quicker. Daukaus has only been to a third round once in his career and had 10 finishes in his 11 wins. A win over Abdurakhimov will put him in the elite of the division and will set him up for a massive fight. At only 31-years old, the future is bright for Daukaus, and he should be talked about more.
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MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.