UFC 266 best bets: Is Volkanovski being underappreciated vs. Ortega?

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Saturday's UFC 266 features a featherweight title fight between champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega, as well as a women's flyweight title tilt featuring champ Valentina Shevchenko and Lauren Murphy.

Before the action gets underway at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, here's a look at the two best bets for the pay-per-view event.

Alexander Volkanovski (-180) vs. Brian Ortega

Volkanovski is one of the more underappreciated champions in the UFC, so it's not terribly surprising to see him as less than a 2-1 favorite against Ortega.

Why not take advantage of that relatively cheap price?

Some fans still think Max Holloway should've beaten Volkanovski in their July 2020 rematch, but Volkanovski very much deserves to be the No. 4-ranked male fighter in the UFC. He's one of the most well-rounded athletes in the sport, and his second title defense this weekend could look easier than expected.

Don't get me wrong: Ortega is talented, and he rightfully earned a title shot by dominating Chan Sung Jung last October. After nearly two years off between an unsuccessful title shot against Holloway and that bout, "T-City" looked like a brand-new fighter. Known as a grappler in his early UFC days, his striking skill set was much more developed - in fact, he picked apart a striker in Jung for all 25 minutes.

But Volkanovski clearly beat Holloway in the stand-up department in their first bout almost two years ago, and that's a different level of impressive.

Despite Ortega's improvements on the feet, Volkanovski's striking arsenal is more varied; he has more tools, and the champion should have no problem edging Ortega in that area.

The fight could get interesting if it reaches the ground, as Ortega is one of the best submission specialists in the division. The problem is, he doesn't have a good enough wrestling base to take Volkanovski down consistently - if at all.

Plus, Volkanovski showed earlier in his UFC career that he is a monster on the ground. He's great at controlling his opponents from top position, and his ground-and-pound is a thing of beauty. Even if Ortega does manage to get him down, it's tough to see the challenger doing much before Volkanovski pops back up or gets Ortega into trouble.

Volkanovski is the safe pick in Saturday's main event, and I think it's worth taking him at -180.

Jessica Andrade (-265) / Merab Dvalishvili (-260)

$100 parlay to net $90.71

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In the first leg of this parlay, Andrade, a former strawweight champion, faces Cynthia Calvillo in a pivotal flyweight bout. Andrade will look to rebound from a recent title opportunity against Shevchenko that ended in a second-round TKO loss.

Despite that one-sided defeat, Andrade remains one of the top fighters in the division. She finished Katlyn Chookagian - who holds a win over Calvillo - in her 125-pound debut last year to cement herself as the No. 1 contender and earn a title shot.

The Brazilian is also one of the most powerful flyweights. She's known for her devastating knockouts - just ask Karolina Kowalkiewicz or Chookagian - and overall strength. That's where Calvillo will run into trouble.

Calvillo is a solid fighter. She came into the UFC a few years ago with a good jiu-jitsu base, and her striking has gotten a lot better as she gains experience. But Calvillo can't match Andrade's wrecking-ball nature, and unlike Shevchenko or current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, she isn't technical enough to stop it.

Calvillo's grit and toughness might prevent Andrade from finishing her, but expect Andrade to do more damage on the feet and ground en route to at least a decision victory.

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In the other leg of the parlay, surging bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili takes a step up in competition against former title challenger Marlon Moraes, who's looking to end a rough patch and return to contention at 135 pounds himself.

Dvalishvili is a great choice for this parlay because he's on an absolute roll and -260 isn't too expensive.

The Georgian fighter is riding a six-fight winning streak - all the momentum is on his side, as Moraes has lost three of his last four - and shows no signs of stopping. Dvalishvili is a machine on the ground, and not many fighters will be able to stop the 11th-ranked bantamweight. A past-his-prime Moraes certainly isn't one of them.

Here are the full odds from theScore Bet for UFC 266 on Sept. 25:

Main card

  • Alexander Volkanovski (-180) vs. Brian Ortega (+150)
  • Valentina Shevchenko (-1500) vs. Lauren Murphy (+900)
  • Robbie Lawler (-145) vs. Nick Diaz (+115)
  • Curtis Blaydes (-310) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+245)
  • Jessica Andrade (-265) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+215)

Preliminary card

  • Merab Dvalishvili (-260) vs. Marlon Moraes (+210)
  • Dan Hooker (-140) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (+110)
  • Chris Daukaus (-200) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (+165)
  • Taila Santos (-425) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (+325)

Early preliminary card

  • Uros Medic (-125) vs. Jalin Turner (-105)
  • Nick Maximov (-165) vs. Cody Brundage (+135)
  • Matthew Semelsberger (-475) vs. Martin Sano (+350)
  • Omar Morales (-160) vs. Jonathan Pearce (+130)
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UFC 266 best bets: Is Volkanovski being underappreciated vs. Ortega?
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