Alexander Volkanovski says he considers himself a "regular bloke" who became a UFC champion on the strength of pure determination and hard work. The Australian featherweight title-holder can't say the same about his opponent, Brian Ortega, and believes the difference will be evident when they meet on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 266. The main UFC 266 fight card is set for 10 p.m. ET from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Volkanovski told the media this week he believes his work ethic is superior to that of the top-ranked Ortega.
Volkanovski is a -155 favorite (risk $155 to win $100), while Ortega comes back at +135 in the latest Volkanovski vs. Ortega odds from Caesars Sportsbook. In the co-main event, women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko is the -1,600 favorite in the UFC 266 odds as she takes on third-ranked challenger Lauren Murphy (+900). Before settling any picks of your own for Volkanovski vs. Ortega and the rest of the UFC 266 card, make sure you see the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine MMA expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to dissect the X's and O's of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,200 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 10 percent return on investment for his followers. In 2020, $100 bettors who tailed his picks were up $9,200. Among his recent memorable selections was calling the upset by Brandon Moreno (+200) against Deiveson Figueiredo (-240) for the flyweight title at UFC 263 in June. Anyone who has followed him has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC 266 fast approaching, Gombas has studied the card from top to bottom and released his UFC 266 best bets. A successful parlay of those picks would pay 9-1 and they can only be seen at SportsLine.
UFC 266 preview
The main event could serve as a flashpoint in the careers of both fighters. Volkanovski is a mild-mannered and affable Australian who was once a professional rugby player before discovering mixed martial arts. He reportedly lost more than 100 pounds while training for fighting and has quietly emerged as one of top fighters in the sport.
However, Volkanovski (22-1) is among the UFC's least popular champions in large part because the man he beat to earn the title, Max Holloway, is among the most revered figures in the game. He beat Holloway by unanimous decision in December 2019 and squeaked out a split decision in their rematch last July.
The featherweight champion has insisted the only way to win over his critics will be to dominate opponents in a long reign as champion. He faces a daunting challenge from Ortega (15-1-1), whom many MMA observers have long pegged as a future champion.
Ortega is a slick submission specialist who gained acclaim for running through his first six UFC opponents without much resistance. His momentum was halted amid a lopsided loss to Holloway in November 2018 and subsequent injury issues that shelved him for nearly two years.
His return performance resulted in a dominant decision win over Chan Sung Jung last October, setting the stage for a second title shot against Volkanovski. See who to pick here.
UFC 266 expert predictions
We'll share one of Gombas' UFC 266 selections here: He is taking Robbie Lawler (-150) to get his hand raised against Nick Diaz (+130) in a much-anticipated middleweight battle.
Both combatants are widely considered iconic figures among MMA fans. They memorably met 17 years ago, with Diaz scoring an upset knockout of Lawler in the second round at UFC 47. Lawler would go on to become the UFC welterweight champion, while Diaz came up short in two title appearances.
Diaz (26-9-2), 38, hasn't fought since a loss to Anderson Silva in January 2015. The 39-year-old Lawler has remained active but has dropped his last four fights. His last win came against Donald Cerrone in July 2017.
"Lawler is on a bit of a skid, but he has been facing an extremely difficult strength of schedule. I love seeing activity and believe nostalgia for Diaz is baked into this line," Gombas told SportsLine.
How to make UFC 266 picks
Gombas also has strong picks for Volkanovski vs. Ortega and other fights on the UFC 266 card. He's also backing one fighter to prevail "in a complete mismatch." Those selections are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Volkanovski vs. Ortega? And what other picks do you need to make for a parlay with a payout of 9-1? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC 266, all from the ultimate insider who's up nearly $9,200 on MMA picks in the past year, and find out.
UFC 266 odds, fight card
Alexander Volkanovski (-155) vs. Brian Ortega (+135)
Valentina Shevchenko (-1,600) vs. Lauren Murphy (+900)
Nick Diaz (-110) vs. Robbie Lawler (-110)
Curtis Blaydes (-300) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+250)
Jessica Andrade (-270) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+230)
Talia Santos (-370) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (+310)
Marlon Moraes (+220) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (-260)
Dan Hooker (-160) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (+140)
Shamil Abdurakhimov (+165) vs. Chris Daukaus (-185)
Manon Fiorot (-260) vs. Mayra Beuno Silva (+220)
Karl Roberson (-115) vs. Nick Maximov (-105)
Matthew Semelsberger (-475) vs. Martin Sano (+380)
Uros Medic (-125) vs. Jalin Turner (+105)
Omar Morales (-150) vs. Jonathan Pearce (+130)