Any pay-per-view with two title fights is going to capture the attention of the sport, but on Saturday night at UFC 266, it’s the third fight on the card that has most fight fans talking. Nick Diaz will walk to the Octagon for his first fight since 2015 to face Robbie Lawler in a rematch 17 years in the making. What can we expect when he returns?
In the main event of UFC 266, Alexander Volkanovski defends the featherweight title against Brian Ortega . The two spent plenty of time together during the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, but will that experience impact the outcome? Ortega’s last title fight didn’t go his way — will this time be different?
The other champion on the card, Valentina Shevchenko , hopes nothing will be different in her upcoming fight against Lauren Murphy while Curtis Blaydes may have to adjust his strategy against Jairzinho Rozenstruik .
Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi, Mike Coppinger, Jeff Wagenheim and Carlos Contreras Legaspi separate what’s real and what’s not ahead of Saturday night’s pay-per-view. We’ll be impressed by Nick Diaz in his return
Nick Diaz lost to Anderson Silva in January 2015 and was suspended months later because of a positive test for marijuana metabolites. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images Okamoto: Look, the only answer to this — the real answer to this — is, "I have no idea." No one does. Diaz wasn’t even that active when he was … active.
Prior to that bogus suspension for marijuana in 2015, which ultimately led to his six-year absence, Diaz had only fought once in the span of 22 months. And when his career was derailed by a — I’ll say it again, bogus — suspension, he veered hard into a civilian lifestyle.
Diaz has not always lived the life of a professional athlete over the past six years. He’s had somewhat of a tortured relationship with fighting in general. He doesn’t love it, but he knows he’s good at it and it’s his means of income. Trying to figure out Diaz’s level of motivation, his reasons for fighting or even his enthusiasm around this return … it’s impossible. And I think that obviously matters a lot, when trying to guess what he’ll look like on Saturday. Because if Diaz doesn’t truly want to be here and he has reservations about being here, that will show.
And if that is the case, then no, we won’t be impressed. We’ll probably say he should never do this again.
I’m genuinely excited and curious about Diaz’s return, but I’m going in with no expectations. This has an equal chance of going really well or really badly. Brian Ortega will make the most of his second title fight and win
Brian Ortega will get his second shot at the featherweight title when he faces Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 266. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images Raimondi: When Brian Ortega first challenged for the UFC featherweight title, against Max Holloway at UFC 231 on Dec. 8, […]