What’s next for the stars of UFC 266?

Alexander Volkanovski, Brian Ortega
Image Credit: @UFC/Twitter

The UFC was back in front of a full capacity crowd at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for a stacked UFC 266 card. The card saw Alexander Volkanovski defending his belt against Brian Ortega, Valentina Shevchenko defending her belt against Lauren Murphy, and Nick Diaz returning against Robbie Lawler.

The event ended up delivering as Volkanovski edged out Ortega in one of the best fights of the year. Shevchenko, meanwhile, continued her dominance with a fourth-round TKO win over Lauren Murphy and Robbie Lawler exacted his revenge as he TKO’d Nick Diaz. Now, following the event, here’s what I think should be next for the stars of UFC 266.

Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski showed why he was the featherweight champion as he beat up Brian Ortega for nearly the entire fight at UFC 266. Yet, in the third round, he got caught in two submissions that looked extremely tight but somehow he got the win.

With the win, Volkanovski has options for his next fight. He mentioned moving up to lightweight but, his next fight should be against the winner of Max Holloway vs. Yair Rodriguez. Although he has beaten Holloway twice, the second fight was super close and many thought the Hawaiian won, so the trilogy makes sense. The fight could headline a pay-per-view in March or April. But, if Rodriguez wins, it would be a fresh matchup that could serve as a co-main on a PPV.

Brian Ortega

Brian Ortega is now 0-2 in title fights and he took another beating in this one, just like in 2018 when Max Holloway pieced him up for four rounds.

Following the loss to Volkanovski at UFC 266, Ortega will need to take some time off and likely return in the summer of 2022. When he does return a fight against Arnold Allen makes sense. Ortega will need a step down in competition while Allen is looking to finally enter the top-five and prove he’s a legit title contender.

Valentina Shevchenko

Valentina Shevchenko, Michael Bisping, UFC 247, Joe Rogan
Image Credit: UFC

Valentina Shevchenko put on another dominant performance at UFC 266 and she continues to show she’s levels above the rest of the flyweight division with her TKO win over Lauren Murphy.

Shevchenko doesn’t have many options and outside of a trilogy fight Amanda Nunes, which seems unlikely, facing the winner of Joanne Calderwood vs. Alexa Grasso will likely produce the next title contender. The fight will serve as a co-main on a pay-per-view sometime in the first quarter of 2022.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy finally earned her UFC title shot but she came up short at UFC 266 as Shevchenko was too much for her. Now, Murphy will need some time off but when she returns, a fight against Cynthia Calvillo makes sense. It was supposed to happen at UFC 254 last year and given they both lost at UFC 266, their timelines align for the fight to happen in the first quarter of 2022.

Robbie Lawler

Robbie Lawler exacted his revenge on Nick Diaz as he walked through Diaz’s best punches and got the third-round TKO. Lawler is in a unique spot where he can really fight anyone but a fight against Mike Perry makes some sense. They were supposed to fight at UFC 255 last year but Lawler pulled out with an injury. It’s another winnable fight for Lawler and a fight on paper that would be exciting for the fans.

Nick Diaz

Nick Diaz finally made his return to the Octagon and it was clear he was dealing with a layoff and after Lawler dropped him, Diaz didn’t get up and the fight was waved off.

Now, after UFC 266, there is a good chance Diaz doesn’t fight again, but if he does, he will get another big-name legend. If he chooses to return, a fight against Matt Brown makes some sense. Both men are near the end of their careers and both would look to stand and bang and make it an entertaining fight for the fans. But, whether or not Diaz even fights again is a question no one really knows the answer to.

What do you think should be next for the stars of UFC 266?

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