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Seventeen years after the pair faced one another in the same city, with Diaz (26-9) winning via second-round knockout, they go head-to-head again at the T-Mobile Arena. This evening’s contest was this week changed from a welterweight bout to a middleweight meeting at the request of Diaz’s team, with the ever game Lawler (28-15) unsurprisingly accepting. The fight is scheduled for five rounds, marking only the second time in UFC history that a non-title bout that is not headlining an event is set for 25 minutes; the first took place this year and involved Diaz’s younger brother, Nate.
Meanwhile, the card’s main event sees Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) defend his featherweight title against Brian Ortega (15-1), in what should be a compelling match-up between opposing coaches from the most recent season of the Ultimate Fighter TV show. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) puts her flyweight title on the line against Lauren Murphy (15-4), as fans hope to see the champion tested for the first time in years.
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Ortega (15-1) came up short in December 2018 as he first attempted to win the gold, suffering his first career loss as he was dominated on the feet by then-champion Max Holloway for four rounds. A year later, it was Australian Volkanovski (22-1) who ended Holloway’s reign by outpointing the fan favourite, before doing so again in July 2020 – though many fans disagreed with the judges’ scorecards.
Ortega recovered from his devastating defeat by Holloway to beat Chan Sung Jung via decision last December, with the jiu jitsu expert producing a striking masterclass over 25 minutes. Now, the 30-year-old Californian goes for UFC gold again, with Volkanovski defending his belt for the first time since his rematch with Holloway, following the headliners’ time spent as opposing coaches on the Ultimate Fighter TV show.
In the co-main event at the T-Mobile Arena, Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) defends her women’s flyweight belt against Lauren Murphy (15-4), while, elsewhere on the card, Nick Diaz – older brother of Nate – returns after six years out to fightRobbie Lawler in a middleweight bout.
The pair squared off 17 years ago, with Diaz (26-9) knocking out fellow American Lawler (28-15) in the second round.