Set to meet with The Ultimate Fighter 29 opposing coach, Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC 266 next month as he looks to lodge his second successful featherweight title defense, Alexander Volkanovski has sights on a third round finish over the Californian, but is expecting an early “war” to traverse in the opening two frames.

Volkanovski, unbeaten in his nine-fight UFC tenure, narrowly escaped ‘Fight Island’ last July with the title in tow, having bested former division kingpin, Max Holloway in a close split decision victory at UFC 251 in the pair’s immediate championship rematch.

Los Angeles-born contender, Ortega snapped a lengthy hiatus back in October of last year — featuring opposite one-time title chaser, Chan Sung Jung also on ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, UAE — taking a dominant one-sided unanimous judging victory over five rounds, on route to his second title tilt.

Originally booked to meet at UFC 260 back in March, the pairing was shelved and rescheduled after Volkanovski confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19.

In turn, the promotion removed Ortega from the entire card, instead,  booking the two as the coaches as part of The Ultimate Fighter reboot on ESPN — with the two slated to headline UFC 266 next month as part of a title doubleheader.

Speaking with LowKick MMA reporter, James Lynch, Volkanovski shared his thoughts on how his matchup with Ortega could potentially play out, where he predicted a third round stoppage of the challenger.

Man, everyone knows my style,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve got too much pressure, he’s (Brian Ortega) durable so I’m expecting him to take some damage early. I expect a bit of a war early, but I feel like I’m gonna be too much and I’ll wear him down — I’m feeling (a) third round (finish).

The thing is, you say that every time, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, get the finish, get the finish’, but, I mean, yeah — these guys are durable so you can’t just look for big knockouts but there’s one thing I can do and that’s pressure cook ’em. I can really put that pressure on and cook ’em that way — they’ve got no choice but to look for a way out.

Reflecting on his experience with Ortega during their time coaching on The Ultimate Fighter which concludes this weekend at UFC Vegas 35 — Volkanovski explained how the Californian would turn up late to some training sessions, or even miss an entire day of training.

Obviously, I’m gonna try stick a wedge between Team Ortega and his boys and things like that, just be like, ‘Nah, he’s running late’, and things like that, especially at 0-4” Volkanovski said. “And I knew that he was rocking up lower and he heard the whispers that he was late and things like that, and he didn’t turn up at some sessions, or a session — cause that was only one week.

So I was told that he was late or didn’t turn up some times, and then he starting gloating,” Volkanovski said. “So I was like, ‘Mate, don’t give me that sh*t, I know for a fact you weren’t there, let’s be real — one week with the boys? Don’t claim their glory’. In saying that, it is what it is — being 0-4 you’re gonna take that, I wouldn’t say personal, but you’re gonna be like — especially that competitiveness in you, even though there’s not that much that I could have done, I still was like, ‘Damn, this sucks, I wanna get these boys some wins’.

UFC 266 takes place on September 25. from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada — with the featherweight title bout between Volkanovski and Ortega headlining above a flyweight title clash between Valentina Shevchenko and the streaking challenger, Lauren Murphy. A welterweight rematch between the returning former title challenger, Nick Diaz, and former gold holder, Robbie Lawler is also slated for the card. 

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.