Once again, things didn’t go as he’d hoped, with the Australian champion starting fast and showing no interest in slowing down, busting Ortega up with his clean, crisp strikes and pushing an exhaustive pace.
Midway through the third round, there was a glimmer of hope: the battered Ortega caught a Volkanovski low kick and followed it with a clean left hand that landed flush, putting the champion on the deck. The challenger instantly clamped onto a mounted guillotine choke — one of his signature submissions — and appeared to have Volkanovski dead to rights.
Miraculously, the champion survived and wriggled free, sliding out of a D’arce choke attempt as he worked back onto top position and once more began raining down blows on Ortega. But the challenger was still game, throwing up and locking onto a deep triangle choke attempt off his back, once more forcing the champion to focus all of his energy on staying conscious and escaping the hold.
Once more, Volkanovski found a way out, ultimately cruising to a unanimous decision victory.
“Honestly, it just sucks,” Ortega said when asked about the champion’s Houdini-esque escapes. “I thought it was over. I thought he was done. I thought I finished him and he was about to tap out, but he didn’t, and I was shocked.
“Obviously you’re like, ‘What the f***?’ The fight keeps going, you shoot another submission, and you’re like, ‘Well this one’s going to stick’ and he gets out of that one, and you’re like double ‘What the f***?’ You shoot more and it slips out, and you end up on the bottom and, at that point, my orbital was already fractured.
“I was hoping that he tapped out because I was seeing three of that m*****f*****.”
He didn’t, and for the second time in a couple years, Ortega was left to deal with the disappointment of a championship defeat and try to figure out what went wrong.