The UFC returns to pay-per-view this weekend in Anaheim, California, and it looks like a strong show.
UFC 298: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Ilia Topuria features a huge featherweight title headliner as well as a major middleweight clash in the co-main. Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 298: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Ilia Topuria.
#1. UFC featherweight title: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Ilia Topuria
It’s fair to say that Alexander Volkanovski isn’t just on the cusp of greatness coming into this fight. He’s already great – as his nickname says – and a win will likely make him the GOAT at 145 pounds.
However, he has got a lot standing against him this weekend. Not only is Ilia Topuria one of the most dangerous opponents he will face, but the Spaniard has near-unmatched momentum and confidence.
What’s more, Volkanovski is coming off the worst loss of his career, a knockout defeat to lightweight champ Islam Makhachev, which ruined his chances of becoming a two-division titleholder.
Sure, ‘Alexander the Great’ bounced back wonderfully from his first loss to Makhachev by brutalising Yair Rodriguez, but that loss was a close decision. The more recent one saw him violently knocked out in what could turn out to be a career-altering moment.
Were it not for that fight, it’d be easy to favour the Aussie against Topuria.
‘El Matador’ has been undoubtedly fabulous throughout his octagon career. He has won six straight bouts in the octagon to extend his overall record to 14-0, and most of the wins have come in the same way.
Essentially, the Spaniard looks to walk his foes down with thudding punches before taking them down to batter them or simply put them away with his brutal power.
Admittedly, he showed more poise and skill than that against Josh Emmett, as he recovered from a knockdown to basically piece his opponent up, damaging him with punches and low kicks. However, the plodding, haymaker-throwing Emmett will be a very different proposition to Volkanovski.
Given that the champ rarely gets taken down – even by Makhachev – and was able to outstrike Max Holloway three times, it’s just difficult to see him being taken out by Topuria’s approach.
Essentially, then, Topuria has a puncher’s chance based on Volkanovski not being the same following that knockout loss to Makhachev. If ‘Alexander the Great’ is even close to the level he was fighting at before that, though, this bout shouldn’t be an issue for him.
At the end of the day, it’s simply impossible to pick against Volkanovski at 145 pounds for now, regardless of how talented Topuria is. Therefore, the pick is the Aussie via decision.
The Pick: Volkanovski via decision
#2. UFC middleweight bout: Robert Whittaker vs. Paulo Costa
With any luck, this middleweight bout will finally happen this weekend at the third time of trying. The UFC has been attempting to book it since 2021, only for things to fall apart every time. Thankfully, it remains a big fight for the division.
It’s probably fair to say that Paulo Costa was to blame for the fight not happening yet. He withdrew from the first booking due to illness and then claimed that he’d never signed a contract for the second, resulting in a brief period that saw him butt heads with Dana White and Co. on his pay.
All of this – he’s pulled out of other fights too – has added up and meant that ‘The Eraser’ has only fought twice since losing his title shot to then-champion Israel Adesanya in September 2020.
Robert Whittaker, meanwhile, has been far more active. ‘The Reaper’ lost his title to Adesanya in 2019 and failed to regain it in a rematch, but outside of that, he has outpointed four other top middleweights, including Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori.
Whittaker’s last fight, though, saw him knocked out by Dricus du Plessis. Sure, ‘Stillknocks’ has since gone onto claim the title, but the fact that he took out ‘The Reaper’ remains pretty stunning, especially as nobody outside of Adesanya had been able to dispatch him that way.
So can Costa repeat the feat here? The Brazilian definitely packs plenty of punching power. Once renowned as a grappler, ‘The Eraser’ has developed into a bullying striker during his UFC career, walking his foes down to bomb them with thudding punches and knees from the clinch.
Whether this approach will work against Whittaker, though, is a fair question to ask. ‘The Reaper’ can be knocked out, but his losses have tended to come against technical strikers like Adesanya and Stephen Thompson. Du Plessis, meanwhile, caught him with an unorthodox shot and has a near-unmatched killer instinct.
Costa’s approach, though, is closer to that of Cannonier. And worryingly for the Brazilian, ‘The Killa Gorilla’ didn’t really lay a glove on Whittaker, who simply picked him apart with some slick in-and-out movement.
Sure, ‘The Reaper’ is getting no younger at 33, and it’s difficult to know how he will return after being knocked out by du Plessis. However, Costa is just four months younger, has struggled to hit the 185 pound middleweight limit and also hasn’t fought since August 2022, bringing into question his rank of No. 6.
Considering all that, this one ought to be straightforward for Whittaker, who probably would’ve been tested more had Costa just gone through with the bout earlier on.
The Pick: Whittaker via decision
#3. UFC 298: The Main Card
In a welterweight bout, Geoff Neal faces Ian Machado Garry. With both men ranked in the top-10 at 170 pounds, this is a huge fight, to say the least.
Of the two, it’s arguable that Garry has more momentum. Despite some controversy around his private life, ‘The Future’ has been fabulous in the octagon, dispatching six straight foes, including the always-tough Neil Magny.
The Irishman is an excellent striker with expert timing and speed and uses his long range well to snipe his foes. He even dealt with Magny, who has a freakish reach, by picking him apart with low kicks before unleashing his punches.
Neal also has a long reach for a welterweight but also possesses serious power in his hands. Living up to his nickname – ‘Handz of Steel’ – Neal has scored some brutal knockouts in his octagon career, including over Vicente Luque and Niko Price.
However, the Texan has also been picked apart by longer, more technical strikers, like Magny and Stephen Thompson, which should give Garry confidence. Overall, assuming he can avoid his chin being cracked, the pick is Garry via decision.
In a huge bantamweight clash, former titleholder Henry Cejudo takes on Merab Dvalishvili. The winner of this one could well go onto face the 135 pound champion in their next fight, so who will take it?
Realistically, this is a huge test of what Cejudo has left in the tank. On paper, ‘Triple C’ should be a nightmare foe for Dvalishvili. He’s an Olympic gold medallist wrestler who is a superior striker to the Georgian and relies on his insane pace and takedowns to win.
However, Cejudo has also only competed sporadically in the last few years, heading into a three-year self-imposed retirement in 2020 and is also on the smaller side for a bantamweight.
The fact that this fight is over three rounds, though, may favour ‘Triple C’. He’s likely to tire out first, but if he can stuff the takedowns of ‘The Machine’ in the early going, he could build an unassailable lead on the scorecards.
Nevertheless, the fact that the former champ is now 37 and hasn’t been active is a huge worry, so the pick – albeit a close one – is Dvalishvili via decision.
Finally, in a middleweight clash, Anthony Hernandez takes on Roman Kopylov. This is a huge chance for Kopylov to climb into contention, as Hernandez is curiously ranked at No.14 in the division despite not really holding too many major wins.
To be fair to ‘Fluffy’, he's on a four-fight win streak, most recently finishing Edmen Shahbazyan, who was once considered a hot prospect. Overall, Hernandez is well-rounded and tough, and unless his foes can get him finished early on, he’s often got enough to take them out down the stretch.
Kopylov, meanwhile, is also on a four-fight win streak and has finished all four of his foes by KO. Like Hernandez, he has gained a reputation for coming on late, as none of those finishes came in the first round.
This one is tricky to pick, but the fact that Kopylov has taken the bout on relatively late notice – around four weeks – it’s easy to imagine him tiring and allowing ‘Fluffy’ to take over. Therefore, the pick is Hernandez via TKO.
#4. UFC 298: The Prelims
Picks in bold
UFC strawweight bout: Amanda Lemos vs. Mackenzie Dern
UFC heavyweight bout: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Justin Tafa
UFC bantamweight bout: Rinya Nakamura vs. Carlos Vera
UFC light-heavyweight bout: Zhang Mingyang vs. Brendson Ribeiro
UFC welterweight bout: Josh Quinlan vs. Danny Barlow
UFC welterweight bout: Oban Elliott vs. Val Woodburn
UFC flyweight bout: Andrea Lee vs. Miranda Maverick