UFC 298: Volkanovski vs Topuria Predictions

Alexander Volkanovski (CHAMP) vs. Ilia Topuria (3)

Volk meets an interesting challenger!

Alexander Volkanovski (26-3-0) makes his return after a 1st round KO loss to Islam Makhachev (25-1-0) in October of 2023 against Ilia Topuria (14-0-0). Topuria is obviously on a 14 fight win streak with a recent unanimous decision win over Josh Emmett (19-4-0) and a submission win over grappling specialist Bryce Mitchell (16-3-0).

This is a highly anticipated matchup in the Featherweight division. Both of these guys are amazing fighters and I expect this to be a good fight. A few things to note are that Volk has a small 1.5″ inch reach advantage and is 8 years older than the challenger, Topuria. Otherwise the two are closely contested physically, they are only one inch apart in height.

The main difference for me in this one is the competition level that Volk has been beating for such a long time. I feel that it will catch up to him soon, but I don’t think so yet. His only UFC losses are both to Makhachev which is nothing to scoff at. He has three wins over a generational fighter in Max Holloway (25-7-0), and others over Jose Aldo (31-8-0), Chad Mendes (18-5-0), and Yair Rodriguez (16-4-0). Topuria defeating Mitchell and Emmett are both great wins but from there we start to see some lesser fighters that I don’t believe are anywhere close to any competition Volk has beaten.

This is not to say he won’t be challenged, Ilia is a young and hungry competitor. At 27 years old, he is already an elite fighter challenging for the title. I see Volk taking this one in the later half of the fight or even by decision. Should be very close though and Topuria does have a chance of catching him. Especially with Volk’s quick turnaround from his KO loss.

Pick: Volkanovski (TKO: 60%, Decision: 30%)

Robert Whittaker (3) vs. Paulo Costa (6)

New Zealand’s best vs America’s finest patriot.

Whittaker (25-7-0) is coming off a TKO loss to recently crowned Middleweight champion Dricus Du Plessis (21-2-0). A karate fighter, Whittaker has been a staple of the division for years. He has a lunging style that worked well against most opponents but can actually work against him like against his two losses to the former champion Israel Adesanya (24-3-0). Costa (14-2-0) is coming off a decision win to the retired Luke Rockhold (16-6-0). Where he showed some good heart to take the win but definitely faced adversity.

Both guys are incredibly close in age, height, reach, no really crazy advantages either way. The interesting thing for me, was watching Dricus absolutely walk through Whittaker with brute force. Both Costa and himself are incredibly strong and Paulo has ran over plenty of fighters in the past. Although, Dricus has also shown though that he is a technical fighter and has the chops to become a champion, I am not sure if Paulo has that.

I am going with Robert Whittaker to take this by decision. I think he will keep Costa at a distance with long lunging strikes and I believe he will be much faster on the feet in general. I see Costa being drained towards the end of the fight as he carries a big amount of muscle and Robert will make him work. If this was a 5 round matchup I could see Whittaker with a TKO in the later rounds. I lean heavily towards decision, but could see a late TKO as Robert is the more technical striker and has better cardio in my opinion.

Pick: Whittaker (Decision: 90%, TKO: 10%)

Geoff Neal (8) vs. Ian Garry (10)

A much closer fight than people are giving it credit for.

Geoff “Hands of Steel” Neal (14-5-0) is trying to take the 0 from the undefeated Irish prospect Ian Garry (13-0-0). Neal is coming off a loss to another undefeated prospect in Shavkat Rakhmonov (18-0-0). Garry had just defeated veteran Neal Magny (29-12-0) by decision back in August of 2023.

Some things of note here are that Garry has a 4 inch height advantage at 6″3″ to 5″11 but Neal actually has the reach advantage at 75″ to 74″. Garry is also only 26 years old to Neal being 33. One last interesting difference is that Neal is a southpaw while Garry is orthodox. Ian has nice striking and likes to throw down, he fights with the notorious hard sparring gym Chute Box. Neal fights with Fortis MMA, another gym that has produced a bunch of good quality pro fighters.

I believe that Neal hits harder than Garry but Garry probably has a higher chance to win this fight statistically just based on things like his age, height advantage, momentum coming into the fight, and style. He has a higher significant strike accuracy percentage by 6% and more strikes landed per minute than Geoff as well.

But something in me just thinks Neal might tag Garry bad at some point. When he is on point, he can hurt really anyone on any given night. Even in losing a decision loss to the streaking fellow welterweight, Belal Muhammad (23-3-0), he dropped him multiple times and showed great striking. I will say though, if Neal doesn’t look completely on point, he will probably get stopped at some point inside the distance. I am going to go with Garry by TKO in the late rounds but would still throw some bread on Neal in the distance.

Pick: Garry (TKO: 70%), Neal (TKO: 30%), Inside the distance either fighter

Merab Dvalishvili (2) vs. Henry Cejudo (3)

Can “The Machine” stop the King of Cringe?

Dvalishvili of the country of Georgia (16-4-0), and known for his insane cardio. Is taking on wrestling Olympic medal holder and former retiree Henry Cejudo (16-3-0). Cejudo’s most recent fight is a split-decision loss to former champion Aljamain Sterling (23-4-0) while Dvalishvili is riding a 9 fight win streak with recent wins over Petr Yan (16-5-0) and all time great Jose Aldo (31-8-0). Granted, Aldo has seen better days, he is still a fantastic fighter.

What makes this matchup so interesting is that Dvalishvili typically is able to outpace fighters by constantly putting them on the defensive with his wresting, but Cejudo is great wrestler and may be able to keep him at bay. The only problem with that is, it really doesn’t matter. If you are constantly on the back foot, odds are Merab will have enough activity to get a win.

I am going for a strong decision win for Merab with some great scrambles in between. Merab is also 4 years younger, has a 4″ inch reach advantage, and 4.5 more takedowns per minute than Cejudo, while having a 2% higher takedown accuracy. I’ve got to go with the stats.

Pick: Dvalishvili (Decision: 90%, Degenerate Pick: Inside the distance (Rounds 2 or 3))

Anthony Hernandez (14) vs. Roman Kopylov (UNR)

An unranked prospect gets a crack at the top 15.

Kopylov (12-2-0) of Russia is known for his slick striking. Hernandez (11-2-0) is a submission specialist who loves to come forward. Both of these guys are on 4 fight win streaks with all of Kopylov’s by KO/TKO and Hernandez 2 submissions, a decision, and his most recent, a TKO/KO over Edmen Shahbazyan (12-4-0).

Nothing to crazy to note here, other than Anthony being an orthodox fighter, and Roman a southpaw. The only thing I am sure of is that this fight is probably not going the distance. Either Roman is getting subbed or he is taking Hernandez out in the first two rounds. I am surprisingly leaning the later.

I am leaning Kopylov to finish Hernandez by TKO/KO and continue his streak. The odds are against me here but I think he can get it done. If not, its most likely going to be a submission by Anthony. Lets pick an underdog to kick off the main card though!

Pick: Kopylov (TKO: 80%), Hernandez (Sub: 20%), Inside the distance either fighter