UFC 298: Topuria Looks to Issue a Changing of the Guard By Finishing Volkanovski

February 14, 2024
2 months

Alexander Volkanvoski still dreams of being a two-division champion in the UFC. But the Aussie star needs to worry about protecting his home turf on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Volkanovski has successfully defended his featherweight championship five times but may face his most dangerous contender yet in Ilia Topuria.

Topuria is undefeated in 14 career fights and has only been past the second round once. What Topuria showed in his last fight was he is willing to go into deep waters as well. Fighting against former title challenger Josh Emmett, who is known as a hard hitter, Topuria gave him a severe beating but couldn’t finish the strong-chinned Emmett in a five-round war.

Now, Topuria is getting his chance to fight one of the greatest featherweights in the company’s history. MMA news sites show that Volkanovski is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Islam Makhachev. Volkanovski, a notoriously tough fighter, may be better served by taking some time off.

But that’s not who he is. Volkanvoski wants to stay active. That may make for a bad mix this weekend. While there is a chance Volkanovski may drag this to a decision, this is a spot where Topuria’s aggressive nature may force a quicker end to the bout. The knockout props for either man bring back nice returns and are worth considering.

Bets to consider: Under 3.5 (-115), Topuria by KO (+410), Volkanovski by KO (+265)

Triple C Ready for Merab’s Storm

Merab Dvalishvili often overwhelms opponents with his wrestling. In Dvalishvili’s last fight, he attempted 49 takedowns and secured 11 of them against Petr Yan. However, Dvalishvili isn’t good at keeping his opponents on the mat. 

That likely won’t improve against former two-division champion Henry Cejudo. Cejudo won’t be overwhelmed by Dvalishvili’s wrestling because Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist. While Cejudo hasn’t won a fight in three years due to his retirement, Cejudo still carries the pedigree in combat sports. In Cejudo’s return fight, he lost a split decision to Aljamain Sterling last year.

While this being a three-round fight means this could go to a decision, Cejudo doesn’t feel like he should be such a large underdog. Dvalishvili has a history of getting clipped by his opponents despite often recovering with his wrestling. Without his wrestling to lean on, Dvashvili will have a hard time on his feet with Cejudo.

Bets to consider: Cejudo +163, Cejudo by KO/TKO/DQ +650, Fight inside the distance +210

Hard to Know What to Expect From Costa

If this was a competition about who could create the best memes, Paulo Costa would be the man to bet on. But it’s hard to know where his head is at fighting. Costa hasn’t fought for a year and a half and has dropped out of several fights.

The former title challenger doesn’t seem particularly engaged with the sport. Former champion Robert Whittaker is in survival mode to stay in the UFC middleweight title picture. Current champion Dricus du Plessis bullied Whitaker last July, picking up a second-round knockout. Whitaker has lost two of his past three fights but has only been fighting top competition.

With Costa not being able to finish an over-the-hill Luke Rockhold in his last fight, it’s hard to back him here. This is a bet on Whittaker finding some old magic more than anything Costa brings to the table.

Bets to consider: Whitaker -225

Garry Ready to Get Back to Business

Ian Garry had a messy week at UFC 296. First, Garry was busy battling rumors about his wife and the nature of their relationship. Then, Garry contracted pneumonia and wasn’t able to fight Vincente Luque.

All of the news surrounding his personal life has overshadowed his excellent fighting career. Garry is 13-0 and will be facing off against Geoff Neal. Neal is coming off a third-round submission loss to Shavkat Rakhmonov. Rakhmonov is a top prospect, and Neal made him work for the win.

There may be a time in the future when it makes sense to bet on the Irishman to get humbled. But it isn’t in this sport. Garry’s striking should carry him in this one.

Bets to consider: Over 2.5 (-127), Garry -235

Dern Has a lot to Prove

Mackenzie Dern has been in plenty of exciting fights during his UFC career. But the strawweight contender has proven anyone who can keep Dern on her feet can have the Brazilian in deep waters. Former champion Jessica Andrade showed that in their last fight, knocking Dern out in the second round.

Fellow Brazilian Amanda Lemos has the opportunity to follow up on that this weekend. Lemos has strong striking and could put Dern out if she can’t get the fight to the mat. Dern, while excellent at BJJ, isn’t a good wrestler. Lemos does have a few submissions to her name and could end up in trouble if she pursues that route.

But the blueprint is out on how to beat Dern. Lemos will win this fight on the feet and may add another knockout to Dern’s record, according to MMA news sites.

Bets to consider: Lemos -130, Lemos by KO

Hernandez, Kopylov Offer Contrasting Styles

Anthony Hernandez and Roman Kopylov will provide a fun matchup to start the card. Hernandez has won four straight fights, the last two of which came by finish. MMA breaking news shows these two were supposed to fight last September, but Hernandez had to pull out due to injury.

Kopylov is also on a four-fight winning streak. He has won all four of those victories by KO, all of which came in the second round or later. This will be a fun fight that should finish well ahead of when the judges are needed to score the fight.

Here are some quick picks for the rest of the card not mentioned above:

  • Middleweight, Anthony Hernandez (-205) vs Roman Kopylov (+163)
  • Heavyweight, Marcos Rogério de Lima (-143) vs Justin Tafa (+118)
  • Light heavyweight, Mingyang Zhang (-132) vs Brendson Ribeiro (+107)
  • Welterweight, Danny Barlow (-200) vs Josh Quinlan (+160)
  • Women’s flyweight, Andrea Lee (+150) vs Miranda Maverick (-190)
  • Middleweight, Oban Elliott (-295) vs. Val Woodburn (+225)

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By Dean McHugh.