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UFC 298 Main Event: Volkanovski vs. Topuria

UFC 298 Main Event: Volkanovski vs. Topuria

UFC 298 MAIN EVENT: VOLKANOVSKI VS. TOPURIA – The second UFC pay-per-view of the year goes down this weekend in Anaheim, California and it is headlined by a featherweight title fight. All eyes will be on a dominant champion looking for his sixth title defense while an undefeated prospect looks to topple the king.

Alexander Volkanovski is looking to rebound from a 2023 that saw him fall twice, while chasing a fight that would further secure his legacy, to Islam Makhachev. He managed to squeeze in a title defense against Yair Rodriguez, but was still unsatisfied with the year.

Ilia Topuria has ripped through six UFC opponents, compiling an undefeated 14-0 record, since the end of 2020 to align himself for a title shot this weekend.

Will the long-reigning champion continue his domination of the 145lb weight class? Or will Topuria continue his winning ways and bring the division into a new era? Read on to see how these fighters match up and see if the close line can be exploited.


Hey, while you’re at it, click here to check out our Godzilla Wins Daily Staff Picks!

Alexander Volkanovski

After losing a fight in 2013, Volkanovski knew nothing but victory over his next 22 fights. That included his title-winning effort against Max Holloway at the end of 2019. Volkanovski would go on to defend it five times, including two more times against Holloway.

No fighter had been able to present any trouble to Volkanovski, outside of Holloway, which is why he was granted two rematches, even though Volkanovski defeated him each time. Last year, Volkanovski had his eyes set on the lightweight title, since there was little argument for a worthy contender. It was a close, and highly debated result the first time Volkanovski squared off with Makhachev last year.

Unfortunately, Makhachev put a stamp on their rivalry with an emphatic head kick knockout in their rematch in October.

Volkanovski is still seen as one of the, if not the best, featherweight of all time. His ability to mix martial arts has been unprecedented. Rugby was his choice of sport growing up, so he never came from a specific martial arts background, just an athletic one.

Regardless, he took to the game immediately, showcasing a smooth transition of striking to grappling and vice versa. The ability to execute a game plan as effectively as he has been able to can be the reason for most of his success. Every fight seems like a different Volkanovski, which makes it so hard for his opponents to read what kind of style he’ll bring into their matchup.

Ilia Topuria

It’s coming up to six years now that I’ve been following Topuria. I first came across him at Cage Warriors 94 as I was studying that card for betting reasons. He came in as a relatively unknown fighter but managed to defeat the more well-known, Brian Bouland, by submitting him in just under two minutes.

He only fought two more times over the next two years, but surprisingly signed with the UFC on short notice at the end of 2020. Since then, he has run through his competition, finishing four of his six foes. His most impressive performance was the five-round beatdown of Josh Emmett back in June which inevitably earned him this title shot.

Topuria was one of the first Spanish fighters to earn a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, and that’s what he relied on early in his career to get his wins. He would smother his opponents immediately with takedowns until he could open a submission opportunity. Eventually, he started to trust his striking and that’s mainly what he has been showing off in the UFC.

A crisp and tight combination striking style fueled by a ton of power makes him very dangerous. Add in the threat of the takedown for him to utilize his BJJ, and usually make opponent must pick their poison with how they fight him.

The Pick

It’s mind-boggling to see Volkanovski near pick ‘em against anyone challenging him for the featherweight title, but I think it has to do with a few factors. One, Volkanovski getting TKO’d back in October doesn’t help his case. Secondly, Topuria has been on such a wrecking-streak that it’s hard to build much confidence to fade him too.

Also, there is a trend of fighters 35-years or older competing in title fights from 170lbs and below that are 1-20 in UFC history. That is a big trend to overlook, but there are certain fighters you would believe to be exceptions to that rule. To me, Volkanovski is one of them.

Topuria is taking a huge step up in competition from the Byrce Mitchells and Josh Emmetts of the world to the best featherweight on the planet. I think Volkanovski will execute a game plan to shut down Topuria’s striking, whether it’s with his well-timed kicks or even a takedown-heavy approach. I feel this is a spot for Volkanovski to remind people why he is still capable of competing at the top of his game, just as he showed in his dominant performance against Yair Rodriguez in July. 

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