The UFC returns to California for the first time in 2024 for a huge featherweight title fight between undisputed champion Alexander Volkanovski and first-time challenger Ilia Topuria.
Volkanovski is the long-term champion and returns to the 145-pound weight class for the first time since a second attempt to become a double-champion ended in failure, while the undefeated Topuria has long been tipped to become a future world champion.
We’ll take a look at the main event and provide you with our best free UFC picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash while watching an incredible fight card.
UFC 298 Alex Volkanovski-130-125-125Ilia Topuria+110-105-105
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UFC 298 information
Saturday, February 17th 2024
Honda Center, Anaheim, California
Featherweight Championship fight (145-pound limit)
5 x 5 minute rounds
Main card starts at 22:00 ET
Alexander Volkanovski vs Ilia Topuria
A fight between these world-class fighters has been anticipated for several years with Topuria pushing his way through the rankings, while Volkanovski has dominated the division and cleared it of all challengers to this point.
The champion first won the belt back in December 2019 with a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway, and he has since defended the crown five times with two more wins over ‘Blessed’ as well as successful victories over Brian Ortega via decision, ‘Korean Zombie’ Jung Chan-Sung via knockout and most recently Yair Rodriguez via knockout too.
However, either side of that win over Rodriguez is what Volk is most remembered for at this point with back-to-back defeats to lightweight world champion Islam Mackhachev via decision and then via head-kick knockout in his last outing back in October.
His professional record heading into this fight stands at 26-3 with 13 knockouts and ten decision wins.
Topuria on the other side of the cage comes into this fight with supreme confidence having been undefeated throughout his career, with a 14-0 professional record including eight submission wins.
‘El Matador’ defeated Youssef Zalal via unanimous decision in his UFC debut, before claiming a stunning knockout win over Damon Jackson in his next bout.
That was followed up with a brilliant knockout win over jiu-jitsu specialist Ryan Hall, before a brief move up to lightweight saw him weather a storm against Jai Herbert to claim another stunning knockout win. That led to a ranked featherweight bout with Bryce Mitchell where he picked him apart with boxing before earning a submission win in the second round.
His last outing was another dominant showing against powerhouse Josh Emmett, which convinced the world he is ready for this opportunity.
Route to victory
This is a very rare occasion where both fighters in the bout are extremely well-rounded and there is no clear path to victory for either man.
Volkanovski is primarily a striker with good boxing, but he closes the distance well and mixes in takedowns to use his top pressure and excellent ground-and-pound. Offensively his wrestling is great, but he also showed defensively he is super too against Makhachev.
His submission defense is among the best in the company also as he showed against Makhachev and Ortega before him. But most people would argue that his cardio is his greatest weapon and that is what he must use to take Topuria into the deep waters and try to dominate this bout.
But Topuria will be very confident when it comes to the striking and grappling department down at 145 after watching Volkanovski lose two of his last three fights, the last time by vicious knockout.
There hasn’t been a long period between these fights and Topuria will be keen to make the champion go backwards to apply pressure and use his boxing and grappling skills to get into an advantageous position to win the belt.
to beat Ilia Topuria
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UFC Picks: Topuria’s era begins @ +110
It’s been a long time since anyone has gone against Volkanovski in the featherweight division, but it feels like this might be the right time to do so.
Volkanovski is now 35-years-old and there is usually a decline in fighters as they hit that age, but also he is coming off the back of major disappointment in his last fight and it’s possible the knockout will have lasting effects.
We saw at welterweight and middleweight how knockout losses affected dominant title reigns for Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya, and now it feels like this could be the moment for him too.
Expect a fast start from the challenger, where he could look to use his grappling to control situations on the ground and win rounds to save a bit of energy where needed. Volkanovski won’t be easy to control or hurt, but if there is anyone in the division capable it’s ‘El Matador’.
Topuria is an incredibly well-rounded fighter, has a serious killer instinct if he hurts his opponent and doesn’t waste any movements. This is the moment a new era begins, and back Spain’s best MMA import to be champion by the end of the night.
to beat Alex Volkanovski
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