Just like that, the second PPV of 2024 is now upon us. UFC has rolled out another exciting card for the fans to enjoy. After a fun UFC 297 event in Toronto, UFC 298 in Anaheim has the makings of what could be an even better card. With the big UFC 300 on the horizon, Dana White and the team are certainly not mailing it in until then. Some of The Scrap’s finest have put together their predictions for the upcoming UFC 298 card…
If you have any doubts about the quality of this card, just look at the main event alone. One of the greatest fighters on the planet, Alexander Volkanovski, defends his illustrious UFC featherweight championship against perhaps his most dangerous challenger to date, the undefeated Ilia Topuria. With a massive co-main event at middleweight, another war at bantamweight, and the return of Ian Garry, this card is nothing short of box office-worthy.
UFC Featherweight Championship
(C) Alexander Volkanovski vs. (3) Ilia Topuria
Anik: Another great featherweight champion once said, “Precision beats power and timing beats speed.” That man is named Conor McGregor. In a breathtaking fight that could mark the changing of the guard, I believe this will hold. Ilia Topuria’s defense against Josh Emmett was spectacular, and he appears to have no weaknesses at the moment. Volkanovski’s volume will do damage, but “El Matador” will be able to weather the storm and secure a belt for Spain and Georgia.
Official Prediction: Ilia Topuria via 3rd-Round KO/TKO
Mishal: Volkanovski vs. Topuiria is everything a main event should be. High stakes, rewards, and a collision between generations. Volkanovski is the most well-rounded champion in the UFC, while Topuria is the most dangerous contender in his division. I consider this a fight that’s too close to call. But the level of danger the challenger brings, particularly in the pocket and in tight exchanges, the known weaknesses of the champion, does swing this slightly in my books. Either man winning wouldn’t be surprising, it just feels like the challenger will find Volkanovski’s chin inside 25 minutes.
Official Prediction: Ilia Topuria via 4th-Round KO/TKO
Lee: I think Volkanovski wins this fight. But, I am worried about this quick turnaround after being KOd by Islam Makhachev back in October. With a full fight camp under his belt, he will use his superb takedown defence to keep this fight on the feet. Volkanovski being the better striker with better defense, does give him the edge.
Official Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski via Unanimous Decision
Middleweight Bout: (3) Robert Whittaker vs. (6) Paulo Costa
Anik: If this fight had happened two years ago, I’d have picked Whittaker via battering. My mind changed after watching Dricus Du Plessis destroy him with body shots and hearing Sean Strickland expose Whittaker’s blitzing strategy. Since this fight is only three rounds, I believe Costa can use the same body shots he did on Vettori and outpower the Aussie legend. The healthiest version of Costa must have excellent defense to defeat the durable Whittaker. I will pick the Brazilian by upset due to the impact of his significant strikes.
Official Prediction: Paulo Costa via Unanimous Decision
Mishal: This is the 3rd time the UFC has booked this fight, so here’s hoping this goes forward. Whittaker is a horrendous fight for Costa. better than him almost everywhere. He’s more technically gifted and has remained consistently more active than him. Costa needs to rely on his power to somehow catch Whittaker, similar to the work Du Plessis put on at UFC 290. Otherwise, this will be a long one for the Brazillian. Costa hasn’t looked the same since losing to Adesanya, and considering how he performed against an aged Luke Rockhold, this is a tall task.
Official Prediction: Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision
Lee: Whittaker needs this fight to stay in the title picture coming off second-round KO loss to Dricus Du Plessis. Whittaker needs to use his footwork and steady activity to keep Costa on his back foot. Although some consider Costa an overrated fighter, he does possess KO power. With a loss, Whittaker could become a middleweight gatekeeper or be forced to move up to 205.
Official Prediction: Robert Whittaker via Split Decision
Welterweight Bout: (8) Geoff Neal vs. (10) Ian Garry
Anik: This fight will depend on which Geoff Neal shows up. If the wrecking ball that turned Vicente Luque into a wrestler shows up, he has a legitimate chance of knocking Ian Garry out cold. Additionally, Neal has a strong takedown defense. However, Garry has some of the best cardio and can pick apart Neal from the outside and kick his way to a victory. Given Neal’s cardio issues and recent health struggles, Garry is the safe pick.
Official Prediction: Ian Garry via Unanimous Decision
Mishal: This is much closer than anyone is willing to acknowledge. Geoff Neal may not be at the top of the welterweight division by any stretch. But, this is a true test for Ian Garry, considering the troubles he gave Shavkat Rakhmonov last year. Neal possesses the advantage in the power department, but I feel Gary’s allusiveness and speed will separate the two. As long as Gary doesn’t expose his chin which has been an issue in some of his past performances, I do see him getting past this big test. But not without a real challenge…
Official Prediction: Ian Garry via Decision
Lee: Garry coming off one of the most dominant performances in UFC history when he defeated Neil Magny. Neal is known for his striking, but struggles when he is taken down and forced to fight from his back. Gary needs to use a well-rounded game plan in this fight. He will use his striking to set up some takedowns. But can Neal handle his pressure? Unlikely.
Official Prediction: Ian Garry via 2nd-Round TKO
Bantamweight Bout: (1) Merab Dvalishvili vs. (3) Henry Cejudo
Anik: As a number one contender fight, this one should be five rounds. When two fantastic wrestlers collide, it often turns into a striking match. While Henry Cejudo is one of the best of all time, his striking looked poor against Aljamain Sterling in their title fight. Let’s not forget that Merab not only has cardio for days, he also battered Petr Yan on the feet. I believe he will turn Triple C into a punching bag on Saturday.
Official Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili via Unanimous Decision
Mishal: This is my fight of the night. The heavy-pressure, cardio game of Merab against the speed and IQ of Cejudo is a match made in heaven. Both guys are stylistic nightmares for their opponent, cancelling each other skill-for-skill in a fight that deserves more than three rounds. Ring rust is what will determine just how competitive this could be. As skilled as Cejudo is, his fight against Aljamain Sterling was an indicator of him being either slightly past his prime or hindered by long periods of inactivity. This match will determine that, but I feel Merab’s tenacity, consistent pace and in-your-face style will help him gain the edge in a razor-thin fight.
Official Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili via Split Decision
Lee: Merab Dvalishvili makes a return to the Octagon for the first time in almost a year, against a very game Henry Cejudo. These guys are carbon copies of each other when it comes to the ground game. But whoever can win the striking exchanges will win this fight. The younger guy, Dvalishvili seems like the obvious choice. He’ll use his slick striking to frustrate Cejudo. Triple C will need to start fast to see if Dvalishvili has some ring rust. This could be an action-packed fight, and a potential Fight of the Night.
Official Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili via Split Decision
Middleweight Bout: (14) Anthony Hernandez vs. Roman Kopylov
Anik: Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez is as tough as they come and a hard-out for any middleweight. His best skill is his durability and ability to bounce back like he did when facing Edmen Shahbazyan’s early flurries of punches. On the other side of the octagon is a threat in Roman Kopylov who is coming off 4 straight knockout victories. He did not face much resistance in them, however. I believe if Hernandez can take the early shots, he will outlast the Russian.
Official Prediction: Anthony Hernandez via 3rd round KO/TKO
Mishal: Roman Kopylov is the ideal replacement for the now-injured Ikram Aliskerov. Anthony Hernandez is durable, and wants to fight anyone. But he has his hands full… Kopylov is a monster on the feet, coming into this fight on a tear, finishing all of his last four opponents brutally. Hernandez is no slouch and would not be surprised if he stops the Russian or grinds it to a decision. However, I feel Kopylov does find a way to stop a fellow up-and-coming prospect.
Official Prediction: Roman Kopylov via 2nd-Round KO
Lee: This is the toughest fight to predict and kudos to the fight makers. These two guys are evenly matched and both are on a four-fight win streak. Kopylov, the striker, will need to implore some out-of-this-world takedown defense against Hernandez (BJJ). Hernandez is the better fighter, but the better fighter doesn’t always win.
Official Prediction: Anthony Hernandez via 3rd-Round Submission
Not only do we have some great fights, but perhaps even greater storylines to go along with them. Is Alexander Volkanovski returning too soon from the brutal head-kick knockout? Who will emerge as a legitimate contender at middleweight between Whittaker and Costa? How will Ian Garry perform after suddenly becoming unfavourable in the eyes of fans? There are so many questions to be asked, and there are so many fights to answer those questions.