UFC 298 predictions — Alexander Volkanovski vs. Ilia Topuria: Fight card, odds, preview, expert picks

A massive PPV card is on deck. UFC is heading back to California on Saturday night with one of its most highly anticipated main events in a while in tow. Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski looks to defend his title against a red-hot challenger in Ilia Topuria. It all goes down from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on Saturday night.

Volkanovski is fresh off a second failed attempt to become a two-division champion after being knocked out by Islam Makhachev in October. The loss was a humbling one after falling short six months prior by decision against the pound-for-pound great. Where he has not struggled, however, is in 145-pound title fights as Volk has held the championship for over four years. 

He has arguably the toughest test of that reign in front of him in the form of Topuria, who many believe to have the capabilities of being a global superstar. Topuria is unbeaten at 14-0 with a complete game that includes incredibly violent wins over Josh Emmett, Bryce Mitchell, Jai Herbert and Ryan Hall. 

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The undercard features some fun matchups that should have fans buzzing ahead of this epic title clash. A former champion and a former title challenger meet in the co-main event when Robert Whittaker takes on Paulo Costa in the co-main event. Rising welterweight contenders Ian Machado Garry and Geoff Neal should deliver the violence. Another former champion is set for the main card when Henry Cejudo takes on red-hot contender Merab Dvalishvili. And middleweights open the main card when Anthony Hernandez takes on Roman Kopylov.

With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 298 fight card, odds

  • Alexander Volkanovski (c) -130 vs. Ilia Topuria +110, featherweight title
  • Robert Whittaker -250 vs. Paulo Costa +205, middleweights
  • Ian Machado Garry -250 vs. Geoff Neal +205, welterweights
  • Merab Dvalishvili -260 vs. Henry Cejudo +210, bantamweights
  • Anthony Hernandez -240 vs. Roman Kopylov +200, middleweights
  • Amanda Lemos -135 vs. Mackenzie Dern +115, women’s strawweights
  • Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Junior Tafa, heavyweights
  • Rinya Nakamura -1400 vs. Carlos Vera +800, bantamweights
  • Zhang Mingyang -120 vs. Brendson Ribiero +100, light heavyweights
  • Danny Barlow -220 vs. Josh Quinlan +180, welterweights
  • Oban Elliott -320 vs. Val Woodburn +250, welterweights
  • Miranda Maverick -185 vs. Andrea Lee +155, women’s flyweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 298 picks, predictions

Volkanovski (c) vs. Topuria Volkanovski Volkanovski Volkanovski Volkanovski Volkanovski
Whittaker vs. Costa Whittaker Whittaker Whittaker Whittaker Whittaker
Garry vs. Neal Garry Garry Garry Garry Neal
Dvalishvili vs. Cejudo Dvalishvili Dvalishvili Dvalishvili Cejudo Dvalishvili
Hernandez vs. Kopylov Kopylov Hernandez Kopylov Hernandez Hernandez

Volkanovski vs. Topuria

Campbell: Let’s not avoid the questions following Volkanovski, which include both his age (35) and the fact that he’s only four months removed from a short-notice knockout loss to lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in their rematch. But let’s also not avoid the two skills that have helped give the UFC’s 145-pound champion the status as a living legend: his ability to mute his opponent’s offense and his super-human ability to escape potentially dangerous situations. While it might not be wrong to classify Topuria as Volkanovki’s toughest test to date in his current title reign, the champion remains unbeaten as a featherweight over 18 career fights and can move one title defense away from Jose Aldo in the division’s record books. With a full camp behind him, look for Volkanovski to record a hard-earned decision in a competitive fight.

Brookhouse: I’m going to need to see more than Volkanovski failing twice in stepping up a weight class against the sport’s current pound-for-pound king before I write the champion off. The biggest concern for Volkanovski backers is that he isn’t far removed from a brutal knockout loss. Topuria is a very good fighter and a win here would not be a shock. That said, Volkanovski is so dynamic and so smart in his ability to take away what opponents do best that it’s hard for me to see Topuria getting the win here. In fact, I am expecting something of a Volkanovski blowout here after weathering a bit of an early blitz from Topuria, with Volkanovski getting a finish sometime around the third round.

Mahjouri: The margins are close despite Volkanovski’s status as an all-time great featherweight. Volkanovski suffered a rare knockout loss last time out, expressed personal struggles last year and headed out of his athletic prime. Those are significant anchors when fighting a well-rounded offensive threat like Topuria. The challenger has sharp technique, power, speed and a variety of ways to finish the fight. Topuria has all the tools necessary to be a champion but, similar to Brian Ortega’s first title fight against Max Holloway, this is too steep an escalation in opponent. Topuria’s superior finishing ability will cause a scare or two, but Volkanovski’s stamina and stifling style will lead him to a unanimous decision win. Expect Topuria to have better luck in his second UFC title fight.

Whittaker vs. Costa

Campbell: The one-sided dismantling that Whittaker suffered at the hands of new champion Dricus du Plessis in his last bout have many wondering if the 33-year-old former champion is coming or going as an elite title threat. This should be a perfect get-well opportunity for “The Reaper.” For as dangerous and explosive as Costa can be, the gap in technical skill between the two should overwhelmingly favor Whittaker. Expect his jab and left hook to play a key role in disciplining Costa who has the same kind of size advantage that du Plessis used to overwhelm Whittaker but a far different mentality in terms of how to utilize it. Whittaker knows this might be his last chance to make a new title run as the division continues to reload. A loss would drop him to three defeats in his last four fights, which was almost incomprehensible just a few years ago. 

Brookhouse: It’s impossible to ignore just how thoroughly Whittaker got handled by du Plessis. It is worth considering how Whittaker looked in that fight and wondering where he sits in his career arc. Costa, however, went life-and-death with a badly faded version of Luke Rockhold, hasn’t fought since August 2022 and is closing in on five years since turning in a complete, impressive performance. There’s no reason to see this as anything other than Whittaker’s fight to lose.

Mahjouri: Whittaker has been an elite middleweight for more than a decade. That hasn’t changed despite a surprising KO loss to Dricus du Plessis last year. Whittaker’s only losses as a middleweight are to fellow UFC champions du Plessis and Adesanya. It’s Whittaker’s ability to tally points that has kept him near the top of the pack. Whittaker doesn’t have enormous power but he excels at hitting opponents without absorbing clean shots. Costa wields the power necessary to shut down Whittaker but lacks the finesse to beat him technique for technique. It’s been six years since Costa has stopped an opponent and his inability to put away a semi-retired Luke Rockhold raises eyebrows. Whittaker will likely pick away at Costa in a one-sided but unspectacular unanimous decision victory.

Garry vs. Neal

Mahjouri: Neal vs. Garry is perfect matchmaking. Both are elite strikers looking to make a statement in the welterweight division. Neal had had mixed success climbing the UFC rankings and it’s his turn to welcome a hungry contender. Neal has more power than Garry, but Garry is better at controlling the range. Garry’s range management was particularly on display as he immobilized a longer opponent in Neil Magny with vicious leg kicks. Garry’s striking differential is also very impressive. The Irishman has landed 6.67 strikes per minute while absorbing 3.58 in the UFC, according to UFC Stats. By comparison, Neal lands an average of 5.22 strikes per minute while absorbing 5.6. It’s worth noting that Neal has faced better overall competition. Still, Garry’s margins are very impressive. Neal isn’t one to count out, but I suspect Garry’s elusiveness will earn him a decision or knockout win.

Dvalishvili vs. Cejudo

Campbell: Although the three-round setup might be preferable for the 37-year-old Cejudo, the former two-division champion still has the potential to be run ragged by the constant pressure and endless gas tank of Dvalishvili. With teammate Aljamain Sterling no longer holding the bantamweight title, Dvalishvili has his window at age 33 to find out how great he can be. Sterling, who held on by split decision in Cejudo’s return from a three-year retirement last May, will also be in Dvalishvili’s corner. The more Cejudo can keep the fight standing, the better chance he has to outpoint Dvalishvili as the more accomplished striker. But Dvalishvili simply won’t stop coming, regardless of resistance. Expect Cejudo, who said he would retire for good with a defeat, to do exactly that as the spamming offense from Dvalishvili lifts him to a close decision win.

Brookhouse: Cejudo remains a bit undersized for the division. Dvalishvili is also a terrible stylistic opponent for Cejudo, with a deep gas tank and the ability to push through trouble to close distance and take away opponents’ striking before imposing his will. Cejudo will likely have his moments — he’s too good of a fighter not to — but Dvalishvili will have more of them as he grinds away and wears Cejudo down, and eventually out.

Who wins UFC 298: Volkanovski vs. Topuria, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC 298, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200, and find out. 

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