UFC 298: Volkanovski vs. Topuria — Preview and Best Bets

UFC 298 looks to feature a lot of closely-contested bouts in addition to a dynamite main event.

February 13, 2024

With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror and no major sports within the postseason, there’s something of a lull in the sports calendar right now. The UFC will hope to fill some of that void with UFC 298, which is set to take place in Anaheim on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The featherweight title will be up for grabs and take center stage at the event, but there are big names up and down the card that very well could impact future title chances in a few different divisions. We also have intriguing storylines of young and cocky emerging superstars against veterans who are looking to continue to take care of business.

All UFC odds are accurate from Tipico Sportsbook at time of publishing — check the app for up-to-date odds.

For those that have never watched or placed some wagers on the UFC before, this weekend is the perfect time to jump in with what projects to be an action-packed card full of storylines. Let’s get to it.

Alex Volkanovski (-125) vs. Ilia Topuria (+105)

This is as fitting of a matchup for the main stage as possible, with a legend of the weight class hoping to hang onto his reign a bit longer against one of fastest rising stars in the UFC. Volkanovski has never lost in the weight class (career 13-0) and has held the Featherweight Title since 2019, successfully defending the crown five times. The most recent defense came in July of 2023, when he defeated Yair Rodriguez via TKO in the third round.

Volkanovski brings a skillset centered around striking and wrestling, which is borne out clearly in his track record. In 15 total fights in UFC, Volkanovski has won via TKO five times and via decision in the other eight. Before moving on, it is worth noting that he has lost back-to-back fights in the Lightweight division, a factor which some are using to suggest his reign of dominance may be coming to a close.

Topuria is a hotshot, relative youngster, that doesn’t lack confidence. Per his Twitter, he’s already won this fight and taken over the featherweight belt.

He has reason to be cocky, as he’s undefeated in six UFC fights. He’s gone the distance in two of those fights, won via KO or TKO on three occasions and also has one submission to his ledger.

As that suggests, he boasts the more diverse skillset with a background in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (black belt) and Greco-Roman wrestling, as well as boxing. Topuria will almost certainly look to get Volkanovski on the mat, but Volkanovski has made a career of staying on his feet.

That latter point is important in my mind when predicting this fight. Many are projecting this to be a passing of the torch moment, but I expect Volkanovksi to use his experience and levelheadedness to his advantage to hang onto his crown for a sixth time. As the odds suggest, it won’t be easy.

Best Bet: Volkanovski by points (+220)
Longshot: Topuria by submission (+460)

Robert Whittaker (-230) vs. Paulo Costa (+180)

This isn’t a title fight, but it includes a past champion that hopes to return to the pinnacle of his division in Whittaker. He held the middleweight title from 2017 to 2019, though there are serious doubts about his current form after he has dropped two of his last three fights to Israel Adesanya and Dricus Du Plessis – fellow mainstays in the weight class.

On the opposite side of the Octagon, Costa had a shot at the title in a 2020 matchup against the aforementioned Adesanya. He’s split a pair of decisions since.

There’s not a significant difference between these fighters in terms of preferred style or current form. With that in mind, if I were to take a side, I’d take the value and back Costa.

My preferred method to get something down on this fight, however, would be to take the over on rounds or bet on the method of victory for either fighter being points. History is on our side. Each of Whittaker’s last six wins (dating back to 2017) have come via decision, while three of Costa’s last four bouts have gone to decisions dating back to 2019.

Best Bet: Costa (+180)

Geoff Neal (+175) vs. Ian Garry (-220)

These fighters slip a bit further down their weight class rankings than the rest of the fights we’ll preview this weekend, but this bout has the potential to have the same type of bad blood as Volkanovski vs. Topuria.

Neal and Garry were supposed to square off at UFC 292 in August of 2023, but Neal was forced to withdraw due to an undisclosed medical issue. Before that, Garry wore a shirt with the mugshot of Neal from his DUI arrest in 2021.

In case you haven’t caught on, Garry is the cocky upstart at 26 years old. He’s a perfect 13-0 as a pro fighter, including a 6-0 mark in the UFC – three wins have come by decision and three by KO or TKO. A win here would officially rocket Garry’s hype to extreme levels, and it could bring his name alongside the elites in the weight class.

It would be a bit extreme to say a loss would put Neal’s future in doubt, but it would certainly signal he’s not likely to have another chance to hang with the big boys.

Geoff Neal won’t be an easy out, but he does have some warts on his recent resume. He lost to Shavkat Rahkmonov in his most recent fight after beating Vincent Luque in August 2022. That seemingly places him in the middle of the welterweight division, with a win here keeping him ahead of Garry in the pecking order and at least in the peripheral conversation for a future title shot.

It would be a bit extreme to say a loss would put Neal’s future in doubt, but it would certainly signal he’s not likely to have another chance to hang with the big boys.

Momentum and the odds certainly suggest this fight is going only one way, but Neal will be Garry’s toughest test in UFC to this point. As a result, I don’t have a strong lean in this one, meaning I’ll once again side with the vet and the value.

Best Bet: Neal (+180)

Merab Dvalishvili (-210) vs. Henry Cejudo (+170)

Cejudo is a legend across all genres of combat sports, not just UFC. He’s an Olympic gold medalist and also held both the bantamweight and flyweight UFC titles. After reaching the pinnacle of the sport, he retired in May 2020.

He ended that hiatus almost exactly three years later in a matchup against Aljamain Sterling, a bout which he lost by split decision. In preparation for this current matchup, he parted ways with his longtime coach Eric Albarracin in what he termed an effort to stay focused and not have so many voices giving him direction. It’s hard to count out a legend, but just keep in mind that it has been four years since Cejudo has won a UFC fight – a face reflected in the odds for this fight.

Dvalishvili has won nine straight fights and has a well-rounded arsenal. His standout trait is his conditioning, and he’s won all but of those nine bouts via decision. He’s also looked to get an extra edge against Cejudo specifically by using Sterling as a coach in preparation for this fight.

A win here will put Dvalishvili in the conversation for a title fight and there’s a lot of momentum on his side. No disrespect to the legend, but it’s difficult to see that momentum being stopped.

Best Bet: Dvalishvili (-210)

Dale Weber
Dale began working at RotoWire in 2017 writing MLB game wraps. He now covers primarily MLB, NFL and racing, but also has experience writing in a wide range of sports, including MMA, golf and soccer.