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    UFC 298 Preview: 21 Random Tidbits, Facts And Storylines | Volkanovski Vs. Topuira


    After back-to-back forgettable run-of-the-mill events inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., for its second pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2024, UFC 298.

    In UFC 298’s main event, Featherweight kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski, puts his title on the line against No. 3-ranked — and supremely confident — 145-pound contender, Ilia Topuria. In the co-headliner, Robert Whittaker takes on Paulo Costa in a pivotal Middleweight matchup.

    UFC 298 has a ton of fun matchups up and down the card, so before it all goes down tomorrow evening (Sat., Feb. 17, 2023), let’s check out some random storylines, tidbits and statistics ahead of showtime …

    Defense Off A Loss

    It is a rare sight for a champion, but Volkanovski is defending his Featherweight championship while coming off a knockout loss. The only champion in recent memory who was coming off a loss into a title fight is Israel Adesanya — when he lost to Jan Blachowicz — and then fought Marvin Vettori at UFC 263. Adesanya ended up winning and defending … will Volkanovski do the same?

    Over 35 Curse?

    It has been analyzed, dissected and talked about to death, but UFC champions who are 170 pounds or less and who older than age 35 have amassed a 2-21 record in 31 years. The only UFC champion to overcome the “35 curse” was Tyron Woodley … and he did it twice.

    Volkanovski is very aware of the curse and has even made a skit for it:

    Main Event(s)

    UFC 298 will be Volkanovki’s fifth main event. He has headlined UFC 266, UFC 273, UFC 284, UFC 290 and UFC 294.

    Meanwhile, UFC 298 will be Topuria’s second main event … his only other headlining spot was UFC Jacksonville against Josh Emmett.

    Supremely Confident

    Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters have said it time and time again — you have to be confident going into a fight or else why are you fighting?

    Topuria, though, might be overconfident — he already has “UFC World Champion” in his Instagram bio, as well as “15-0.” He has also predicted a first-round knockout and that he is going to fight Conor McGregor soon.

    Sheesh.

    Next UFC Superstar?

    If Topuria pulls the upset and defeats Volkanovski, UFC has its next international super star on its hands. In a McGregor-less UFC world, it has been tough for the promotion to land its next star. Sure, Sean O’Malley, Sean Strickland and Israel Adesanya are solid box office draws, but it feels like only MMA and hardcore sports fans know about them.

    Topuria talks trash, speaks well (three languages), looks the part, and is a fun fighter with numerous finishes. Plus, he is already a big athletic star in Spain.

    ESPN reporter, Carlos Legaspi — who has covered Topuria for several years — told MMAMania.com, “Ilia’s numbers in social media have kept growing since his UFC debut now he has a great team backing that up in terms of marketing and media exposure. He introduced MMA to general audiences in Spain in a way only Rafael Nadal did with tennis and Fernando Alonso with Formula 1. If he keeps improving his English, he can reach unexpected levels of stardom. After all, he can make history in a way that only Conor McGregor did when he finished José Aldo years ago in the same division.”

    The Home Of Disneyland

    UFC returns to Anaheim for the first time in two years. The last event held inside Honda Center was UFC 270 (a.k.a. Francis Ngannou’s final fight inside the Octagon). Ngannou defeated Ciryl Gane after five rounds … with a badly injured leg (watch highlights). In addition, Deiveson Figueiredo scored a win over Brandon Moreno to regain Flyweight gold.

    Will ‘The Eraser’ Show Up?

    It is Paulo Costa fight week, and that means fight fans must worry if there will be a last-minute cancelation. I won’t believe he is even competing until he steps into the cage with Robert Whittaker. All signs say he’s a go, but who really knows.

    It is a massive fight for Costa because if he defeats Whittaker, he can throw his name into the hat for a Middleweight title fight against new kingpin, Dricus Du Plessis. Or, what about a showdown against Sean Strickland (YES PLEASE!)?

    Meanwhile, Wwth a loss, he tumbles down the 185-pound line and will fight an up-and-comer.

    Aussie Bounce Back

    Just like his opponent Costa, Whittaker has a lot riding on his fight at UFC 298. He has lost two out of his last three fights, and in his most recent fight, he was finished by current champion Du Plessis (watch it).

    It may be crazy to think because he is still only 33 years old, but this could be his final title run, and with a loss, it would be detrimental. However, with a win, he is right back in the mix — especially with a new champion he hasn’t lost to twice.

    BAD BLOOD

    Geoff Neal vs. Ian Garry — the “featured bout” of UFC 298 — is finally going down after being scrapped last year at UFC 292. The two fighters do not like each other — at all — especially after Garry printed out and wore Neal’s mugshot on his t-shirt.

    There has been trash talk back-and-forth between the two and it will continue to take place all fight week.

    Step Up For ‘The Future’

    Garry’s fight this weekend is a big step for the Irish fighter, but it is a natural one. Garry has been slowly competing against better fighters each time out and Neal will be his toughest test to date.

    Neal went toe-to-toe with No. 3-ranked Shavkat Rakhmonov for three rounds before finally losing via submission (watch it). Neal has fought far better competition than Garry and is a true UFC veteran at this point.

    With a win over Neal at UFC 298, Garry will finally announce himself as a true Welterweight title contender and will set himself up for a huge fight with title implications.

    Title Shot On The Line

    Let’s be honest, Merab Dvalishvili should be fighting Sean O’Malley for the Bantamweight championship next month at UFC 299; instead, he faces former “champ-champ,” Henry Cejudo, and he is putting his title shot on the line.

    Dvalishvili is riding a nine-fight win streak, and if he wins, he should get O’Malley next. If he loses, he will probably never get a title shot.

    All Or Nothing!

    Cejudo revealed during UFC 298 media day that if he loses on Saturday he will 100 percent retire; however, if he wins, he wants to fight for the Bantamweight title next and then go up to Featherweight and try to get a third title … the pressure is all on his shoulders.

    Cejudo is coming off a super close split decision loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288.

    Shot At The Rankings

    After four straight knockouts, Roman Kopylov will get a shot at the Top 15 Middleweight rankings when he faces No. 15-seeded Anthony Hernandez, who is also on a four-fight win streak.

    The matchup is a classic “Striker vs. Grappler” and it is a very fun one on paper.

    Whatcha Doing, Dern?

    Mackenzie Dern is stepping in on just one month’s notice to fight former Flyweight title challenger, Amanda Lemos, who is also ranked No. 3.

    While it makes a ton of sense for Dern because, with a win, she moves to No. 3 in the rankings, it is a questionable opportunity because Lemos hits hard. Dern was finished via strikes at UFC 295 against Jessica Andrade (watch highlights), and an argument can be made that Lemos hits harder.

    With Dern’s horrible takedown ability, it is a scary clash of styles. And if she gets knocked out again, she can kiss her title aspirations goodbye.

    Welcome To UFC!

    Five fighters are making their UFC debuts this weekend at UFC 298:

    • Carlos Vera (11-3) takes on Rinya Nakamura, who is one of our fighters to watch this year. Vera competed on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 31, losing to Brad Katona in the opening round. He is riding a four-fight win streak.
    • Zhang Mingyang (16-6) fights fellow newcomer Brendson Ribeiro (15-5). The pair of Light Heavyweights were supposed to fight on the planned UFC Shanghai; however, once that event was scrapped they were rebooked for UFC 298. Mingyang holds a 100 percent finish rate with 10 knockouts, while Ribeiro also holds a 100 percent finish rate with nine knockouts.
    • Danny Barlow (7-0) debuts against Josh Quinlan. Barlow is coming off a contract-winning performance on season seven of Contender Series against Raheam Forest, which he won via first round knockout. Barlow holds a 70 percent finish rate with four knockouts and one submission.
    • Oban Elliot (9-2), a friend of Sound & Pound, takes on Val Woodburn. Elliott is also coming off a contract-winning performance on season seven of Contender Series against Kaik Brito. “The Welsh Gangster” is riding a five-fight win streak.

    Short Notice Warriors

    Four fighters are taking fights on shorter notice than a full camp: Kopylov, Dern, Vera and Quinlan

    Rebound

    Quinlan is coming off his first professional loss, which is also fascinating to see how a professional athlete deals with it. Sometimes it is the best thing to happen to them or it is detrimental.

    Quinlan told MMAMania.com that the loss relieved the pressure of thinking about being undefeated, and it gave him time to reflect and get better.

    Moving Down

    Woodburn is moving down to Welterweight after eight fights at Middleweight and Light Heavyweight. At 5’8” it makes sense why “The Animal” would choose to go down in weight as he will be undersized against most of the other Welterweights.

    Woodburn is coming off a 38-second knockout loss against Bo Nickal and will be welcoming Elliott to the UFC.

    Winners And Losers

    Fourteen fighters are coming off wins, while 10 are coming off losses.

    Multi-Divisions

    Here are the divisions that will be on display this Saturday:

    • One Heavyweight fight
    • One Light Heavyweight fight
    • Two Middleweight fights
    • Three Welterweight fights
    • One Featherweight fight
    • Two Bantamweight fights
    • One women’s Flyweight fight
    • One women’s Strawweight fight

    Beta Dog

    According to DraftKings, UFC 298’s “biggest” underdog is Vera at +800.


    LIVE! Watch UFC 298 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

    WORLD FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Sat., Feb. 17, 2024, for the first time in more than two years with its latest pay-per-view (PPV) show. In the ESPN+-streamed PPV main event, reigning Featherweight roost-ruler, Alexander Volkanovski, will defend his 145-pound strap against undefeated surging Spanish contender, Ilia Topuria. In addition, former Middleweight kingpin, Robert Whittaker, will finally square off with mercurial mauler, Paulo Costa, in UFC 298’s co-feature. UFC 298 will also feature the returns of Ian Garry, Geoff Neal, Henry Cejudo, Merab Dvalishvili and so much more!

    Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!


    Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 298 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET (simulcast on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET), before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

    To check out the latest and greatest UFC 298: “Volkanovski vs. Topuria” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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