Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

UFC 298: Will there be a new featherweight champ?

UFC Dins Davids Ozols 15.02.2024

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns in action early Sunday morning with the second major fight show of the year, headlined by the featherweight title clash between Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski and Ilia “El Matador” Topuria. With the spectacle rapidly approaching, let’s have a quick look at the two main heroes of UFC 298.

The featherweight legend

The 35-year-old Alexander Volkanovski (26-3-0) needs no introduction to the most loyal combat sports enthusiasts. With an impressive reign lasting over 1,500 days, Volkanovski has cemented his status as one of the UFC’s most dominant champions. Since claiming the featherweight title at UFC 245, the Aussie has defended his belt five times, showcasing a blend of striking prowess, wrestling finesse, and strategic acumen that has left opponents struggling to find an answer.

Standing as the UFC’s fifth-longest reigning champion, Volkanovski’s journey to greatness has seen him overcome challenges from some of the sport’s most formidable opponents. José Aldo, Brian Ortega, and Max Holloway (thrice!) are just some of his big-profile victims.

Despite recent setbacks in the lightweight division, where he lost to Islam Makhachev twice last year, Volkanovski remains a force to be reckoned with. Yes, he may not have been able to become a two-division champion just yet, but Volkanovski remains undefeated in the featherweight division.

Since we have discussed and talked about Volkanovski quite a lot in the previous articles, let’s talk a little more about the challenger.

The rising star

On the opposite side of the Octagon stands Ilia Topuria, an undefeated challenger with a meteoric rise through the ranks. With an unblemished record of 14-0, including a perfect 6-0 in the UFC, Topuria has quickly established himself as a force in the featherweight division.

Armed with a diverse skill set that encompasses crisp boxing, relentless pressure, and formidable grappling ability, Topuria presents a unique challenge to Volkanovski’s reign. Despite his relative newcomer status to the UFC, Topuria’s dominance in the Octagon cannot be understated. He has earned a shot at championship gold with notable victories over seasoned opponents, such as Josh Emmet, Bryce Mitchell, and Damon Jackson.

The 27-year-old Spaniard/Georgian exudes unwavering confidence, expecting a victory without relying on the judges’ decision. In fact, he proposes that the Australian actually stands as his easiest opponent to date and predicts himself a fast 1st-round knockout. Addressing perceptions of superiority in various disciplines, Topuria dismisses comparisons to Volk’s previous opponents, asserting that he is a unique challenge for the champ.

“I was born as a UFC world champion. I know my level, I know myself, I have the capacity to analyze all my opponents, and I know that I’m better than anyone in my division, even in the next weight class, I’m better than everybody”, in an interview, stated the fighter. Arrogance or confidence? Maybe a mix of both?

A battle of styles

Both Volkanovski and Topuria bring contrasting styles and strengths to the Octagon. Volkanovski’s reach advantage and well-rounded skill set make him a formidable opponent in both striking exchanges and grappling.

However, Topuria’s relentless pressure, technical boxing, and submission prowess pose a significant threat to Volkanovski’s reign. Besides, Topuria has gone the distance only twice in his career, submitting eight of his opponents and knocking out another four. Despite the high submission percentage, Volkanovski has proven time and time again that his defense on the ground is elite. Especially against Islam Makhachev, who is renowned for his grappling skills.

With both fighters boasting the ability to finish the fight in spectacular fashion, fans can expect an electrifying battle that will keep them on the edge of their seats from start to finish. How long until the finish? That’s for the fighters to determine and for us to find out.

What are the odds?

While Topuria’s rise in the featherweight division has been nothing short of impressive, Volkanovski’s experience, versatility, and championship pedigree give him a slight edge in this matchup.

We expect Volkanovski to utilize his reach advantage and striking prowess to keep Topuria at a safe distance. However, it’s also almost certain that he will also need to showcase his superior grappling defense to control the fight on the ground, a department where Topuria shines.

Of course, Alexander Volkanovski is poised to retain his featherweight title and further solidify his legacy as one of the UFC’s all-time greats. Still, we all know anything can happen in the unpredictable world of MMA. Either way, the fans can rest assured that both Volkanovski and Topuria will leave it all in the Octagon come Sunday morning.

Dins Davids Ozols

Dins is a self-raised copywriter whose burning desire for punctuality and correctness of texts has combined with a lifelong passion for sports. He's on a mission to provide OlyBet.TV visitors with content on current sports events. His favorite topics include major football leagues and competitions, NBA, and UFC.