Richard Linklater’s “Before” Series. Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” Saga. The Godfather.
These are some of the great trilogies in cinematic history, and this weekend, one of the best trilogies in UFC pay-per-view history begins at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
The three-event run of UFC 298, UFC 299, and UFC 300 is, on paper, arguably the best back-to-back-to-back sequence of numbered events the promotion has ever delivered, beginning with Saturday’s action-packed fight card in Anaheim and culminating with the highly anticipated tricentennial at T-Mobile Arena in April.
Every film trilogy is different in terms of which of the three is regarded as the best, the strongest. Some come out of the gates hot, cool a little, and then fizzle at the end (Creed, Back to the Future), while others need a little room to get started before things really ramp up in the middle (Dark Knight saga, the original Star Wars trilogy), getting you locked in for the finale.
This pugilistic version feels more like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings epic quest, with each instalment standing strong on its own, but also building to a crescendo that diehard fans and audiences of all kinds cannot wait to see.
Here’s a closer look at how our journey to Las Vegas in April begins.
Main Event: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Ilia Topuria
Location: Honda Center — Anaheim, CA
Where to Watch: ESPN / ESPN+
Other Main Card Matches:
- Robert Whittaker vs. Paulo Costa
- Geoff Neal vs. Ian Machado Garry
- Merab Dvalishvili vs. Henry Cejudo
- Anthony Hernandez vs. Roman Kopylov
- Amanda Lemos vs. Mackenzie Dern
- Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs Junior Tafa
- Rinya Nakamura vs. Carlos Vera
- Zhang Mingyang vs. Brendson Ribeiro
- Josh Quinlan vs. Danny Barlow
- Oban Elliott vs. Val Woodburn
- Andrea Lee vs. Miranda Maverick
Main Event: Alexander Volkanovski vs Ilia Topuria
Alexander Volkanovski Sits Down With Megan Olivi | UFC 298
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Alexander Volkanovski Sits Down With Megan Olivi | UFC 298
The featherweight strap is on the line in Saturday night’s main event, as reigning champ Alexander Volkanovski faces the challenge of Ilia Topuria.
Volkanovski returns to the division he’s ruled since the close of 2019, looking to remain unbeaten in the UFC’s 145-pound weight class. He came up short in a pair of attempts to wrest the lightweight title away from Islam Makhachev last year, battling him to the wire in a Fight of the Year clash at UFC 290 in February before being felled on short notice in the fall at UFC 294, but he reminded everyone of his dominance in between by posting a third-round stoppage win over interim champ Yair Rodriguez.
The 27-year-old Topuria is undefeated in 14 fights and brimming with confidence. He pushed his record inside the Octagon to 6-0 in June with a unanimous decision win over Josh Emmett, and has shown on his way up the divisional ladder that he’s equally dangerous slinging hands or chasing subs.
Simply on the basis of their resumes, this is a fascinating fight — Volkanovski has been a dominant champion and turned back every challenge he’s faced, his wins getting more emphatic the longer he’s been on the throne, while Topuria fights with the self-belief and panache of someone that has never tasted defeat and therefore still believes he’s invincible.
But the contest took on greater weight and intrigue after Volkanovski’s loss to Makhachev at UFC 294, where he was stopped in the opening round and discussed struggling with focus and direction when he’s not locked into a fight camp. Mix in that he’s now 35 years old and you get a real “potential passing of the torch” feel from this one, which is why it’s such a compelling matchup to close out the show.
Other Main Card Fights
Robert Whittaker vs Paulo Costa
Former middleweight champ Robert Whittaker and ex-title challenger Paulo Costa will finally share the Octagon in Saturday’s penultimate pairing.
Whittaker entered last year with a record of “12 and Israel Adesanya” in the division, having only ever faltered against “The Last Stylebender,” but that changed in July. “The Reaper” landed on the wrong side of a one-sided contest with current champ Dricus Du Plessis, and returns here aiming to get things moving in the right direction again.
RELATED: Whittaker's Best Finishes
Costa has competed just three times in the last three years, getting back into the win column with his most recent appearance in the summer of ’22 opposite Luke Rockhold. A myriad of issues has conspired to keep the talented Brazilian from competing regularly, but with a relatively early start to his 2024 campaign, perhaps we’ll see Costa make the walk once or twice more after this one.
These two have been penciled in opposite one another a couple different times with the bouts never coming to fruition. With a new champion at the helm of the division and plenty of jockeying for position going on at the moment, this is a critical matchup for these two tenured talents if they have designs on staying in the thick of the chase this year.
Geoff Neal vs Ian Machado Garry
After a scheduled date with one another in August didn’t work out, welterweights Geoff Neal and Ian Machado Garry will now meet this weekend in the middle bout of the UFC 298 pay-per-view main card.
Neal only made one appearance last year, but he made it count, even in defeat. The Fortis MMA man battled undefeated contender Shavkat Rakhmonov tooth-and-nail for 14 minutes before ultimately succumbing to a standing rear-naked choke in the final minute of the fight. Sporting a 7-3 record under the UFC banner and stationed at No. 8 in the rankings, this is the 33-year-old’s chance to remind everyone that he remains a dangerous threat in the division.
When Neal was forced out of their matchup in August, Machado Garry showed out against Neil Magny instead, dominating the divisional stalwart over three rounds to push his record to 13-0 overall. A bout with pneumonia forced him to withdraw from a highly anticipated clash with Vicente Luque in December, but now he gets the chance to face the stationed one spot ahead of the Brazilian in the divisional rankings that he was supposed to face last summer instead.
Merab Dvalishvili vs Henry Cejudo
Merab Dvalishvili and Henry Cejudo face off in this meeting of bantamweight contenders looking to punch their ticket to a championship opportunity in the future.
Since dropping his first two appearances in the UFC, Dvalishvili has racked up nine straight wins and what seems like 487 takedowns as he continually works to live up to his moniker as “The Machine.” A five-round sweep against former champ Petr Yan last March established the 33-year-old Georgian as one of the top contenders in the division, and if he can post a second consecutive win over a one-time titleholder, it will be difficult to deny him a chance to fight for gold later in the year.
Cejudo ended a three-year retirement last May, returning to action to challenge Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight title that he relinquished after defeating Dominick Cruz at UFC 249. “Triple C” landed on the unhappy side of a split decision verdict but can put himself right back into the thick of the chase by halting Dvalishvili’s run of success this weekend in Anaheim.
Stylistically, this is a captivating fight, as Cejudo is a gold medal-winning wrestler and Dvalishvili is an unrelenting pressure fighter that loves nothing more than to put his opponents on the canvas again and again and again. Whether they engage in a wrestling match or the similarities in their games produce a striking battle, this should be tense and entertaining from the word go.
Anthony Hernandez vs Roman Kopylov
Saturday’s main card opens in the middleweight division, as streaking hopefuls Anthony Hernandez and Roman Kopylov share the Octagon in Anaheim.
“Fluffy” has posted four straight wins since beginning his UFC run with a 1-2 mark, building off his submission finish of Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258 with a decision win over Josh Fremd and back-to-back stoppage victories over Marc-Andre Barriault and Edmen Shahbazyan. The 30-year-old Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) grad operates at a high pace and looks to wear out his opponents, finding opportunities to finish as their defenses wane.
Kopylov, who steps in for an injured Ikram Aliskerov, has also collected four straight wins ahead of UFC 298, most recently dropping Fremd with a body shot at Noche UFC in September. The Russian striker has shown technical and punishing skills on the feet over his current run of quality form and could land a spot in the rankings with a fifth consecutive victory here.
Preliminary Card Fights
Amanda Lemos vs Mackenzie Dern
The final fight of the prelims comes in the strawweight division, where recent title challenger Amanda Lemos faces off with Mackenzie Dern.
Lemos, who was originally scheduled to take on Tatiana Suarez before the former TUF winner was forced out with an injury, came up short in her bid to claim gold last summer in Boston, dropping her record to 7-2 in the division and 13-3-1 overall. The 30-year-old Dern has alternated wins and losses over her last six, stepping into Saturday’s critical clash off a second-round stoppage loss to Jessica Andrade at UFC 295 in November.
Rinya Nakamura vs Carlos Vera
Rinya Nakamura and Carlos Vera face off in this bantamweight matchup.
Nakamura cruised through the competition on Season 1 of Road to UFC and then pushed his record to 8-0 with a unanimous decision win over Fernie Garcia in his official UFC debut. Vera was a contestant on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter, losing to eventual winner Brad Katona, and enters with an 11-3 record overall.
Zhang Mingyang vs Brendson Ribeiro
It’s a clash of intriguing light heavyweight newcomers as Zhang Mingyang and Brendson Ribeiro share the Octagon.
MORE UFC 298: Main Event Breakdown
Zhang collected a first-round stoppage win over George Tokkos in a showcase bout during the first Road to UFC run in Singapore in the summer of 2022, pushing his winning streak to nine in the process. Ribeiro punched his ticket to the biggest stage in the sport with a first-round knockout win over the previously unbeaten Bruno Lopes to wrap Week 5 on Dana White’s Contender Series last season.
Josh Quinlan vs Danny Barlow
Welterweight DWCS grads clash here as Josh Quinlan welcomes Danny Barlow to the Octagon for the first time.
Quinlan landed a contract in the fall of 2021 and then sparked Jason Witt in his promotional debut the following August before landing on the wrong side of things against fellow alum Trey Waters last year. Barlow scored a first-round stoppage win over fellow East Coast regional standout Raheam Forest last September, flashing the power that has helped carry him to a 7-0 start to his pro career.
Oban Elliott vs Val Woodburn
Welsh welterweight Oban Elliott makes his first trek to the Octagon on Saturday, facing off with UFC sophomore Val Woodburn.
Elliott garnered a contract with a gutsy, majority decision win over Kaik Brito last year on Dana White’s Contender Series, extending his winning streak to five with the victory. Woodburn debuted on short notice at middleweight against highly regarded prospect Bo Nickal last summer, suffering his first pro loss in the contest.
Andrea Lee vs Miranda Maverick
Tenured flyweights Andrea Lee and Miranda Maverick are the first pair to make the walk to the Octagon this weekend.
The 34-year-old Lee arrives looking to snap a three-fight skid and return to the form that produced wins over Antonina Shevchenko and Cynthia Calvillo earlier in her UFC run. Maverick made a quick return to the win column after losing to Jasmine Jasudavicius in Vancouver, stepping up on short notice and submitting Priscila Cachoiera at UFC 291 in Salt Lake City.
UFC 298: Volkanovski vs Topuria took place live from Honda Center in Anaheim, California on February 17, 2024. See the final Prelim & Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!