Press ESC to close

UFC 298 Volkanovski vs. Topuria Free Picks, Predictions, and Analysis #2

Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-148) vs. Justin Tafa (+124)

A pair of unranked heavyweights gets us started on the prelim card, as UFC veteran Marcos Rogerio de Lima takes on Justin Tafa. We last saw de Lima over the summer, losing in the first round to Derrick Lewis at UFC 291. Before that fight, against one of the best in the division, he had won four of his five prior fights, two in the first round. 

30-year-old Tafa comes in on the heels of a three-fight win streak, winning all three in the first round, albeit against a fraction of the talent de Lima has seen in recent years. Tafa takes a big step up in this one for his toughest test to date, getting not just one of the best grapplers in the division but a guy who has seen it all. 

While I think the nine-year age gap has caused this one to come down, I like for de Lima to lean on his experience, avoid the big shot, and surprise Tafa with his strength in the clinch. I had this number nearly -300 in favor of de Lima, and will gladly take this price. 

Pick: Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-148 at DraftKings Sportsbook)

Merab Dvalishvili (-200) vs. Henry Cejudo (+165)

We’re shooting up to the co-main event for this one for my favorite bet of the card. Merab “The Machine” Dvalishvili will go for his 10th straight win here, picking up impressive wins over the past couple of years over Marlon Moraes and Petr Yan. With a win here surely setting himself up for a title shot, he runs into a calibur of fighter he has yet to see in live action as a professional. 

Henry Cejudo returned from a three-year layoff in May to nearly do the impossible, losing a very tight split decision to Aljamain Sterling. Though Aljo has since lost the bantamweight belt, at the time, he was firing on all cylinders knocking off TJ Dillashaw, Petr Yan (2), and Cory Sandhagen in the four fights prior. 

With the long layoff, it is easy to forget just how world-class Cejudo had been. With a large edge in knockdowns (4x), Cejudio is an all-world wrestler and despite the metrics leaning Merab, has a big edge on the ground here. I have a Cejudo as a -220 favorite and this is one of the most mispriced numbers in recent memory.

Pick: Henry Cejudo (+165 at BetMGM Sportsbook)

Alexander Volkanovski (-110) vs. Ilia Topuria (-110)

Simply put, this fight has “WAR” written all over it. 

Almost a year ago to the day, Volk put his 22-fight win streak on the line moving to lightweight, losing a decision to Islam Makhachev. Picking up a win vs. Yair Rodriguez five months later, to retain his featherweight belt and perfect featherweight record, he chose a last-minute rematch against Islam three months later. 

That proved to be a fateful mistake, and in my estimation, might have cost him more mentally than many believe. A first-round KO, Volk didn’t just lose but looked unprepared, and self-admittedly, in a dark place mentally. 

He’ll now need to respond, less than four months later, against a guy in Topuria who is not just undefeated but an absolute killer. A perfect 6-0 in the UFC with five finishes, Topuria is eight years younger than Volk and better almost everywhere. With 3x the knockdowns, 7x the submissions, and 2x the takedowns, Topuria also absorbs 12% fewer shots at featherweight. 

Though I think Volk can take it deep, I have Topuria priced at over -200 and think he gets this done in decisive fashion. 

Pick: Illia Topuria (-110 at FanDuel Sportsbook)

Johnny Covers

Johnny has been covering the sports betting markets and handicapping UFC for the better part of the past decade. Along the way, he has written for publications such as Oddschecker, Betting Pros, Sportsbook Review, Yardbarker, and many more. Johnny runs giving out free UFC analysis and picks on every card, going 56% in 2021, 65% in 2022, and trending at 60% for 2023. He has also made multiple appearances on UFC's official betting show "On the Line" along side head MMA oddsmaker at Circa Sportsbooks Nick Kalikas and professional sports bettor Gianni the Greek .