The most hotly-anticipated main event of 2024 to date hits Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., this weekend (Sat., Feb. 17, 2024) when Featherweight kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski, dukes it out with ultra-destructive contender, Ilia Topuria, atop UFC 298. The pay-per-view (PPV) show also sees former Middleweight roost-ruler, Robert Whittaker, finally square off with mercurial mauler, Paulo Costa, and Geoff Neal look to halt the rise of controversial Welterweight prospect, Ian Machado Garry.
The first three (of seven) UFC 298 “Prelims” undercard bouts will stream on ESPN+, so let’s see what your monthly subscription gets you …
170 lbs.: Josh Quinlan vs. Danny Barlow
Wand Fight Team’s Josh Quinlan (6-1) saw his contract-winning Contender Series beatdown of Logan Urban overturned to a “No Contest” after failing a drug test. He built back some credibilty with a nasty one-punch finish of Jason Witt in his UFC debut, but struggled with the range of sophomore foe Trey Waters en route to a decision defeat.
He replaces Yusaku Kinoshita on around six weeks’ notice.
Danny Barlow (7-0) — a former 6-1 amateur — notched a pair of wins under the CFFC banner en route to Contender Series. There, he took just 79 seconds to knockout former CFFC champion, Raheam Forest, and walk away with a UFC contract.
That win marked his fourth professional knockout and fifth finish overall.
The name of the game here is distance. Quinlan’s low kicks and raw power are a threat to anyone who enters the pocket with him, but the Waters fight showed a baffling inability to close the gap. That doesn’t inspire confidence in his chances here because Barlow has a ridiculous 80-inch reach at his disposal and expert range management with which to maximize it.
Quinlan’s path to victory lies in compromising Barlow’s movement with low kicks and bludgeoning him on the inside. He’ll have to get past Barlow’s footwork and left cross to do so, however, and I don’t see it happening. In the end, Barlow sharp shoots his way to a dominant victory.
Prediction: Barlow via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Oban Elliott vs. Val Woodburn
Oban Elliott (9-2) stumbled his way to a 4-2 professional start before finishing his stint with Cage Warriors on a 4-0 run. Then came Contender Series, where “The Welsh Gangster” survived near-disaster against Kaik Brito to earn a majority decision and UFC contract.
He stands four inches taller than Val Woodburn (7-1), but gives up two inches of reach.
“The Animal” spent virtually his entire amateur and professional career under the Combat Night Pro banner, going 5-2-1 in the unpaid ranks and perfect (7-0) professionally to earn a spot on Contender Series. He wound up stepping up on short notice to battle Bo Nickal in the Octagon instead, ultimately suffering a 38-second knockout loss at UFC 290 (watch it here).
Five of his professional wins have come by knockout.
This is Elliott’s fight to lose by every metric imaginable. He’s beaten better competition, he’s by far the better boxer, and he’s the better grappler by a similar margin. Dropping to 170 pounds isn’t going to magically fix Woodburn’s litany of issues … and I’m not even convinced he can do so considering his musculature.
All Elliott has to do here is not get caught with something stupid. He admittedly failed that task against Brito, but he survived that barrage and Brito is leagues better than Woodburn besides. In short, Elliott out-classes him for a one-sided win.
Prediction: Elliott via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Andrea Lee vs. Miranda Maverick
Andrea Lee (13-8) rode into the Octagon on a four-fight win streak, then extended it to seven with a trio of decision victories. “KGB” has since struggled to recapture that momentum, dropping six of eight in the last four years.
She’s submitted five professional foes and knocked out three others.
Miranda Maverick (14-5) saw a perfect (2-0) UFC start give way to two straight losses, one a robbery against Maycee Barber and the other a decisive defeat to Erin Blanchfield. “Fear The” went on to win three of her next four, most recently dominating Priscila Cachoeira at UFC 291.
She gives up three inches of height and four inches of reach to Lee.
As much of a bust as Lee turned out to be, she’s not without hope in this showdown. Maverick’s takedown defense is weirdly porous for a grappler of her caliber and her UFC victories — save for her decision over Gillian Robertson three years back — came over very limited opposition. If utilized properly, Lee’s striking and offensive wrestling could carry her to victory.
I just can’t trust “KGB” against wrestlers at this point in her career. She’s had plenty of her own takedown defense issues and Maverick strikes me as the stronger ground artist overall. Lee might still have the edge on the feet, but that can only do so much in the face of Maverick’s takedowns. When the dust settles, Maverick grapples her way to her second straight win.
Prediction: Maverick via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 298 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from super prospect, Rinya Nakamura, and an assortment of knockout artists. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
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.