Firas Zahabi gives Alexander Volkanovski the edge over Ilia Topuria in most areas.
Featherweight champion Volkanovski (26-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) will look to make his sixth title defense against Topuria (14-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in the UFC 298 headliner Feb. 17 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Volkanovski is making a four-month turnaround which the Tristar Gym head coach worries may not be enough time after getting knocked out by lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in October. He still picks Volkanovski to beat undefeated Topuria.
“I have a doubt that maybe Volk is coming back too quick after a KO,” Zahabi said on his YouTube channel. “Even with that doubt, I’m still picking Volk. I’m on the Volk train. I’m just trying to make a case for Topuria. When you come back too fast, too quickly after a knockout, sometimes your pride, your desire for revenge, to redeem yourself, gets the best of you. You want to right that wrong that happened to you, but you went in too early – and a heavy puncher like Topuria might capitalize on that. I don’t think that is going to happen.”
Zahabi thinks Volkanovski is the more well-rounded fighter. Outside of boxing, he sees Volkanovski being more seasoned than Topuria everywhere.
“I think Volk can outstrike him. I think Volk can out-condition him. I think Volk can out-grapple him. I think Volk’s ground-and-pound is too ferocious,” Zahabi said. “I think Volk has way too much five-round experience. Topuria did a great job in his five-round fight against Josh Emmett, but still, Volk, we all know, is levels above. I think Volk is going to outkick Topuria. The boxing is going to be close. I give a slight edge in boxing, mark my words, to Topuria.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 298.