What’s Next: UFC 298 Losers

Alexander Volkanovski, UFC 298
Alexander Volkanovski, UFC 298 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Alexander Volkanovski was dethroned, while Paulo Costa dropped a decision to ex-champ Robert Whittaker at UFC 298. Volkanovski will now look to regroup and no doubt wants a chance to reclaim his 145lb title, while Costa made need to put together a few wins at middleweight to stay in the mix. Here’s what we envision moving forward from UFC 298 in Anaheim.

Alexander Volkanovski

One of the GOATs lost his belt on Saturday after a legendary reign, fifth longest in UFC history. It is hard to not say Alexander Volkanovski is somewhat past it at thirty-five years old and coming off two knockout losses, but he has also been fighting the best fighters there are, one of them on short notice. The next step for ‘Alexander the Great’ depends on whether or not he will get an immediate rematch with Ilia Topuria.

Due to the two straight losses I would normally say no, but erstwhile number one contender Max Holloway is booked for a BMF championship fight against Justin Gaethje at UFC 300, a fight with high violence potential which would leave ‘Blessed’ with a sizable recovery process.

The other top contender on a worthy streak is Movsar Evloev, but his lack of finishes and narrow victories in recent fights make him an unlikely candidate for the UFC to push into a title shot. That leaves Alexander Volkanovski against Ilia Topuria 2, though if the UFC goes another direction then a fight against Arnold Allen or Josh Emmett makes sense as well.

Volkanovski’s Next Fight: Ilia Topuria 2

Paulo Costa

Costa fought admirably in a close, competitive match in UFC 298’s co-main event which had the crowd on their feet, but in the end he dropped the unanimous decision because Rob Whittaker did more damage in rounds two and three. Hopefully Paulo can stay more active now than he has in the past, because there are quite a few interesting fights for him at 185-lbs.

Recent fight night main event winners Nassourdine Imavov and Jack Hermansson probably top that list; both are ranked slightly below Costa and are on similar time frames for a likely octagon return. However, Imavov may be ranked ahead of Costa after the rankings update drops Paulo below his current rank of sixth at middleweight, so Hermansson makes more sense at the moment. Both have been a staple of the division for years, and this would be the first fight to truly test Costa’s takedown defense in a while.

Costa’s Next Fight: Jack Hermansson

Geoff Neal

Eighth-ranked welterweight Geoff Neal’s loss to Ian Garry was much different than his ‘Fight of the Year’ contender against Shavkat Rakhmonov in his previous fight, but regardless he is on a two-fight losing streak. Two high-profile names are on the rise below him at 170-lbs: Kevin Holland and Rinat Fahkretdinov.

The winner of Holland’s upcoming fight with Michael Page would make sense, and Holland already beat Neal on the regional scene. Rinat would also make sense, but his last fight was a draw against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, and should probably be ran back. Holland and Neal are both dynamic, exciting strikers who often get into slugfests, so the UFC should be chomping at the bit to put that one together. However, MVP could spoil the party, and would also then deserve a shot at Neal.

Neal’s Next Fight: Winner of Holland/MVP

Henry Cejudo

Even though the UFC broadcast did not give him the mic for an official retirement, the thirty-seven year old Cejudo stated many times that he would retire if he lost to Merab Dvalishvili, which did come to pass. He also took off his gloves after the fight, a common sign of retirement. The former double champ’s UFC title run is one of the great ones in the sport, and he will have a place in the Hall of Fame one day.

Cejudo’s Next Fight: Retirement

Roman Kopylov

Russian striker Roman Kopylov lost for the first time since 2021 in the main card opener of UFC 298, getting submitted by Anthony Hernandez after a strong first round. Kopylov may have failed at his bid for a ranking, but his pedigree as a kickboxer in MMA is still fairly high after four straight knockout wins before this.

He can expect to face someone in a similar position to him, and who would be better than Joe Pyfer? ‘Bodybagz’ recently lost for the first time in the UFC, against Jack Hermansson in a main event, but he put up a good fight, just like Kopylov. Both have striking skill and knockout power, but the wrestling of Pyfer would be an added test for Kopylov after he had success defensively wrestling against Hernandez but ultimately succumbed to the grappling threat

Kopylov’s Next Fight: Joe Pyfer