Longtime UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer Feb 17, 2024; Anaheim, California, USA; Ring announcer Bruce Buffer introduces Ilia Topuria and Alexander Volkanovski before their match at UFC 298 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

UFC 298 on Saturday night featured a terrific main event for the UFC Featherweight Championship between Alexander Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria. Topouria was able to unseat the long-reigning champion with an impressive Round 2 knockout victory in an entertaining back-and-forth matchup.

With UFC 298 now in the rearview mirror, let’s look at some of the most highly anticipated matchups scheduled for the remainder of the year.

For the purposes of this list, we will be ranking the five future matchups that stand above the rest in terms of entertainment value, the overall stakes of the matchup, and the popularity of the athletes in these fights.

5. No. 2 ranked Jiri Prochaska vs No. 5 ranked Aleksander Rakić

  • Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
  • Event: UFC 300 (April 13th)
  • What’s on the line: Potential Light Heavyweight title shot

This matchup between Prochaska and Rakić has all the makings of both an entertaining fight, but also a fight that could have big implications for the future of the Light Heavyweight division.

Prochaska in particular has a ton of gain from this fight. He’s a former Light Heavyweight champion who’s coming off a loss to now-Light Heavyweight champion Alex Pereira. A win over an impressive up-and-coming prospect like Rakić could go a long way in putting himself right back in the mix to regain his title sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Rakić has not competed in the UFC octagon since May of 2022, when he suffered a devastating knee injury in a loss to Jan Blachowicz. (Warning for those who may not want to see the injury).

This is undoubtedly the biggest fight of Rakić’s career to date. A win for Rakić would be a huge feather in his cap; it’s a win over a former champion and shows that he truly belongs in the mix and should get a crack of his own at a championship fight.

While these two may not have the most recognizable names to the average MMA fan, this should be an incredibly exciting fight between two extremely dynamic strikers that should entertain fans tuning into the matchup.

4. No. 1 ranked Charles Oliveira vs No. 4 ranked Arman Tsarukyan

  • Weight Class: Lightweight
  • Event: UFC 300 (April 13th)
  • What’s on the line: Potential Lightweight title shot

Lightweight has always been amongst the most entertaining weight classes in the UFC, particularly due to the exceptional number of contenders that could very well give lightweight champion Islam Makhachev a great test in a title fight.

This also means that these contenders need to face off to determine who’s truly the cream of the crop in the division, which is exactly what we have here in this matchup.

For Oliveira, it’s a chance to show that he still belongs to be at the top of the division’s rankings. And with a win, he could very well find himself in a rematch against Makhachev, whom he originally lost his Lightweight belt to.

Tsarukyan is in a different stage of his career, trying to prove that he deserves a chance at the belt. He’s also looking to get a rematch against Makhachev, who he faced and lost to in his debut fight in the UFC back in 2019.

Oliveira is amongst the most entertaining fighters in the sport, with 31 of his 34 career MMA victories ending by referee stoppage. Tsarukyan is more than a willing dance partner, so this fight should be fireworks for as long as it lasts.

3. Champion Sean O’Malley vs No. 6 ranked Chito Vera

  • Weight Class: Bantamweight
  • Event: UFC 299 (March 9th)
  • What’s on the line: Bantamweight Championship

The UFC has been looking for their next superstar ever since Conor McGregor has become less active in the octagon. And they very well may have found their answer in Sean O’Malley.

Similarly to McGregor, O’Malley has a charismatic personality that shines through on the microphone in pre-fight interviews. And his skills have very much backed up his talk, unseating Aljamain Sterling for the Bantamweight title in his last fight.

There is, however, one stain on O’Malley’s MMA record, and that came at the hands of Chito Vera in their first fight back in 2020. Vera was able to finish O’Malley in the first round of their first fight after severely damaging his leg with kicks.

The storyline for this fight is fairly obvious. Can Sean O’Malley prove that their first fight is a fluke? Or can Chito Vera replicate the first fight en route to earning the Bantamweight belt?

Only time will tell. But if their first fight is any indication, this fight should be thoroughly entertaining throughout for fans watching at home.

2. Champion Alex Pereira vs No. 1 ranked Jamahal Hill

  • Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
  • Event: UFC 300 (April 13th)
  • What’s on the line: Light Heavyweight Championship

This fight was actually just announced as the main event of UFC 300, an incredibly stacked fight card with several other premier fights on this list, which should tell you all you need to know about these two fighters.

As I referenced in my breakdown of Prochaska-Rakić earlier, Pereira was able to unseat Prochaska as the Lightweight Champion in his last fight with a second-round knockout in his last fight.

What some don’t know is that Hill also has a claim to the Light Heavyweight belt. Hill claimed the belt with a decision victory over Glover Teixeira just over a year ago in his last fight. He was then forced to relinquish the belt due to a ruptured Achilles injury during training.

Perhaps the only thing holding this fight back from being No. 1 on this list is that some casual UFC viewers may not know about these two, as they’re still relatively young in their careers.

Regardless, both Hill and Pereira have super entertaining styles on the feet, which should play out to be a fun matchup on paper for as long as it lasts.

1. No. 1 ranked Max Holloway (FW) vs No. 2 ranked Justin Gaethje (LW)

  • Weight Class: Lightweight
  • Event: UFC 300 (April 13th)
  • What’s on the line: BMF belt

The sport of mixed martial arts has always been geared to prize fights, and this fight being listed as No. 1 on the list over actual title fights should be a prime example of this.

UFC president Dana White implemented the BMF belt in order to give entertaining superfights a bit more meaning. This fight fits that bill perfectly, as both Holloway and Gaethje are among the most dynamic fighters in the history of the sport.

Holloway has an extensive career under his belt in the Featherweight division, previously earning the title in the division back in 2017 against Jose Aldo which he has since lost.

Meanwhile, Gaethje has been a perennial contender at Lightweight since entering the UFC back in 2017, even fighting in a championship fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2020.

Holloway has pretty much never been in a boring fight throughout his time in the octagon. And Gaethje’s nickname is literally “The Highlight,” which proved to be a very fitting nickname in his BMF title win over Dustin Poirier in his last fight.

This fight alone should be enough for most to purchase UFC 300 on pay-per-view. But given all the other entries on this list from that event, it should surely be a card worth watching.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Dustin Poirier vs Benoit St. Denis (UFC 299) 
  • Yair Rodriguez vs Brian Ortega (UFC Fight Night 237)
  • Brandon Moreno vs Brandon Royval (UFC Fight Night 237)
  • Petr Yan vs Song Yadong (UFC 299)
  • Weili Zhang vs Yan Xiaonan (UFC 300)

About Reice Shipley

Reice Shipley is a staff writer for Comeback Media that graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Sports Media. He previously worked at Barrett Sports Media and is a fan of all things Syracuse sports.