Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight kickboxers Sean O’Malley and Andre Soukhamthath will slug it out this Saturday (March 3, 2018) at UFC 222 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
O’Malley styled his way through the regional scene and earned a spot on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” where another highlight-reel knockout secured the 23 year old’s position in UFC. He faced a big step up in competition in his Octagon debut, but the prospect showed both skill and guts to pull through in the third and earn the decision victory. Soukhamthath struggled at first inside the Octagon, hurting both of his opponents, but still ending up on the wrong side of split-decision losses. He showed better patience and accuracy in his third chance, flattening a major prospect via knockout to finally prove himself.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: Terrion Ware (TUF 26 Finale), Alfred Khashakyan (Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series 2)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: O’Malley is a rangy Southpaw who switches stances and moves quite well. He’s very much a new breed type of striker, one who can confound fighters who like to strike with their feet stuck in the mud. Now that O’Malley is facing a higher level of fighter, the knockout is unlikely to come so easily. He found that out opposite Ware, who survived the early blitzes to find success in the second round. “Sugar” showed great resolve in the third to fight back and win the bout, but he cannot afford to mismanage his energy opposite Soukhamthath.
“The Asian Sensation” hits too damn hard to give up any free strikes.
With that in mind, O’Malley needs to balance the line of keeping his movement up without burning too much energy. Strike selection with be very important, as O’Malley has to pick his rangy shots without wasting energy on flashy strikes that are unlikely to land. This bout is really a test of O’Malley’s fundamentals, as O’Malley’s ability to maintain distance will be tested.
Key Wins: Luke Sanders (UFC Fight Night 123), Kin Moy (CES 37)
Key Losses: Alejandro Perez (UFC Fight Night 114), Albert Morales (UFC 209)
Keys to Victory: Soukhamthath is a hard-hitting kickboxer with eight knockout wins to his credit. The Rhode Island-native usually employs a sprawl-and-brawl game plan, stalking his opponent with heavy shots and looking to counter when they return.
In Soukhamthath’s UFC debut, he scrapped with Albert Morales for three rounds, ultimately losing when a bad takedown attempt landed him on bottom in the third round. In the second and third round, however, Soukhamthat showed a brutally effective left hook to the body, and that punch may be kick to breaking down O’Malley.
O’Malley is very lanky and does a good job of pulling away from punches, making his chin a difficult target. However, he doesn’t appear all that physically strong, and often smashing the mid-section of skinny fighters is especially effective. Even if O’Malley is not extra vulnerable to body shots, it will be far easy to rip his body then reach his head.
If Soukhamthath is attacking the body early, it will slow the flashy movement of O’Malley and force him to trade in the pocket more often. From that distance, Soukhamthath is the heavier puncher, and he should be able to capitalize in a way that Ware could not.
Bottom Line: It’s likely to be a fun match between up-and-coming Bantamweights.
O’Malley is in the difficult position of being a legitimately talented prospect, but also needing some time to develop further. UFC has a terrible habit of throwing young athletes like O’Malley into deep waters too soon, which could be the result if O’Malley continues building his hype with a third victory. Win or lose, it would really be best for O’Malley to receive another opponent on a similar level to Soukhamthath.
The situation is a little different for Soukhamthath, who’s a bit older and deeper into his professional career. A win here is valuable, as it’s two straight over strong prospects. Plus, his first two losses could have easily went his way, so it’s hard to really hold those defeats against him. One more win could earn Soukhamthath a Top 15-ranked foe, which is precisely the test he’ll want at this stage of his career.
At UFC 222, Sean O’Malley and Andre Soukhamthath will throw down. Which man will have his hand raised?