Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight sluggers Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera will collide this Sat. (Aug. 15, 2020) at UFC 252 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When analyzing a prospect with a lot of hype behind them, it can be easy to speak in absolutes. Is O’Malley the next Conor McGregor? Is he going to to run into a wall and get embarrassed? In truth, “Suga” has already proven himself rather talented regardless of Saturday’s result, but this bout will help tell if he’s ready to contend. Vera has been fighting inside the Octagon since 2014, but it’s only relatively recently that the 27-year-old has really thrived. At some point a couple years ago, things clicked for “Chito,” who has since developed into a real whirlwind of violence.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Eddie Wineland (UFC 250), Jose Alberto Quinonez (UFC 248), Terrion Ware (TUF 26 Finale), Andre Soukhamthath (UFC 222)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Like many of the sport’s recent striking stars, O’Malley’s approach to kickboxing is a mix of rangy karate and sharp boxing. O’Malley frustrates opponents with his quick movement and deceptively powerful kicks, but the second his opponent reaches for him, “Suga” is ready to drop heavy counters.
This is definitely a risky fight for O’Malley. He has an energy intensive style that does a lot of damage, but he’s also facing a particularly tough opponent. If he’s too active and too explosive early, he may find himself tired against a fighter who thrives on swings of momentum.
For that reason, I’d like to see O’Malley focus on evasiveness a bit more than normal. That’s already a strength for the up-and-comer, but he generally explodes frequently when he does plant. Against a durable veteran, O’Malley has to make sure he’s setting a pace that he can maintain. Plus, if Vera is frustrated and really over-extending, O’Malley’s counters are more likely to put him down.
Key Wins: Brian Kelleher (UFC on FOX 25), Andre Ewell (UFC Fight Night 161), Frankie Saenz (UFC Fight Night 148), Brad Picket (UFC Fight Night 107)
Key Losses: Song Yadong (UFC on ESPN 8), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC Fight Night 125), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 119)
Keys to Victory: Vera has grown into quite the bruiser. The Southpaw stalks his opponents, looking to slam home body kicks, power punches and knees from the clinch. Whether he scores a takedown or is reacting to his opponent’s shot, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is a definite finisher on the mat as well.
Vera’s path to victory against O’Malley is clear, and fortunately, it already lines up with what Vera likes to do. “Chito” has to close distance and make this fight ugly, where his more efficient style and own natural power/toughness will likely prove more effective.
Closing distance against O’Malley is likely to be a difficult task, but fortunately, Vera’s left kick may prove a solid equalizer. O’Malley likes to fight from the opposite stance of his opponent, which opens up the round kick to the mid-section for both men. Whenever possible, Vera should be ripping the kick into the liver, but keeping his eyes open for any low kicks as O’Malley circles would be wise as well.
In addition, Vera showed a nice wrinkle to his game last time out against Yadong by actively pursuing the clinch. That’s a smart move against O’Malley as well, as forcing him to expend energy pushing and pulling will slow his quickness a bit. In addition, any knees to the body from that range are money in the bank, and a potential takedown could dramatically change the fight.
There’s no way around it: this is going to be a great fight.
O’Malley is on the edge of superstardom. Based on how quickly he’s able to sell merchandise and how his Embedded segments earn more views than even the headliners, it could be argued he’s already there! However, if he can pick up another dramatic knockout win on another very visible pay-per-view (PPV) card, it will really elevate his status.
On the fighting side of things, defeating Vera would easily be the best win of O’Malley’s career and prove he’s ready for Top 10-ranked competition.
As for Vera, he’s been fighting real well for a while now and deserves this high-profile opportunity too. He may not be able to steal all of O’Malley’s star power with an upset, but victory would still establish Vera as a top Bantamweight and put him back on track toward the top of the division.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 252 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 252, Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera will meet in the co-main event. Which man will earn the victory?