Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Sean O’Malley and Raulian Paiva will throw down this weekend (Sat., Dec. 11, 2021) at UFC Vegas 44 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
O’Malley has made his intentions clear. The flashy Bantamweight prospect would probably like to climb the ranks and pick up a golden strap, but he’s definitely more concerned with becoming an even bigger star and raking in the big bucks. Regardless of his goals, however, he’ll find himself locked in the cage vs. a hard-nosed slugger on Saturday night. Paiva has put together three straight wins inside the Octagon, and he’s done so with relentless pressure and punches-in-bunches.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Thomas Almeida (UFC 260), Eddie Wineland (UFC 250), Jose Alberto Quinonez (UFC 248), Andre Soukhamthath (UFC 222)
Key Losses: Marlon Vera (UFC 252)
Keys to Victory: Don’t get too tripped up by all his antics and goofy quotes, O’Malley was a damn good prospect even before the face tattoos. “Suga” has an incredibly diverse arsenal of range attacks, and when his opponents inevitably try to close the distance, O’Malley is a sharp and powerful counter puncher.
This fight is all about scoring big on the counter for O’Malley. In Paiva’s last bout, Kyler Phillips — who takes a similar approach to kickboxing — was able to land some gigantic shots on the counter. He’d dance around, nearly kick Paiva in the face, then blast him with right hands when the Brazilian charged forward.
O’Malley has the skills to replicate that success, but he has to be wary of falling into the same traps, too. Paiva is tough as all hell, and he’ll happily bounce back from a knockdown provided he’s still conscious. O’Malley has to carefully manage his energy, lest he wind up on the wrong side of a big overhand swing or takedown.
If the early finish doesn’t materialize, O’Malley has to reset. Trying to score at every single opportunity — which is how he set volume records vs. Kris Moutinho — is great, but it’s far riskier when the opponent is a live dog.
Key Wins: Kyler Phillips (UFC Vegas 32), Zhalgas Zhumagulov (UFC 251), Mark De La Rosa (UFC Fight Night 167), Iliarde Santos (Salvaterra Marajo Fight 7)
Key Losses: Rogerio Bontorin (UFC Fight Night 156), Kai Kara-France (UFC 234)
Keys to Victory: A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Paiva has done most of his work on the feet inside the Octagon. Though his last bout devolved into absolute chaos and quickly became a dog fight, Paiva is actually a rather tricky pressure fighter who counters well when his opponents try to deter him.
Faced with a significant height and reach disadvantage, pressure is surely the name of the game here. At the same time, Paiva doesn’t want to run straight into the snapping front kicks or sharp straight punches of “The Suga Show.” As such, feints and false starts will be key to continually pressure O’Malley without taking too much abuse in the process.
An important difference between this bout and Paiva’s recent war vs. Phillips is the grappling. Phillips is a high-level grappler and wrestler in addition to his kickboxing prowess, whereas O’Malley is more of a specialist. If Paiva is similarly able to mix in some takedown attempts and gain top position like he did last time out, he’s more likely to do real damage from there vs. O’Malley.
Finally, Paiva should make it a point to try to hard check O’Malley’s kicks with his shins, knees and elbows. O’Malley injures himself throwing full power kicks often, and Paiva should do his best to make it happen here.
UFC 269’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card is going to start with a bang.
O’Malley is already a star, drawing more eyes to his fights than far more established contenders. If the knockout artist extends his win streak to three here, a ranked opponent is next ... right? O’Malley sounds more than happy to fight unranked opponents for as long as possible, so perhaps O’Malley will divert from the usual path in an attempt to keep picking up paychecks.
Paiva has expressed no such qualms about climbing the ranks. If he remains unbeaten as a Bantamweight and knocks off another top prospect, the Brazilian will surely score a big opportunity next time out. Hell, even if it doesn’t earn him a ranking — and it might — stopping O’Malley would go a long way in making Paiva more of a known name to UFC fans.
At UFC 269, Sean O’Malley and Raulian Paiva will open the main card. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 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+ PPV.
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