The “Sugar Show” touched down in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this weekend (Sat., Oct. 22, 2022), with Sean O’Malley stepping up his level of competition for a huge showdown against former 135-pound champion and current No. 1-seeded Bantamweight contender, Petr Yan, on UFC 280’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
This was such a shocking match up when it was first announced because O’Malley’s only two clashes with Top 10-ranked talent have been inconclusive and brutal. In fact, even company President, Dana White, had to be convinced that O’Malley was ready for Yan, a battle-tested and proven animal inside the cage when he gets rolling.
Yan — a historically slow starter — was in a three-round fight for the first time in nearly three years. But, in the end, it was O’Malley’s chin and durability of all things that led him to a controversial split decision win.
The size difference was on full display at the staredown, with Yan standing about a half-foot shorter than O’Malley, who crawled out of his corner and began to flick kicks. Yan tried to corner him along the cage, measuring him up and looking for an opening to exploit. Front kick from O’Malley and still nothing from Yan with one minute in the can. Yan launched a hard overhand left, but O’Malley was no longer there. Nice body kick from Yan on the next engagement, then a low kick, with O’Malley countering with an over hand right. Low kick from O’Malley and Yan literally tried to decapitate him with a looping left counter, but he missed big. Midway through the round and Yan was in on a single-leg takedown, but O’Malley fought him tooth-and-nail along the fence and escaped. O’Malley sitting behind his jab and feinting, working his way inside to secure the first takedown of the match. With about 90 seconds to work, Yan mushed him into the bottom of the cage and worked some ground-and-pound, with O’Malley escaping to his feet with about 45 seconds remaining. Low kick from Yan, then a body kick, as O’Malley shocked just about everyone by using his momentum to quickly take Yan’s back at the buzzer.
Yan opened round two with a hard body kick, with O’Malley drilling him with a hard overhand left moments later. Yan was hurt, with O’Malley chasing after him. He was able to create some space, then dropped Yan with a tremendous right hand. Yan dove in and started to work some shots from top position, but he could very well still be buzzed himself. O’Malley eventually angled for an armbar from the bottom, using the threat to make it back to his feet. Yan worked in some foot stomps along the fence and a knee to the body before the pair gave themselves some space. Sweet trip from Yan, with O’Malley using an upkick as he tried to follow him to the ground. Front kick from O’Malley to keep Yan off him, but he kept coming. Counter right hand landed for O’Malley off his back foot, peppering a jab and whiffing with a looping right. High kick, one-two combination, straight into a double-leg takedown along the cage for Yan. Short elbows from Yan as O’Malley tried to kick him off of him. He couldn’t ... and that’s how the second stanza concluded.
Third and final frame, and it appeared that Yan was ahead, but O’Malley was certainly more than game. Indeed, he came out pumping his jab like a piston, using his legs as well. Not much from Yan the first two minutes, but then he bumrushed him along the cage. Nothing materialized and O’Malley drilled him with a hard left upstairs that cut him open. O’Malley began to feel it, but Yan was like a wounded mongoose — firing a wicked overhand left that would have knocked out a mule ... but not O’Malley. Two minutes to go and Yan was able to get a double-leg takedown, with O’Malley using a kimura to try and get back to his feet. O’Malley was able to eventually spin out, thanks in large part to the blood leaking from Yan’s temple. Big shot from O’Malley, who has shown toughness and an incredible chin thus far. Big mistake from O’Malley late, who went for a trip, but Yan turned into yet another takedown in the final 10 seconds.
What a fight! For those who doubted O’Malley was ready for this challenge, he proved everyone wrong. And after the decision was read to a chorus of boo birds, something tells me we might see these two dynamic strikers throw down again.
Final result: O’Malley def. Yan via split decision — WATCH HIGHLIGHTS!
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