Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight sluggers Sean O’Malley and Pedro Munhoz will throw down this weekend (Sat., July 2, 2022) at UFC 276 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For all O’Malley’s talk about a slow rise and fighting easy opponents, this is no gimme fight. “Suga” is taking a considerable step up in competition here versus an experienced Top 10-ranked foe, one who’s going to try to take his head off. O’Malley is officially trying to break into the title mix with this fight, which stands as his biggest challenge since Marlon Vera ... and we all remember how that fight ended. As for Munhoz, times have been tough for the Brazilian veteran. He’s been giving a good account of himself against the best in the world, but that hasn’t produced all that many victories as of late. To remain inside the Top 10, “Young Punisher” has to turn away O’Malley.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Raulian Paiva (UFC 269), 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: There’s a lot of hype and flash around O’Malley, but don’t let that distract from the facts. “Suga” is a great kickboxer, a crafty and dangerous puncher with some really unique set ups.
Eleven career knockouts at 135 pounds is nothing to scoff at.
In this match up, O’Malley has a pair of distinct advantages, and he’s accustomed to utilizing both. Opposite the Brazilian, O’Malley will be significantly longer and faster, which is a pretty deadly combination. At range, O’Malley should be peppering Munhoz with quick jabs and snap kicks while feinting often to draw out Munhoz’s calf kicks and counters.
O’Malley does have to be aware that Munhoz is incredibly durable — he’s yet to be knocked down in nearly 30 professional fights! As such, managing his output and avoiding injuring himself on any of his own kicks (a semi-frequent issue for O’Malley) should be a priority, because Munhoz isn’t going away.
Record: 19-7 (1)
Key Wins: Rob Font (UFC Fight Night 119), Cody Garbrandt (UFC 235), Jimmie Rivera (UFC Vegas 20), Bryan Caraway (TUF 28 Finale), Justin Scoggins (UFC Fight Night 100), Brett Johns (UFC 227)
Key Losses: Aljamain Sterling (UFC 238), Jose Aldo (UFC 265), Dominick Cruz (UFC 269), Frankie Edgar (UFC on ESPN 15), Jimmie Rivera (UFC Fight Night 77), Rafael Assuncao (UFC 170)
Keys to Victory: Munhoz is about as tough as they come. The Brazilian veteran has considerable power in his hands, some brutally effective kicks and the best guillotine choke at 135 pounds.
Tracking down O’Malley is going to be the key here. He’s going to be shifting directions, landing range strikes, and trying to walk Munhoz into heavy counter shots — dealing with all that isn’t easy. Fortunately, Munhoz has the jawline to absorb some heavy blows without getting deterred, an attribute which is likely to be necessary here. Whenever Munhoz does get cracked, he has to keep advancing and firing, otherwise O’Malley is going to build a lead quickly.
On the whole, cutting off the cage is going to be so pivotal here. Munhoz may not be able to match O’Malley’s foot speed, but if he can stay in front of “Suga,” he doesn’t have to. Again, that will involve taking some shots, but that’s a fair trade if Munhoz can start touching his opponent as a result.
Finally, the calf kick might be the great equalizer here. It’s a proven weapon versus O’Malley, and there’s no better tool than the low kick to inhibit an opponent’s lateral movement.
A spot in the Top 10 is on the line.
O’Malley is already one of the bigger stars on UFC’s roster. If he can break into the Top 10 and become a genuine title contender, that’s only going to elevate his name so much further. He’s talked about following the McGregor path to super stardom, and a major element of that trajectory involves taking out elite opposition in high-profile fights.
This match up is a step in that direction.
As for Munhoz, his back is against the wall. “The Young Punisher” is now 35 years of age, and he’s fought most of the division’s best without consistent success. At this point, he’s been forced into something of a gatekeeper role. If he’s to escape that position and start climbing once more, there is no more room for setbacks.
At UFC 276, Sean O’Malley and Pedro Munhoz will open the main card. Which athlete will have his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 276 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 ABC/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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