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Sean O’Malley celebrates his no contest against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276. Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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Sean O’Malley took a step backward at UFC 276

Sean O’Malley fought to a “No Contest” with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276.

Sean O’Malley came into UFC 276 last night (Sat., July 2, 2022) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on the back of a 15-1 record and a whole lot of talk. Waiting for him inside T-Mobile Arena was Pedro Munhoz, the most accomplished opponent “Suga” had ever faced.

O’Malley met Munhoz — the No. 9-seeded Bantamweight on the roster — after spending the last few years dodging higher-ranked opponents (who he had no interest in fighting while on his entry-level UFC deal). Since joining the promotion in 2017, the Contender Series standout was unabashed in his acceptance of Chael Sonnen’s advice to, “fight the worst guy on the best spot on the card.”

The 27-year-old definitely had a good spot on the card last night. He opened the pay-per-view (PPV) show, one that featured two world title bouts, a legend of the sport, and one of the most exciting prospects in the promotion.

But, despite having that spot — and the opportunity to beat a tough opponent who could launch him into the Top 10 — O’Malley faltered. And the fight itself failed to generate a winner. Instead, O’Malley’s mixed martial arts (MMA) record gains an odd-looking set of parenthesis wrapped around the letters “NC.”

Sean O’Malley celebrates his no contest against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276.
Sean O’Malley celebrates his no contest against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Plenty of storied fighters have kinky records with sprinklings of “No Contests,” draws and disqualifications. However, for this “NC” context is the key.

The bout, due to its ending, will likely be forgotten and certainly won’t count as a loss on O’Malley’s official record. Though, as far as O’Malley’s upward trajectory is concerned — it might as well be an “L.”

Last night, O’Malley looked a step behind Munhoz. The Brazilian harried O’Malley from the get-go, taking the center of the Octagon and landing almost every leg kick he threw to slow down and confound O’Malley.

Official stats show that Munhoz only landed one more strike than O’Malley (though he was 10 percent more accurate). But, it was plain to see Munhoz’s offense was wearing on O’Malley’s in a way that was not reciprocated.

In fact, two of the three cageside judges felt this was the case, scoring the first round 10-9 in favor of Munhoz.

Official scorecard of Pendro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley | UFC 276
Official scorecard of Pendro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley | UFC 276
UFC

The most notable contributions from O’Malley in the fight, which only lasted a round and change, were two illegal blows. In the first, he caught Munhoz with a front kick right between the legs. Fortunately, it didn’t require too much recovery time.

In the second, O’Malley stuck his fingers all over Munhoz’s face, making enough contact with the eye that the fight needed to be called off.

These things happen in combat sports. That being said, two fouls in such a short amount of time isn’t a great look. At best, this was careless from O’Malley. At worst, it represents a lack of precision and technique. Let’s stop short of saying any of this was intentional, though.

Rightly, the fight was called a “No Contest” after Munhoz was rendered unable to safely compete. It was a disappointing end to the bout ... at least for most of us.

After the doctor told referee Jason Herzog that the fight had to be stopped, O’Malley treated us to his signature victory celebration — the step-back fade-away jumper à la Kobe Bryant.

Does O’Malley think this counts as a win? We’ve seen some fighters confused when a fight gets called off like this, thinking they may have scored a technical knockout. But, it seems unlikely that O’Malley didn’t realize the doctor was checking the result of an accident foul, something that was never going to lead to his hand being raised.

The self-hype in the lead-up, the loss on the scorecards, the annoying fouls and the delusion of winning (whether it’s genuine or kayfabe) all add up to a pretty unsatisfying night for O’Malley.

In 2021, before he fought Raulian Paiva, he said he had three fights left on his contract. In June he was able to negotiate a new deal with the promotion, one he said he was very happy with. That seemed to pave the way for O’Malley accepting a fight with a Top 10-ranked opponent.

So far, in his UFC career, O’Malley’s shown a level of business sense that is unlike many of his cohorts on the roster. He’s had a solid plan that, if executed perfectly, could see him progress up the rankings and, more important, get that bag. But performances like this aren’t going to help him get another big name (or a big check).

Last night — just like he did during his jump-shot celebration — O’Malley took a step back.


To check out the latest and greatest UFC 276: “Adesanya vs. Cannonier” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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