Sean O’Malley scored a major upset in his first title bid in the promotion’s return to Boston, Mass., landing a clean right-hand counter on Aljamain Sterling in round two to declare himself the new 135-pound kingpin (watch highlights). Sterling’s three-defense title reign put him in position to be a prime candidate for an instant title rematch, but the jury remains out on whether or not it will happen.
Sterling recently picked up a grappling win over fellow UFC stablemate, Mike Grundy, and reminded the world he still wants a rematch with O’Malley. For former two-division UFC champion, Daniel Cormier — who was on call that night in “Beantown” — he believes “Funkmaster” is certainly deserving of the opportunity, but doesn’t think it will come to fruition.
“I love Aljamain Sterling. I love his ability to fight anybody, any time,” Cormier said on his YouTube channel (h/t MMA Junkie). “He’s the champ. He don’t care. He’s still fighting these dudes. As much as that made me love him even more than I did before, it ultimately is going to be the thing that makes it hard for him to get what he ultimately wants: that title fight.
“If Sean O’Malley doesn’t feel like he wants to fight him, he will not be forced,” he continued. “The more the star grows, the more input he will have on what his journey looks like. Is it unfair that ‘Aljo’ doesn’t get a title fight right away? Probably. With all those defenses? Absolutely. I’m taking that back. No ‘probably’ — absolutely, Aljamain should get a title fight. He should get a rematch. But he won’t, because O’Malley is not looking back.”
Despite only riding a one-fight win streak after a lopsided loss to Cory Sandhagen in March 2023, Marlon “Chito” Vera appears to be the likely first challenger of O’Malley’s. Vera scored a unanimous decision win over Pedro Munhoz on the same night that O’Malley defeated Sterling, setting up a potential rematch with O’Malley, whom Vera defeated in Aug. 2020.
Vera is the only man to have defeated O’Malley thus far (despite this absurd “Suga” claim), and the history between the two could further set back the top contender, Merab Dvalishvili.
“Does Merab deserve a title shot? Absolutely,” Cormier said. “Does Merab deserve a title fight more than ‘Chito’ Vera? Absolutely. What’s the likelihood of ‘Chito’ Vera fighting before Merab and ‘Aljo’ for the title? Pretty, pretty damn certain.
“They’ve got the backstory, they’ve got the history, they fought the same night, and Sean O’Malley wants to fight him because he wants [to avenge his only loss],” he concluded. “So ultimately, all the reasons that I chose to love ‘Aljo’ or you did is ultimately what’s going to cost him.”
Most important: It’s a big-money rematch.
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