UFC 292 goes down on Aug. 19, 2023, in Boston, Mass., headlined by Bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, and popular rising star, “Suga” Sean O’Malley.
Sterling has been hesitant about the August return since Dana White announced it in the hours following his UFC 288 title defense against Henry Cejudo. The promotion didn’t even give “Funkmaster” a chance to go to the doctor and get checked out before declaring the three-month turnaround.
Unless UFC manages to make the fight worth Sterling rushing back, we have our doubts it’ll happen. If it does, O’Malley’s coach, Tim Welsh, believes it represents the toughest fight in the division.
“Stylistically, I think this is the most dangerous Bantamweight champion there’s ever been,” Welch said in an interview with ESPN. “I really think that. He’s so athletic, long and strong. He’s not just a good wrestler, he’s a good wrestler with good jiu-jitsu and he’s very funky. He switches stances, he throws spazzy things at you. He’s good at chaining his wrestling together.
“Most dangerous Bantamweight ever, in my opinion,” Welch concluded.
O’Malley has proven he belongs at the top of the division, but he still hasn’t faced a dominant wrestler. He seemed dismayed when Henry Cejudo fell to Sterling, probably partially because size-wise, Sterling is the much bigger and therefore tougher opponent to grapple for 25 minutes.
“Suga” will have to be able to fight these wrestling powerhouses, though, if he plans to stay a champion at 135 pounds.
“Merab is definitely up there,” Welch added. “Anyone who can put the pedal to the medal for five rounds is a freak of nature. But [Sterling] is just so funky. If you make one simple mistake, he’s going to be on your back the whole time. His cardio has gotten better.
“He’s not only good at grappling, but MMA grappling,” Welch continued. “The timing is going to be right when he’s ready to start punching you or advancing to half guard or mounting and forcing you to give up your back. He’s very good physically and technically.”
In the end, Welsh is confident in his fighter.
“If anybody’s going to [beat] him, it’s ‘Suga,’” Welch said. “His whole career, the gameplan against Sean has been to put him on the fence and take him down. His whole career has been that way.”