Sean O’Malley is the new UFC bantamweight champion.
“Suga” captured the crown by planting Aljamain Sterling in the UFC 292 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last night (Sat., Aug. 19, 2023) at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., delivering a right hand bomb — chased with a barrage of follow-up punches — that prompted referee Marc Goddard to (hastily?) intervene.
Watch some of the “Sterling vs. O’Malley” video highlights right here.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, the 28 year-old O’Malley called for a rematch against Marlon Vera at the promotion’s upcoming UFC 296 card at T-Mobile Arena this Dec. in Las Vegas. Vera — who sent “Suga” into the loss column at UFC 252 back in summer 2020 — was also a part of the UFC 292 lineup, scoring a unanimous decision victory over bantamweight veteran Pedro Munhoz.
“I said going into this fight, it only takes one mistake against me. I don’t even know if that was a mistake — I’m just that f*cking good,” O’Malley said. “This is just the beginning of the ‘Suga’ era. I’m running this sh*t until 2035, baby. Did ‘Chito’ win? Was it boring? Probably. I’ll whoop ‘Chito’s’ ass in December in Vegas at T-Mobile. Let’s f*cking go!”
Fun fight, but probably not the one to make.
If we honor the UFC rankings (and we should, or there’s no point in having them) then Merab Dvalishvili deserves the title shot at UFC 296. “The Machine” is currently ranked No. 1 in the world and the winner of nine straight, which includes his victory over former bantamweight champion Petr Yan last March. Prior to that, Dvalishvili defeated former featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo.
By comparison, the No. 6-ranked Vera lost convincingly to Cory Sandhagen at UFC San Antonio before rebounding against Munhoz. Not surprisingly, the No. 4-ranked “Sandman” was unimpressed by the way O’Malley has been pushing for a “Chito” rematch — long before his Sterling upset at UFC 292.
I guess he didn't realize “the people have been waiting for it.”
“That’s some weak sauce, man,” Sandhagen told reporters ahead of UFC 292. “You want to fight the guy that other people are beating? That kind of bothers me about the way O’Malley thinks a little bit. It’s not even just O’Malley. It’s the way that sometimes the sport is set up where it’s like take the easiest fight for the least amount of money. That’s going to ruin some stuff. Don’t you want to when you win the belt to say that you’re the actual best because you fought the best guys? That’s my approach.”
O’Malley (17-1, 1 NC) has a history with Dvalishvili, a longtime training partner of Sterling, which includes a long-running gag that involves the champion’s red jacket. At the same time, nobody in the division is rushing to face “The Machine,” a punishing wrestler who boasts a whopping 74 takedowns in his UFC career, a record for the 135-pound weight class and fourth on the all-time list.
Vera, a striker by trade, is a far more favorable fight for the power-punching O’Malley.
UFC President Dana White did not commit to a first title defense for the newly-crowned champ and likely won’t for the next few weeks. There’s no question the Vera fight would be a compelling contest, and they have plenty of history to sell the fight, it just doesn’t make sense to skip over more deserving contenders to make it happen.
For more results and fallout from UFC 292 click here.