Sean O’Malley became a UFC champion for the first time after defeating Aljamain Sterling in August last year. At UFC 299 he will begin his title defense against Marlon Vera, in a fight that could provide a platform for a period of domination.
Throughout his 19-fight career so far, O’Malley has been victorious on 17 occasions in the Octagon. His bout with Pedro Munhoz in 2022 was deemed a no-contest, and his single loss came from Vera, whom he will meet again in March.
O’Malley embarked on an incredible journey following his first and only defeat in 2020. The past few years have seen him get the better of huge names such as Petr Yan and Thomas Almeida en route to his UFC champion status.
However, now the American could face arguably his strongest battle yet, as he looks to beat the only man who has stopped him so far.
O’Malley is the heavy favorite
O’Malley has certainly improved massively in recent years, some would even pinpoint his 2020 defeat as a crucial catalyst to making him the fighter he is today.
He will enter the rematch against the Ecuadorian in March as a heavy favorite to level the pair’s all-time series. Many online betting sites in the Philippines offer O’Malley at slim odds to claim victory, for example, Bwin offers the American at -188 to defeat Vera.
Eyes from every corner of the world will be watching the main event of UFC 299, with intrigue as to whether a legendary fighter could be born, or whether a short peak will come to an end for O’Malley.
Despite his magnificent rise, O’Malley’s legacy is very much still on the line. He must avenge his prior defeat to Vera in the rematch, and that could open up the door to establishing himself as one of the greatest bantamweights of all time.
But why did Vera’s style cause O’Malley problems in 2020, and could history repeat itself against the bantamweight title holder this year?
Vera’s fighting style and how it could impact the rematch
Vera is a fighter who displays remarkable raw power and endurance that few fighters in the division’s history could compare to.
O’Malley is so quick and agile in the Octagon that he typically tires his opponents before delivering a killer blow. However, in the pair’s previous meeting, Vera showed no signs of tiring and refused to let O’Malley dictate the fight.
This meant that the 2020 fight was a true head-to-head battle of heavy hits and pure chaos. Vera of course delivered the decisive blow and forced O’Malley to suffer a feeling he had never felt before in the UFC.
Vera at his current age is a strong hitter although his speed and anticipation have certainly regressed. He is still a fighter who shows remarkable resilience, and he could perhaps win the rematch through sheer determination, similar to Sean Strickland’s shock UFC 293 victory over Israel Adesanya in 2023.
Chita is also – similarly to O’Malley – relatively tall for a bantamweight fighter, and this has commonly caused issues for Suga Sean in the past.
The American’s slender build usually allows him to tower over his opponents, while also holding an advantage in terms of movement, but Chita will be able to close down the space like few others could against the current champion.
Stylistically, Vera is one of the toughest opponents that O’Malley could face in his opening title defense. The UFC world will expect the impressive O’Malley to finally avenge the only defeat of his career, but it will be no straightforward task.
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