Could O’Malley Retain Against Prime Cruz?

February 1, 2024
1 month

Sean O’Malley realized his dreams at UFC 292 when he won the UFC bantamweight championship as his punches ended the fight against Aljamain Sterling. The freak with the multi-colored hair had conquered the division. In March 2023, at UFC 299, he was set to defend that title against Marlon Vera in his first championship defense. Questions now arise as to whether O’Malley could mix it with bantamweight greats, you know, like Dominick Cruz.

O’Malley Looks to Overcome Career Asterisk – Vera

Sean O’Malley had his world and UFC career rocked back in 2020. After a successful debut, he was a young upstart in his second fight with the company. Marlon Vera turned down the volume on his career before it started as the American ended up leaving UFC 252 after just four minutes and thirty-seven seconds as the fight ended in the first round. The result made MMA breaking news at the time. This ended his unbeaten streak as he slid to a 12-1 overall record.

Since then, O’Malley climbed to 17-1 (1) and conquered the bantamweight division in the company by winning the championship. He shouldn’t need to worry about the Ecuadorian fighter, but a fighter like O’Malley will be proud enough to want to put the asterisk to bed. If he can avenge that loss in his first title defense, he’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that he’s on the same level as his adversary.

Vera, by comparison, has been hit and miss since defeating the American. He followed up that win with a loss to Jose Aldo just four months later. Vera earned this title shot by defeating Pedro Munhoz at UFC 292, the same card O’Malley won the strap.

Cruz Made the UFC Bantamweight Division

Who remembers the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion? Or WEC, as it was commonly spelled. This was an alternative to the UFC for MMA fans before the days when the PFL, Bellator, and ONE Championship gave it a proper scare. UFC bought WEC and took the best talent along for the ride. WEC never got the media attention from MMA news sites at the time, as the sport was still a minority interest.

Impressed so much by the bantamweight division and appreciating the void of a parallel roster in the UFC, it was announced that the final WEC bantamweight champion would be awarded the newly formed UFC bantamweight championship. Dominick Cruz defended the strap in the co-main of WEC 53 (the final card from the company) and was subsequently named the UFC bantamweight champion.

Yet he didn’t just win it in an inferior promotion and defend it against his former challengers in the UFC. Firstly, he defended it against Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson before vacating the title for numerous injuries that ruled him out of action. Those injuries kept him out for three years. Cruz, undeterred, would earn a title shot for the belt he never lost by defeating Takeya Mizugaki in 61 seconds by KO. He then would retrieve his bantamweight championship by defeating TJ Dillashaw. Since then, however, he has slipped down the rankings, having suffered a few losses in the UFC.

How Would the Fight Between O’Malley and Cruz Play Out?

With a tremendous stand-and-fight action, of course! Both Sean O’Malley and Dominick Cruz utilize their striking with their fists to register damage and record wins. O’Malley has a reach advantage and would use his additional 10 cm to land his creative punches. He is arguably more adept with his feet, and given the reach advantage, he would combine the two attributes to look for openings to land a finishing kick on Cruz.

While both men would prefer to stay on their feet, Cruz has enough fight IQ to know that O’Malley’s defense is weakest when he is grounded. While neither combatant has a perfect takedown defense, Cruz is probably more efficient in securing the maneuver. From there, Cruz could use some of his wrestling skills to keep in control of the fight.

In the entirety of the two men’s extensive fight careers, they’ve only recorded one submission win. Even that was long ago when Cruz fought for Total Combat in 2006. If this was Cruz from his prime against O’Malley, there’s no way it would go all five rounds. However, comparing the contemporary versions of both fighters then, Cruz would probably try to get a decision win if he couldn’t end the fight in the first two rounds.

Could This Fight Still Happen?

You will probably appreciate by now that Sean O’Malley and Dominick Cruz are still active members of the UFC roster. O’Malley is the bantamweight champion, while Cruz has held that title twice before, including the inaugural reign. The only problem with this fight happening anytime soon is that they are at polar opposite ends of their careers and the divisional rankings. O’Malley would need to lose his title and the subsequent re-match, and Cruz would need to win two or three fights in the same duration for this fight to get booked.

O’Malley Against Cruz in the Boxing Ring?

One of the most appealing reasons for a fight between Sean O’Malley and Dominick Cruz is that the pair have some similar attributes. One of which is their tendency to stand and trade punches. O’Malley has even fought a professional boxing fight, winning by TKO in the first round.

While Cruz hasn’t got a boxing fight on his career resume, he is considered one of the best pure strikers from his MMA generation. His lateral movement, combined with quick footwork and head movement, is very similar to that of a professional boxer. He could have made a decent career out of the sport without pursuing MMA. In this age of crossover fights and bare-knuckle-attacking MMA athletes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see O’Malley against Cruz on a future BKFC card in a match that would excite the bare-knuckle boxing news sites.

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By Dean McHugh.