O’Malley Could Trade with Inoue

March 4, 2024
1 month

Sean O’Malley has accomplished a lot in his MMA career. Signing up to the UFC in 2018, he’s now the bantamweight champion, building his success on fierce strikes. He’s even fought one professional boxing fight and won it. Could he transition to boxing and succeed against fellow bantamweight champ Takuma Inoue?

Champion Looking for Closure at UFC 299

UFC 299 has the unfortunate duty of being the significant warm-up for the staple UFC 300 card, but that does not mean there aren’t amazing fights at the Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida. The main event will see Sean O’Malley defend his bantamweight championship against Marlon Vera.

It’s a personal match-up for O’Malley. His UFC career has often been scrutinized for his loudmouth antics and unusual hairstyle choices. When Vera defeated the American at UFC 252, the trolls and critics fueled the fire. That’s been the only defeat in O’Malley’s UFC career, as he’s since ascended the ranks and claimed the championship last August by defeating Aljamain Sterling with a second-round TKO. If he can defeat Vera four years after their first fight, he will prove his worth to all those who doubted him, potentially making some MMA breaking news in the process.

O’Malley’s Style Lends Itself to Boxing

Sean O’Malley’s success has been a byproduct of his potent strikes. He tends to finish fights with his punches. As mentioned earlier, the title fight had Aljamain Sterling seeing stars after a TKO finish, while he also ended Raulian Paiva, Thomas Almeida, and Eddie Wineland by punching offense.

Given that he likes to throw a good punch, he’s stepped into the boxing ring once before. He defeated David Courtney by TKO in the very first round in Phoenix, Arizona, back in 2016. If he never boxes again, he’ll be able to retire with a 100% win rate in pro boxing! Yet, there are many reasons why he should consider the sweet science again.

It’s not just O’Malley’s fighting that lends itself to boxing. He’s incredibly vocal about boxers that he doesn’t like. He’s already made enemies of Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia in heated stories that have captured the imagination of both MMA news websites and boxing news sites. If he never fights Takuma Inoue, he could end up fighting one of the other two, given how bitter the rivalries have become.

Inoue Needs to Fight Outside Japan

Takuma Inoue might have escaped the rural setting of Zama, Kanagawa, for the bright lights of Tokyo and Saitama Super Arena, having ascended the bantamweight division and defeated multiple opponents. The problem is that he’s never fought outside Japan. While many fighters want to visit the country, he’s limited in the quality of opponents he can face. Not every promotion is willing to work in the country when there are markets with much bigger profits in the United States, the United Kingdom, and, more recently, Saudi Arabia.

Inoue must make that next step overseas to become undisputed in the boxing bantamweight division. His brother, Naoya Inoue, has already done so, having fought multiple times in both the US and the UK. If Inoue wants to gently work his way into a significant level of competition, he could entertain a crossover fight…with Sean O’Malley. The UFC champion offers Inoue a valid boxing fight, having fought in a pro boxing match before and showing excellent pedigree with his striking game to contest the Japanese boxer properly.

The long-term goal for Inoue now has to be to unify the belts at Bantamweight. Junto Nakatani, a fellow Japanese bantamweight champion, would be happy to fight in Tokyo, Saitama, or Yokohama. That, however, is where the Japanese-based matches stop. Jason Maloney and Emmanuel Rodríguez, the other divisional title holders, will want to get paid by those lucrative promoters who tend to operate outside of Japan.

How Does O’Malley-Inoue Play Out?

Firstly, this fight would take place in the boxing ring. While Takuma Inoue might be able to last a few rounds in the cage, he’s never shown an interest in fighting in that discipline, while Sean O’Malley has boxed before.

Two distinct styles would be showcased in this hypothetical fight. O’Malley would aim to finish the fight with his superior power and speed. While he’s not the one with extensive boxing experience, he would bring his velocity-laden strikes to the ring to floor the Japanese fighter early. This would be his best way of succeeding in the fight.

That’s because Takuma Inoue is a very disciplined and focused fighter. He takes his time and doesn’t get emotional in fights; he’s happy to jab, play the control game, and win round by round. It’s not blood-and-thunder boxing, but it has won him 14 fights out of 20 in his career. In his last fight, he got a rare KO victory against Jerwin Ancajas, but that was a rare exception. It does show versatility; however, if O’Malley was able to frustrate him, Inoue could turn up the power gauge and look for a KO if necessary.

If O’Malley were successful, he could realistically start a boxing career, having gone 2-0. Inoue’s credibility would take a massive dent if he lost at his own game to an MMA fighter. Yet if the Japanese fighter could knock off O’Malley, he’d have the confidence to step up to more challenging fights outside his homeland. It wouldn’t move the needle too much regarding his career prospects other than the novelty of winning a crossover fight and achieving an unusual feat.

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By Dean McHugh.