Sweet Redemption: “Sugar” Sean O’Malley Avenges Only Career Loss at UFC 299

March 11, 2024
3 months

Sean O’Malley told everyone who put a microphone in front of his face that Marlon “Chito” Vera that his opponent didn’t deserve a shot at the UFC bantamweight title. The only reason Vera was paired with O’Malley was because of their past history. Four years ago, Vera handed O’Malley his only professional loss with a first-round knockout.

During the rematch Saturday night at UFC 299 in Miami, O’Malley proved from the opening bell that the statement had some truth to it. Over the course of five rounds, O’Malley overwhelmed Vera with his striking and superior footwork. Vera had few answers for O’Malley.

By the time O’Malley landed his best shot of the fight, a vicious body shot that took the air out of O’Malley, there were only seconds remaining. When the judges’ scorecards were read, all three had O’Malley winning every round. One judge gave O’Malley a 10-8 round and 50-44 victory.

Following the fight, O’Malley called out recently-minted featherweight champion Ilia Topuria for a fight in Spain. While the best MMA news sites show O’Malley said he would fight top bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili if the UFC wanted, clearly he has the ambition to take on another top striker in a heavier division.

Poirier Halts Hype Train

No more guillotines. That’s what Dustin Poirier’s coach, Mike Brown, told him between the first and second rounds of his lightweight fight with Benoît Saint Denis. Poirier didn’t listen despite never having secured a guillotine choke in his career.

But when Poirier attempted to lock up a guillotine in the second round, he didn’t have the position or angle to finish it. So, he decided to stand and strike with Saint Denis. The former interim lightweight champ found the Frenchman wasn’t ready for the power.

Poirier dropped Saint Denis with a stiff punch and followed up with another shot to bring the fight to a stop in the second round. While Saint Denis had some good moments with his grappling, he showed he will need more seasoning before he is ready to challenge for a championship.

Poirier is now stuck in limbo as the lightweight title picture plays out. But the MMAfighting latest updates show that Poirier is happy to show everyone why he is still one of the top fighters in the division. Poirier’s victory also cemented how ridiculous it was that he was such a large betting underdog in this matchup.

MVP Takes Advantage of Good Matchup

Kevin Holland wants to try to beat opponents where they are at their strongest. It’s a strategy that led to him refusing to grapple and attempting to beat Stephen Thompson in a striking match. Holland ended up taking a TKO defeat in that match.

Fighting UFC debutant Michael Page proved to be another similar situation for Holland. Like Thompson, Page utilizes an open-stance karate style. Page also carries his hands low and lunges forward with power strikes. 

Online boxing news shows that Page did just enough to squeak out a decision over Holland. When Holland did grapple, mostly in the second round, he found success. Holland nearly secured a rear-naked choke in the second round, but Page was able to work back to his feet and eventually do enough to earn a win.

Maddalena Proves He Belongs at the Top

Jack Della Maddalena had his hands full with former welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns. Maddalena was taken down late in the third round and was in danger of seeing the scorecards. The fight had been close and it was possible that if he didn’t work back to his feet that the fight could have been scored either way.

Burns, who was ahead on two of the three scorecards, allowed Maddalena to wiggle free. When Burns returned to his feet and attempted to shoot for another takedown, Maddalena responded with a knee and finished the fight with heavy ground and pound. 

Maddalena called out another of the scariest challengers in the division, Shavkat Rakhmonov, for his next fight.

Yan Regains His Magic

Petr Yan being on the same fate card as O’Malley had to be tough for the former bantamweight champion. Yan lost his championship via DQ during his first title defense at UFC 259, and his career has been mostly a large struggle since. Yan had lost four of his previous five fights overall heading into his fight with Song Yadong at UFC 299.

In typical Yan fashion, he started slow before eventually wearing down Song with his well-rounded grappling and striking. Yan grabbed a win and kept his name in the group of contenders for title contention.

Almeida Learns the Hard Way

Jailton Almeida looked like a potential issue in the heavyweight rankings. But Almeida learned a painful truth about being in the division where opponents pack the most power. If you have an opportunity to finish your opponent, do it.

Don’t do what Almeida did Saturday night, which did not work to finish the fight after taking Curtis Blaydes down seven times in the first round. When Almeida would secure a takedown, he would mostly hang on Blaydes’ back. When the second round rolled around, Blaydes decided to change the fight’s story.

When Almeida shot for a takedown, Blaydes landed a strike and then knocked out Almeida with hammer fists. Blaydes hopes this win puts him back on a trajectory to win a championship. Blaydes does have a win over current interim heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall, albeit that win came via a TKO caused by a knee injury to Aspinall. Blaydes has reinserted himself into the competition about who should fight for the crown once the Jon Jones-Stipe Miocic fight happens and the division can move forward.

Here’s a look at the rest of the fights on the card that weren’t mentioned above:

  • Women’s flyweight, Maycee Barber win by decision over Katlyn Cerminara, 30-27(x2), 29-28
  • Lightweight, Mateusz Gamrot win by decision over Rafael dos Anjos, 29-28 (x2), 30-27
  • Bantamweight, Kyler Phillips win by decision over Pedro Munhoz, 30-27 (x3)
  • Light heavyweight, Philipe Lins win by decision over Ion Cuțelaba, 29-28 (x3)
  • Middleweight, Michel Pereira win by submission over Michal Oleksiejczuk, Round 1 1:01
  • Heavyweight, Robelis Despaigne win by TKO over Josh Parisian, Round 1 :18
  • Catchweight, Assu Almabayev won by decision over C.J. Vergara, 30-27 (x3)
  • Women’s flyweight, Joanne Wood win by split decision over Maryna Moroz, 29-28 Wood (x2), 29-28 Moroz

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By Dean McHugh.

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