Who Does O’Malley Fight Next?

March 14, 2024
2 months

Sean O’Malley left UFC 299 like he had entered, as a bantamweight champion in the UFC. It was a personal battle against the man who gave him his only career loss to date, Marlon Vera. So, who does the brightly colored champ face next?

Face the No.1 Contender, Dvalishvili

There are few men with as much momentum in the bantamweight division as Merab Dvalishvili. The Georgian sambo specialist has won his last ten fights in the UFC, lastly against Henry Cejudo (a former bantamweight champion) at UFC 298. Simply put, ten straight victories deserve a title shot. The only problem is that his fighting style isn’t the most exciting. His sambo and grappling can neutralize a lot of fights, as Dvalishvili is a chess competitor, thinking several moves ahead of his opponent. While technically sound, it isn’t the blood and thunder combat that excites MMA news websites. Being very different from the Georgian, Sean O’Malley should be able to coax something out of the fight, but it might be all on the champion to bring any impromptu spark to the fight with his strikes; it’s often been touted that styles make fights.

Rematch with Sterling

The ’Funk Master’ Aljamain Sterling was the man Sean O’Malley dethroned to become the UFC bantamweight champion. Since then, Sterling has been vocal about his adversary, questioning his quality and overall ability. Even after O’Malley looked comfortable at UFC 299, Sterling remained unconvinced. Whether these are his genuine thoughts or he’s simply trying to forge a rematch, O’Malley-Sterling II is a very appealing PPV main event.

While automatic rematch clauses aren’t favored, Sterling deserves the chance to reclaim his belt. After all, before the loss to O’Malley, he won nine consecutive fights to win the title and unify the interim strap in a series that saw him defeat Petr Yan (twice), TJ Dillashaw, and Henry Cejudo. Sterling isn’t going to fade into obscurity just because he lost one fight to the man with the colorful hair. Praise should be given to Sterling for keeping himself busy since that loss, as he’s had three grappling fights, which will have sharpened his skills.

The Cross Division Brawl Against Topuria

Ilia Topuria and Sean O’Malley have a lot to say. The pair have been trading disdain for each other on social media and in interviews for a while now. The American fighter went as far as to call out the featherweight champion, Topuria,  after winning his fight at UFC 299. Dana White hasn’t been hot on the idea, but the fight and fan consensus would like to see this matchup happen. 

Topuria is a man of many cultures. Born in Germany to Georgian parents, he lived in both countries in his youth but now calls Alicante in Spain his home, recently becoming an official Spanish citizen. He’s been vocal that he would like to fight with the UFC on a card taking place in Spain; given he’s been praised by Spanish sporting superstars like Rafael Nadal and Andres Iniesta, he would have no problem attracting a big crowd, especially if he fights O’Malley. If this fight were to happen, the most logical division would be bantamweight, with Topuria having fought at that weight before. 

Break Convention and Fight Patchy Mix

In a world of crossover fights, the impossible now seems more and more accomplishable. While the heads at PFL and UFC are unlikely to let Sean O’Malley and Patchy Mix fight in a UFC Bantamweight Champ against Bellator Bantamweight Champ match, it is a contest that every MMA news site would get very excited about.

Why would this fight be so enthralling? Well, there’s almost no chance it would go all five rounds. While O’Malley looks for a KO finish with his strikes, Mix always looks to lock in one of his patent submission moves. Out of his 19-1 record, he’s scored 13 wins by way of submission and never once tapped out himself. Equally, the O’Malley has never tapped out, making for an intriguing bout, especially considering the pair’s nearly identical fight records (O’Malley currently at 18-1 (1)).

Try Another Boxing Bout

Again, referring to the cluttered world of combat sports – fighters seldom stay in their discipline lanes anymore. Boxers can turn to MMA, and MMA fighters can turn to boxing. Sean O’Malley was ahead of the groove as he’s already had a boxing match in his career. He’s 1-0 in the sport, defeating a fighter called David Courtney in July 2016 with a first-round win. It’s no wonder that O’Malley was successful in that boxing fight due to his strikes. It would be MMA breaking news if he decided to step away from the octagon and fight between the ropes.

O’Malley would be an intriguing opponent for any boxer in a similar division if the opportunity presented itself. The most immediate boxer that comes to mind when thinking of an adversary for the brightly colored UFC champ is Ryan Garcia. The pair simply cannot stand each other, having exchanged bitter words on social media.

Another potential opponent could be Takuma Inoue. The pair have already done much in their respective sports disciplines but could benefit by stepping into an unknown world. O’Malley could show his boxing pedigree by fighting a top champion, while Inoue desperately needs to prove himself outside his homeland.

Jason Maloney is another boxer who has already reached the pinnacle of the bantamweight division, as he holds the WBO title. Unfortunately, he’s not a big name by any stretch. However, if he were to entertain O’Malley in a fight, it would elevate his stature.

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By Dean McHugh.

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