Sean O’Malley (-310) vs. Marlon Vera (+250)
Weight Class: Bantamweight (135lbs)
The Sean O’Malley hype train is showing no signs of stopping as “The Sugar Show” finds himself in a co-main slot at UFC 252. It seems like O’Malley has fought 10 times this year due to the sheer brilliance of his KO’s, especially against Eddie Wineland. In reality, Sean O’Malley has only fought twice in 2020. One was his return against Jose Quinonez and the other was with Wineland, both resulting in highlight reel KO’s.
The odds certainly reflect the expectations behind the Sugar Show, as he is currently penciled in as a 3-to-1 favorite on FanDuel.
With that said, Marlon Vera will certainly be the toughest opponent O’Malley has faced in the UFC and it’s not really close. Prior to a controversial loss to Song Yadong back in May, Vera was on a five fight winning streak. All of his wins over this time period came via finish, including two rear naked choke submissions. The fight with Yadong truly was 50/50 and many thought that Vera won.
Whether he won or not, that performance highlights how win/loss record is far from everything in MMA. The UFC matchmakers clearly saw Vera’s stock rise following the Yadong fight and have given him a huge opportunity in Sean O’Malley.
Vera is excited about the opportunity to face O’Malley, if you wanna put it that way. “I just love to fight … but don’t get me wrong. It’ll be pretty f—ing sweet to hand him his first loss. Show him he’s not as good as he thinks. To say, ‘Shut the f— up, sit the f— down and go get better,” said Vera via Brett Okamoto.
So does Chito Vera stand a chance against Sean O’Malley. He certainly does, and while I’m still going to pick O’Malley, I think the odds should be a bit tighter.
We’ve heard that Sean O’Malley’s jiu-jitsu is very good, but we haven’t seen much of it implemented at the UFC level. He’s never faced an above average grappler and Vera, while not elite on the ground, is tricky. Like O’Malley, Vera is a long fighter, which can help with submissions.
Ultimately though, what Vera should be looking to do is simply grind on O’Malley. He needs to sap that power away, which he will do if he can force some clinch and/or grappling situations. The power is going to be there from start to finish, but Vera will have to take away that McGregor-esque, flawless KO power that Sean O’Malley has been displaying.
O’Malley has only gone to the cards once in the UFC, so we really don’t know how great his gas tank is. I’m sure it’s solid, but we simply haven’t seen him swim in deep waters with a fighter of Vera’s capability. What effect this will have on the fight, should it get there, remains to be seen.
Ultimately I’m going with O”Malley in this one, but I think the KO streak ends and he wins by points. Vera should be able to grind on him at least somewhat and if there’s no quick KO, I see the fight ending in a decision. I don’t think Vera will be able to dominate in the ground or in the clinch, as O’Malley is too explosive and big for the division.
On the feet, Vera has shown reluctance in the past. He’s a solid striker with great frame, but the output has been lacking at times. I think O’Malley outpoints him easily, though I do worry about a potential fade in the third. After last time, Vera will certainly be going for it in the third.
Prediction and play: Sean O’Malley by points (+195)