Can 'Suga' Sean O'Malley Take The Next Step at UFC 280?
Dana White showed that he means business with the UFC 280 card in Abu Dhabi as it is undoubtedly the most anticipated card of the year.
Atop the card is a bout between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev for the lightweight belt. Behind them will be Aljamain Sterling vs TJ Dillashaw for the bantamweight title. It doesn't end there though, as Suga Sean O'Malley will also fight Petr Yan and that might be the most interesting fight of the night.
Suga Sean O'Malley vs Petr Yan will be the number 1 contender fight for the bantamweight division. O'Malley is one of, if not the fastest rising UFC stars the sport has, while Petr Yan is an established superstar with some really impressive wins on his resume. This will be a pretty sizable jump in opposing talent for Suga since his last fight was Pedro Munhoz and that one ended as a no contest due to an eye poke.
Some have suggested that the 'Suga Show' may not be deserving of the fight but he's not focused on that. Today at the press conference, he seemed much more concerned with the fact that Yan didn't even actually want to take this fight.
"I know he was saying that he picked the fight, but I don't believe that. I think he got bullied into it." said O'Malley
This comes after Yan called O'Malley a "Conor McGregor wannabe," which seems like a strange insult seeing as though that is the most popular fighter to ever do it. Who wouldn't want to be McGregor? Either way, this will be the biggest test of Sean's career and a huge opportunity for him to propel himself into the upper echelon of the bantamweight division.
Petr Yan on the other hand is trying to get himself another chance to get his bantamweight division belt back after losing his last title bout to Aljamain Sterling via split decision. Yan is currently the #2 ranked fighter in his division and showed his displeasure with O'Malley's appearance at the presser.
"Just look at him, he's like a w**** on the side of the road." stated Yan
That was probably a knock on O'Malley's new hairstyle. Sean has red dyed hair for this fight, as bright and showy hair has become a staple of the Suga Sean experience. The young phenom has shown nothing but power inside the octagon since losing to Marlon Vera in 2020.
Before the eye poke incident with Pedro Munhoz, O'Malley was on a 3 fight knockout streak. Thomas Almeida was the first victim in the 3rd round, followed by Kris Moutinho in the 3rd round, then Raulian Paiva in the first round. Decisions haven't been part of the 'Suga Show' and there isn't a person out there who'd complain about that.
Yan has never been knocked out in his UFC career and while many people wonder if O'Malley can be the first to do it, there's an even bigger question in this fight. Can Suga grapple if Yan takes him to the ground? Over the last 3 years, Sean hasn't been forced to show his ability on the mat.
He has forced his opponents to stand with him due to his solid takedown defense, but Yan presents a much greater challenge in that respect. While Petr hasn't gone to the ground too much in a couple fights, he did land 7 takedowns in his first fight vs Aljamain Sterling. He has that ability in his back pocket and it would be shocking to not see him attempt to use it in this fight.
In terms of the stand up game, Yan is no slouch there either but the power lies with O'Malley. If Yan decided to stand with Suga, things will get very interesting very fast in this one. If he takes it to the ground, it will also be incredibly intriguing to see how Sean responds to that.
The way Yan approaches this fight from the very start will be telling. If he starts off feeling O'Malley out, it will show his respect for the power Suga holds. If he starts off swinging and being very active, it'll show his desire to set the tone right away.
Many of us know what to expect from Sean O'Malley, but not many of us know what to expect from Petr Yan. He's taking a big risk by accepting this fight because he has far more to lose than O'Malley does. With that being said, he's also ranked 11 spots ahead of Suga so he should be able to handle the young star.
At the end of the day, this fight is huge for the trajectory of Sean's career. It is his first chance to prove he belongs atop his division. It's his first chance to get a shot at the belt. It's his first chance to show he can hang with the top dogs.
This is the fight that could start the reign of 'Suga' Sean O'Malley. This is his chance to have his McGregor vs Aldo moment, as mentioned by Dana White. If he wins this fight his entire career changes for the better.
The chance is right in front of him. Can he take the next step?
If you ask me, I think he does. This is his time.