3 Ways Sterling vs O’Malley Could Play Out at UFC 292

Image for 3 Ways Sterling vs O’Malley Could Play Out at UFC 292

Headlining UFC 292 is a blockbuster bantamweight title bout between the dominant champion, Aljamain Sterling and the fan favourite, Sean O’Malley. The two men have differing styles and there are plenty of questions to answer heading into the bout itself.

Three Ways Sterling vs O’Malley Could Play Out

  1. Sterling dominates in the Wrestling Realm

There’s no doubt that the champ, Sterling, at least on paper, has the far superior wrestling game. It’s been his bread and butter since he joined the UFC back in 2014. His credentials speak for themselves, having competed at NCAA Division 3 level, he’s adapted his game excellently for MMA.

Although his takedown accuracy sits at just 24%, he’s relentless in his pursuit of the takedown. In his last three fights, he’s landed 11 takedowns, including four against Olympic gold medalist, Henry Cejudo. It’s not only his takedowns, but his ground control when he gets his opponents to the floor. A black-belt under Matt Serra, Sterling is a dominant presence on the ground.

For O’Malley, his ground game is largely unknown. He’s got an impressive 60% takedown defence, however, was taken down six times against Petr Yan last time out. Yan wasn’t able to do a lot with the takedowns, however, if Sterling gets O’Malley down, it could be a long night for the challenger.

O’Malley himself is a brown-belt in BJJ under Augusto Mendes and regularly competes in grappling tournaments, so is certainly no slouch on the ground. The question is, will he be able to handle Funkmaster on the ground? One scenario that could certainly play out is that the answer to that question is that he can’t handle the ground game of the champion and that Sterling dominates over 25 minutes and cruises to a decision victory.

2. O’Malley Knocks Out Sterling

The challenger at UFC 292 is one of the slickest strikers in the bantamweight division and UFC as a whole. He holds legitimate one-punch knockout power and can mix it up between pure boxing and kickboxing alike.

He’s notched 11 knockout finishes across his 15 MMA wins, including five in his last eight fights. Few have been able to take the power of O’Malley and the only man who has, Petr Yan, was relatively outstruck with the harder shots that landed.

If O’Malley can plug the hole in his game (the susceptibility to being hurt with the lower leg kick), he has a far better chance of out-striking Sterling. He lands 7.43 significant strikes per minute, at an accuracy of 60%.

For Sterling, he absorbs 2.37 significant strikes per minute. He has been knocked out before, however. Marlon Moraes knocked Sterling out with a knee and how can we forget that he was unable to continue after ‘that’ knee from Petr Yan in their first bout.

His awkward style lends itself to being countered when he attempts takedowns too. He tends to wade in with strikes in order to get to his opponent’s legs. O’Malley’s footwork and in and out movement is good enough to avoid these strikes and punish Sterling for any lazy attempts at takedowns, which could lead to him being crowned the new champion via knockout.

3. O’Malley Gasses Out and Sterling Secures the Submission Victory

A very big possibility in the UFC 292 main event is that Sean O’Malley cannot last the full 25 minutes at a high pace and thus gasses out. There are a number of factors that play into this theory playing out.

Firstly, he’s got a history of becoming drained at points in fights. Against Petr Yan, this was massively evident. The later the fight got, the less O’Malley threw combinations and the more he relied on single shots. He’s been skilled enough to not need to rely on his cardio lasting the full fight, finishing the majority of fights early.

He’s also never been scheduled for the championship distance of 25 minutes. Never has he been booked for a main event and therefore hasn’t had to prepare for the ‘extra’ 10 minutes of a main event slot. How will he handle this and will the moment of being in such a big fight get to him? It’s unlikely that it will, he’s a ‘big fight’ kind of personality. He enjoys the spotlight, enjoys the limelight and will likely embrace the moment. It’s worth considering, however.

Likewise, Sterling, we know can go for 25 minutes at an insane pace. He’s gone 25 hard with Yan and Cejudo and prepared for 25 minutes for TJ Dillashaw in between those fights. He’s familiar with going at least 15 minutes, seeing a final bell in 13 of his 26 professional fights and he also knows how to handle a big fight week. The Funkmaster has headlined a huge PPV against Cejudo last time out, so he knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight.

Sterling can handle his cardio well in big grudge matches and will do so at UFC 292. He’ll gas out O’Malley, making the takedown easier and consequently take over in the later rounds, locking in a submission and hearing ‘and new’ once again.

Share this article

Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *