UFC Bantamweight champion “Suga” Sean O’Malley is set to defend his newly-earned title for the first time on March at UFC 299 against Marlon “Chito” Vera, a violently dangerous fighter sporting the most finishes (10) in the division’s history.
Sean O’Malley in Precarious Spot Heading into UFC 299 Main Event
The 299 card is undeniably stacked and the stage is set to have as many eyes on the Suga Show as possible for another highlight finish, even against the unfinishable “Chito”, a man who has been stopped exactly zero times in 32 fights.
But what if that does not happen? What if Sean loses?
It is a fair assumption that someone with the record, star power, and favorability of the UFC that O’Malley has would at worst be one win away from another shot at the belt, but this circumstance is much more unique because in this timeline the champion holds the title but lacks the leverage.
Uniquely, these two already met in a non-title bout back in August of 2020, with the now-title contender finishing the now-champion via a TKO that was set up by a rather rare injury. “Chito” successfully struck Sean’s peroneal nerve with a high calf kick, which rendered the leg useless for the remainder of the fight. Shortly after the apparent injury caused by the leg kick, Vera pounced for the eventual finish.
Another O’Malley loss would do damage to his legacy for a list of reasons, but an 0-2 record to the theoretical champ in “Chito” would completely stonewall Sean from another title shot as long as Vera held the belt, especially if the result is another finish.
The high risk, low reward nature of this matchup should cause some anxiety if you’re in the O’Malley camp. Besides building a championship legacy, which already creates immense pressure, Sean has to prove in convincing fashion that his one loss was a fluke.
A closely contested decision win will not do O’Malley any favors given the circumstances of the first fight. For the sake of getting the monkey off his back, Sean will have to orchestrate a highlight finish against a guy that no one else has finished, otherwise the 1-1 or 0-2 banter will linger.
The implications of either a sweep or a trilogy offers a lot more at stake than a traditional title fight. With Sean seeking superstardom, “Chito” can steal the hype and raise his own stardom with another win and clean sweep the reigning Bantamweight champion.