UFC 292 takeaways: Let the comparisons begin between Sean O’Malley and Conor McGregor

Sean O’Malley not solely modified the bantamweight division, however the whole panorama of the UFC after ending Aljamain Sterling. Zhang Weili cruised in her title protection, whereas Ian Machado Garry remained undefeated. Marc Raimondi, Brett Okamoto, Jeff Wagenheim and Carlos Contreras Legaspi spotlight the most important takeaways from a giant evening in Boston.

Sean O’Malley is a rarity in blended martial arts, a fighter who resonates passionately with followers who soak in his candy abilities however acknowledge that they’re simply the tip of a Technicolor iceberg. He is thrilling to look at. His explosiveness in a combat all the time threatens to make an enviornment shake to its basis. And past the cage, O’Malley has a pure manner with phrases together with a swagger and elegance that can’t be faked.

You both have it or you do not. And “Suga Sean” has it.

Sound like anybody else who dominated the game?

Positive, it is hyperbolic and maybe lazy to go off anybody as a brand new Conor McGregor, however when O’Malley dropped UFC males’s bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling with a counter proper hand early in Spherical 2 of their UFC 292 most important occasion on Saturday at TD Backyard in Boston, it was eerily paying homage to the evening again in 2015 when McGregor clipped featherweight king Jose Aldo to seize his first championship.

Everybody however the fighter himself doubted McGregor on that evening eight years in the past in his bid to unseat a legend who on the time was acclaimed as the best 145-pounder. And plenty of doubted O’Malley within the leadup to this combat in opposition to maybe historical past’s biggest bantamweight. It was not simply the expectations that have been related for each star challengers. So have been their paths to victory. Each McGregor and O’Malley used their storied opponents’ aggression in opposition to them, using timing and precision to raise themselves to the highest of the game.

O’Malley displayed a quieter confidence this previous week than McGregor had manner again when. Suga Sean blended humility in together with his boldness. However just like the celebrity who got here earlier than him, O’Malley immediately put an finish to any discuss him being a product of hype.

That was a standard narrative as O’Malley rose via the 135-pound ranks. He got here into UFC 292 with only one defeat in his 18 bouts, however there lengthy had been rumblings that the UFC was feeding him winnable fights in an effort to profit from his audacious character and colourful look. Even after Suga Sean defeated former 135-pound champion Petr Yan final October, many discovered a motive to discredit the large win, which got here by cut up resolution.

However now?

There isn’t any option to doubt O’Malley any longer. (OK, no cheap option to throw shade on the new champ, as everyone knows social media perpetually finds a option to rain on each parade.) The challenger, a 2-1 betting underdog, fought a good, uneventful Spherical 1 in opposition to the person with extra bantamweight victories within the UFC than anybody. Then, firstly of the second spherical, when Sterling tried to place his elite wrestling to make use of, O’Malley fended off a takedown try. When the champ then tried to shut the gap by throwing a left hand, O’Malley evaded the punch and landed one among his personal. A tough one. It dropped Sterling, and O’Malley pounced with punches to complete the job.

And so ended what one would possibly name the pilot episode of The Suga Present, with way more leisure — and greatness? — to return. — Wagenheim

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for O’Malley and Sterling?

My phrase. What a freaking efficiency. On the most important stage, in a matchup most of us noticed as very unfavorable to him … Suga delivered.

For the brand new champ, Cory Sandhagen needs to be subsequent.

You would possibly say all of that put collectively means he ought to get what he desires: A rematch in opposition to Chito Vera. And I am going to let you know what: I really like that combat. Looooove that combat. It is actually one of many high fights the UFC could make by way of storyline and stylistic matchup.

However we cannot give Vera that combat when Sandhagen is simply sitting there, prepared and prepared to go. Sandhagen simply beat Vera in March. Granted it was a cut up resolution. I do suppose there is a time and place to have somebody skip forward in line — it is all case by case — however this is not one which warrants it for me. Between O’Malley, Sandhagen and Vera, you may have three of probably the most entertaining, expert fighters within the sport. All of them deserve the most important fights attainable. However proper now, Vera is the least deserving of the three, regardless that he has historical past with the present champ. It needs to be O’Malley vs. Sandhagen in December.

As a wild card, I would lean towards Vera. Stranger issues have occurred. A lot, a lot stranger issues. O’Malley is rapidly turning into celebrity standing, and that counts for one thing. If he begins calling out a specific identify, that matchup generates warmth and it makes the UFC clearly need it much more.

(And by the way in which, when you’re questioning the place Merab Dvalishvili’s identify is in all of this, it is unclear at this level whether or not he’d be able to go by December. If he’s, his identify clearly will get added proper into this combine.)

As for Sterling, I believe Dominick Cruz needs to be subsequent. This one appears fairly darn apparent, does it not? The ‘bantamweight GOAT’ dialog comes down to 2 names: Sterling and Cruz. Cruz has been looking Sterling for awhile, as a result of Sterling was the champ. Cruz hasn’t fought in a yr, since shedding by way of knockout to Vera. He is nonetheless one of many largest names within the division and he is nonetheless extremely ranked.

It is a good combat for Sterling to take. He is not going to maneuver as much as 145 off this and there is good avenue cred in beating a man like Cruz.

I would have Rob Font as a wild card and I do not love this matchup as a result of there’s not likely a lot of a narrative right here. It is sort of a giant drop for Sterling, who was primarily one win away from cleansing out the division. Now, you are telling me he has to face the No. 7-ranked man, off one loss? It is not ultimate, definitely.

However as a result of he is already fought so lots of the names on the high, it is one of many few recent matchups that is there, and it is also a matchup between two guys coming off a loss. I doubt this one finally ends up being what occurs, however you possibly can image it for the explanations said.

Convey on the dream combat at strawweight

Okamoto: Alright, there isn’t any disputing it after that. Zhang Weili is the No. 1 feminine pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. I nonetheless had Valentina Shevchenko as No. 1 (I do know she misplaced her final combat, however her physique of labor nonetheless known as for it for my part), however I can not deny Zhang the No. 1 spot after what I simply witnessed.

She is spectacular, so with that in thoughts, how do you e book her transferring ahead? I suppose you would do Yan Xiaonan. Xiaonan is deserving. By the UFC’s rating, she’s subsequent in line and her resume warrants it… however we’re speaking about one of the best feminine fighter on the planet proper now, and I would like it to be probably the most fascinating matchup attainable.

There is no doubt that probably the most fascinating attainable matchup proper now could be Tatiana Suarez. Everyone has been ready to see Suarez in a title combat since she got here out of The Final Fighter in 2016. Accidents have slowed her progress, however each time she competes, she comes throughout as roughly invincible.

We do not want any extra buildup round this one. It is the most important title combat on the market for Zhang, and Suarez is deserving primarily based on how spectacular her wins have been. Ebook it now.

Yan has a rock-solid case to be made subsequent, however all of that pales as compared, for my part, to the upside of Suarez.

Weidman all coronary heart in return from damaged leg

Okamoto: I have been protecting blended martial arts full-time since 2009, and one of the vital memorable interviews I’ve had throughout that point was throughout a media lunch with Chris Weidman in 2013. It was on the 4 Seasons in Las Vegas, earlier than he fought Anderson Silva for the primary time at UFC 162, and I am going to always remember how genuinely assured he was about successful that combat.

It’s important to bear in mind the mystique of Silva on the time. After all, you do not anticipate any challenger to go in there anticipating to lose, however “confidence” was a relative time period in opposition to Silva again then. It was like having “confidence” you would catch a fly with chopsticks. Silva was toying together with his title challengers throughout that point, however when Weidman spoke to media again then in Vegas, I am telling you, he was sure he would win. Like I stated, I am going to always remember it.

And I considered that interview throughout his combat in opposition to Brad Tavares on Saturday. There the man was, over two years faraway from his final combat, throughout which he snapped his proper leg whereas throwing a kick. The UFC did him no favors with the matchup, a man in Tavares who defends takedowns extraordinarily properly and is savvy to veteran methods. Weidman’s lead left leg was so compromised by kicks within the first and second rounds that he was compelled to go southpaw halfway via the bout — and he was nonetheless discovering methods to land and make the combat fascinating. It wasn’t a win for Weidman, and even essentially a confidence-inspiring efficiency, but it surely was definitely inspiring.

If you consider it, Weidman has been one of many unluckiest fighters within the UFC since his title reign led to 2015. He was in an in depth combat in opposition to Yoel Romero in 2016 when Romero hit him with an ideal flying knee within the third spherical. He misplaced to Gegard Mousasi within the very subsequent combat, beneath controversial circumstances when Mousasi landed what seemed to be an unlawful knee. He was beating Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in 2018, when Souza scored a comeback knockout win within the third.

After which, after all, the damaged leg in 2021.

It has been one heartbreak after one other for Weidman for years — and had there been only a few zigs as an alternative of zags alongside the way in which, issues may need appeared very completely different.

Bodily, he isn’t the identical man he was years in the past. However mentally, he nonetheless appears to be like just like the man who shocked the world in opposition to Silva. Personally, I am going to nonetheless watch him combat. And he is a type of guys that makes you want athletes might keep younger perpetually.

The correct plan for Ian Machado Garry

Raimondi: Ian Machado Garry is superb. That goes with out saying. He schooled Neil Magny, a man who often makes issues troublesome for everybody however the absolute elite at welterweight. Garry did not get the end, however he simply made life depressing for Magny in a manner we’ve not seen earlier than. He chewed up Magny’s leg for 3 rounds, landed massive combos, entrance kicks to the face and just about anything he so desired in entrance of a Boston crowd chanting his identify.

Afterward, Garry known as out Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and that might be a wonderful combat and check on the ft for Garry, a medical striker. I’ve no concern with that problem, however greater than something, what Garry ought to look to do is get on Conor McGregor’s subsequent combat card. McGregor’s massive comeback combat can be large. Perhaps that can are available in December. Perhaps it is UFC 300 early subsequent yr. Perhaps Garry may even combat once more this yr and switch round and combat on that one if McGregor is not again quickly.

In any case, that is the one for Garry. The comparisons to McGregor are unavoidable for Garry. And he welcomes them. Garry is Irish, was a longtime fan of McGregor and has made no bones about the truth that he’d wish to be the subsequent McGregor. He even informed his mom that years in the past and it made her livid. However no matter how McGregor is perceived today, he is an enormous world star and he is been very complimentary of Garry on social media. Placing Garry on the identical card as McGregor will get exponentially extra eyes on him.

Garry is extraordinarily good and simply 25 years outdated. The one factor he’s lacking proper now could be that star flip, one thing that can elevate him to new heights as somebody folks need to pay their hard-earned {dollars} to see combat.

Okamoto: Who needs to be subsequent: Winner of Jack Della Maddalena vs. Kevin Holland on Sept. 16

Man, I want the UFC hadn’t booked Maddalena vs. Holland. I have been saying for some time now, I would wish to see Garry vs. Della Maddalena, and my curiosity in that combat has, clearly, solely grown with every one among their fights.

These two are going to cross paths in some unspecified time in the future, inevitably. So, I could be affected person, understanding it is a combat we’ll see down the road. However I believe it is a combat we might see a number of occasions, and I would like to see it proper now, to set the stage for a matchup probably we see play out over a number of years. It looks like we get plenty of rematches on the high, later in athletes’ careers. Let’s construct a storyline now. Allow them to combat now.

We’ll see what occurs on Sept. 16, which is not that far-off. Relying on what occurs, I believe the UFC might have an awesome combat between Garry and the winner.

Wild card: Stephen Thompson

This was Garry’s callout, and it is a good one. I just like the matchup. At the start of the yr, I’d have stated a Thompson matchup can be manner an excessive amount of of a step up for Garry, however from what he confirmed on Saturday, I am undecided something is an excessive amount of of a step up.

He is appeared so good, the UFC is justified to throw him in there in opposition to anybody. I believe it is extra doubtless Thompson will combat Kamaru Usman close to the tip of the yr (November/December), but when for some motive the UFC would not go that route, this is able to be a terrific matchup.

The timing could be proper for Chito Vera

Contreras Legaspi: The Ecuadorian has been a title contender for greater than a yr now. He enjoys preventing and takes each opponent the promotion gives. However after three most important occasions, Vera has confirmed he can go for 5 rounds and be worthy of a title combat.

It is time for him to make the precise transfer. He took a step again in San Antonio with a gradual combat in opposition to Cory Sandhagen, however regained momentum with one other nice placing show in opposition to an skilled opponent. Pedro Munhoz introduced one of the best of his sport, took the middle of the Octagon and pressed Vera from the start together with his high-volume boxing. Vera took his time to seek out his vary and began inflicting plenty of harm in each change from that second on. Energy punches, brief elbows and his signature excessive kicks have been on show at UFC 292 as Munhoz took every little thing and stayed within the combat.

If this win just isn’t sufficient to get the straight title shot at one of the vital aggressive divisions within the UFC, a combat in opposition to a former champion like Petr Yan needs to be Vera’s precedence to safe the championship probability with another win, now that Sandhagen, Henry Cejudo and Merab Dvalishvili are recovering from accidents and it is unclear when are they going to be able to combat.

Okamoto: Who needs to be subsequent for Vera: Umar Nurmagomedov

This would not be Vera’s first selection, clearly. Proper now, the brand new champ is looking his identify. That is what he desires. However I consider the subsequent title combat ought to go to Sandhagen, so what ought to Vera do within the meantime?

He might chill, actually. He might wait it out. O’Malley desires to combat in December, after which he’d combat once more within the first half of subsequent yr. Should you’re Vera and you realize you may have a historical past with O’Malley and Sandhagen, you would simply simply wait it out.

However the UFC can be in search of an opponent for Nurmagomedov, and I might see that duty(?), alternative(?), and burden(?) falling to Vera. His loss to Sandhagen might damage him in making his path to the title for much longer. We’ll see. However it is a matchup I’d like to see, and also you’d should make it 5 rounds.

Wild card: O’Malley

It is not a wildcard reply. It might be the favourite. Once more, O’Malley is looking out Vera’s identify. That’s price its weight in gold. O’Malley is the sort of star that would get a big say in who the subsequent contender is. And admittedly, that is probably the most profitable matchup the UFC could make on the high of 135, and as everyone knows, that issues. I will not be upset one bit if the UFC goes with O’Malley vs. Vera 2, however I’d discover it grossly unfair to Sandhagen.

TUF crowns two new winners who’re prepared for his or her second probability

Wagenheim: It was paying homage to The One That Began It All, the legendary slugfest between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar within the Season 1 finale of “The Final Fighter.” That is the very best of reward for Brad Katona’s crowd-thrilling, rock-’em-sock-’em victory over Cody Gibson in Saturday’s TUF males’s bantamweight ultimate, one among two bouts closing out the truth TV present’s thirty first season.

Katona’s unanimous-decision win may not have the big-picture influence of Griffin vs. Bonnar, a combat that has been credited with producing the fan enthusiasm essential to maintain the UFC from going out of enterprise again in 2005. However Katona and Gibson fought for the document books, combining for 324 important strikes, probably the most ever in a three-round UFC bantamweight combat and the second most of any 135-pound bout contained in the Octagon.

What was no much less placing was how evenly matched these fighters have been. Katona landed 160 important strikes, and Gibson outdid him by 4 strikes. In contrast, Griffin and Bonnar mixed for 145.

Katona turned the primary two-time TUF champion, as he beforehand gained Season 27 as a featherweight in 2018. He then went 1-2 within the UFC.

In Saturday’s light-weight TUF finale, Kurt Holobaugh weathered some robust going early on earlier than taking on in Spherical 2 due to slick abilities each within the standup and grappling. Holobaugh outstruck Austin Hubbard early within the spherical earlier than taking him to the canvas and tapping him out with a triangle choke at 2:39.

It was Holobough’s tenth submission win however his first since 2016. He famous afterward that he hadn’t proven that facet of his sport whereas on the TV present.

“I’m a jiu-jitsu black belt, and I did not go into that Final Fighter home exhibiting each little bit of my abilities,” he stated. “My coaches stated, ‘Do not go there and present them every little thing. Simply present them slightly bit.’ And I believe that is what I did. However tonight you bought to see the true model.”

Holobaugh misplaced all three of his UFC outings in 2018 and 2019.

All 4 fighters within the TUF finals have beforehand been within the UFC, and it confirmed. Each fights displayed high-level grit, toughness, inexhaustible cardio, and martial arts abilities. Even the losers have been — as they are saying in Boston — depraved spectacular.

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