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What’s Next for Sean O’Malley’s UFC Career?

The No-Contest finish to Sean O’Malley’s fight at UFC 276 against Pedro Munhoz leaves nothing but unanswered questions as to what happens next for O’Malley’s progression in the Bantamweight Division. 

Currently sitting at #13 in the UFC’s Bantamweight rankings, he likely wants another shot at breaking into a top 10 that just recently has nearly been booked solid. He has not been incredibly clear on what he wants next, and there are still several matchups in the 135lb Division that would make a lot of sense for him. 

Here are a few potential matchups for "Suga" Sean O’Malley that make sense for his next fight. 

Pedro Munhoz (Take 2) 

While it is unfortunate that we have already seen the leadup to this fight without any of the payoffs, Munhoz remains one of the best litmus tests available for O’Malley at this stage of his career. The fight makes even more sense after Munhoz won the only completed round of their fight on two judges’ scorecards, appeared to be using an effective game plan and gave O’Malley a tougher fight than many anticipated. 

The fight has already been sold to the masses once, O’Malley has never had a rematch in the UFC and there is a level of added intrigue after Munhoz found some success, so there is certainly a chance the UFC turns around and makes the rematch. 

Munhoz has expressed a desire for the rematch, and O’Malley has not yet said that he is not interested, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the UFC go in another, Munhoz-adjacent, direction since they sometimes lean towards fresh matchups. 

Rob Font

If the UFC does decide against running it back between O’Malley and Munhoz, a matchup with Rob Font checks a lot of the same boxes. 

He’s on a losing streak, but not one that anyone would scoff at. He is a veteran of the Bantamweight Division and has been fighting the cream of the crop in the UFC since 2014. He currently sits at #7 in the division right now, and Font is one of the only men not currently booked if O’Malley is looking for a top 10 opponent. 

Despite his last two fights ending in losses, Font actually looked very good through a majority of both bouts. He simply got knocked down, a lot. Font’s pressure and boxing-heavy style would be interesting to see against the size and range of O’Malley. It would likely either work very well or not at all. 

If the UFC doesn’t revisit the Munhoz fight but wants a similar matchup, they likely will look no further than Rob Font. 

Adrian Yanez

Despite not being a top 10 matchup, a fight against Adrian Yanez would not only get MMA fans buzzing, but could also be an incredible fight. He last fought in June, so the timing is almost perfect. 

Newly added to the Bantamweight rankings at #15, Yanez is likely the only person ranked below O’Malley that he would consider fighting. He is one of the most exciting prospects at 135lbs and is on a nine-fight winning streak. He is also 5-0 in the UFC with four finishes. 

This would maybe be the most interesting fight that O’Malley could take because it also is the riskiest. 

A win over Yanez might elevate him into the top 10, but it might not. Yanez is not a huge name or a huge star yet, and O’Malley is at a stage of his career where he is trying to make leaps forward. Taking a fight and possibly defeating one of the toughest guys in the division before they have a name would be a notch on O’Malley’s belt that he doesn’t yet have. 

The UFC could certainly promote this one to the moon and is one of the more interesting options out there for O’Malley right now.

Petr Yan

This one is, admittedly, quite out there. Jumping from a No-Contest against #9 to a fight against the #1 Contender is a big jump. But if we look at 135lbs right now, #2 through #6 all have fights booked (if we assume TJ Dillashaw is getting the title shot), as well as #8 and #10. 

While this is a huge jump in competition, Yan needs a fight. At this current stage, his only real options are to wait another six months or so for someone to open up, fight Henry Cejudo, or fight Sean O’Malley. 

Cejudo may jump straight into a title fight, which eliminates Yan from that fight. If the UFC offered the O’Malley fight to Yan, I think he would take it. And it’s a big enough fight that O’Malley could be enticed to make that big of a leap. 

While many may say it’s too much too soon, the size matchup itself is incredibly compelling. O’Malley is four inches taller than Yan and would also hold a five-inch reach advantage. 

Of course, it would be somewhat off-brand for O’Malley to put so much effort into this slow ascent to all of a sudden make a huge jump as soon as he breaks into the rankings, but I would argue it’s far from impossible. 

If Yan isn’t able to get a fight booked in the coming months, this fight becomes more and more a possibility as the UFC approaches the end of the year. 

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442 days ago
Feed him to yan
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