Sean O’Malley has been given a shot at catapulting himself into the thick of the title picture at 135 lbs. At UFC 280 on October 22 he is scheduled to face former champion, and top ranked contender, Petr Yan.
O’Malley gets this booking despite being ranked 13th in the division and coming off a deflating no contest versus Pedro Munhoz earlier this month.
UFC President Dana White revealed recently that he was shocked when matchmaker Sean Shelby proposed O’Malley vs. Yan.
“We were in matchmaking and Sean Shelby actually came up with that fight,” said White at post-fight press conference for Tuesday’s Contender Series event (ht MMA Fighting). “Sean Shelby wanted that fight. I said, ‘Are you out of your mind? You don’t make that fight now. This and that.’ He told me why he’d make it and O’Malley’s ready. You know, O’Malley’s about to be 28 years old in October, in his absolute prime right now, hits like a truck.
“He ended up selling me on it. And more importantly, both guys wanted it. And even more important than that, when we announced it, everybody went crazy and loves it. And even more important than that, it should be fucking a really good fight.”
At the UFC 280 press conference in London last weekend, O’Malley spoke about how excited he was to be facing Yan. He said the Russian is the best fighter he’s ever been matched up with and that he believed this would lead to a new and improved ‘Suga’.
“I think I will rise to the occasion, because I haven’t gotten to show what I’m really fucking capable of because I haven’t fought guys that have brought it out of me. So yeah, I’m excited about this. I think a lot of people are going to be obviously excited and surprised.”
O’Malley is a Contender Series alum who won a UFC contract on that show back in 2017.
After wins over Terrion Ware, Andre Soukhamthath, Jose Alberto Quinonez and Eddie Wineland, O’Malley lost to Marlon Vera (his first ever pro defeat).
He rebounded from that disappointment last year with three stoppage victories. At UFC 260 he KO’d Thomas Almeida. A few months later, at UFC 264, he TKO’d Kris Moutinho. To close out 2021 he TKO’d Raulian Paiva.
The fight with Munhoz at this month’s UFC 276 was called off in the second round after eye-pokes from O’Malley rendered Munhoz unable to compete.
Yan beat Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 251 in 2020. He then lost the belt due after being disqualified from his fight with Aljamain Sterling for an illegal knee. Yan defeated Cory Sandhagen after this to score a rematch with Sterling.
Yan lost a split decision to Sterling at UFC 273 in April.