Sean O’Malley has spent the past few years talking about his greatness. What he has yet to do is back up that talk with action.
O’Malley’s record is impressive. No one can — or should attempt to — take that away from him. He is 15-1 (with one no contest) and he has 12 stoppage wins (11 via KO). He’s also picked up six UFC post-fight bonus awards in nine fights. That’s a nice resume, but in a sport where legacies are built on titles, O’Malley’s curriculum vitae is lacking.
O’Malley has said he wants to go on a “similar path” to Conor McGregor, but that he wants to “take it to another level; like even further.” If that’s the case, he needs to get more aggressive when it comes to the level of his opponents. McGregor won his first UFC title in his sixth fight with the promotion, beating Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight crown. In his 10th fight with the UFC, McGregor became a two-division champ with a knockout win over then-lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez. McGregor was 26 when he defeated Mendes and 28 when he became the champ-champ.
In contrast, O’Malley faced his first ranked opponent on Saturday, when the UFC booked him against the No. 9 ranked Pedro Munhoz. That bout was O’Malley’s ninth UFC fight. The fight was stopped in the second round after an eye poke left Munhoz unable to continue. Two of the three judges had Munhoz winning the first round.
O’Malley, as is his style, ignored the official ruling and the fact that two of the three judges gave his opponent the first stanza and declared himself the victor.
First man to finish Pedro— Sean O'Malley (@SugaSeanMMA) July 3, 2022
Much like he tried to downplay how he was stopped by Marlon Vera, O’Malley now proclaimed himself “16-0.”
“Not the finish I wanted but still a finish. A nice right hand hurt his eye. Checked a lot of his leg kicks and did a lot more damage. He landed 0 head strikes 0 body strikes,” O’Malley wrote on Instagram.
“IT WAS A PUNCH THAT HURT PEDROS EYE TKO DR STOPPAGE 16-0,” O’Malley then tweeted.
At 27, O’Malley is still very young, but his focus on his “Suga” personae and not on actually moving his way up the rankings and fighting top-level competition is losing some of its luster. He needs to show more inside the fighting area and less outside if he wants fans to even consider him in the same conversation as McGregor.
Say what you want about McGregor, but when he was in his fighting prime, he backed up his talk with memorable victories inside the octagon. It’s time O’Malley does the same.
I’m not writing off O’Malley or saying he doesn’t have championship potential. I am saying that despite his assertions of his greatness, he’s yet to show us, against a quality opponent in their prime, that he is a potentially elite fighter.
O’Malley might have robbed himself of his chance to take the next step in his career when he poked Munhoz in the eye. If he wants to show the MMA world his upside he needs to either rematch Munhoz or face someone ranked higher than him in the official UFC bantamweight rankings. At this point, anything else from O’Malley will be a step in the wrong direction.