Former UFC men’s bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is seeking to regain his crown this October against Aljamain Sterling, but on that same UFC 280 card there’s another important showdown at 135 lbs between former champ Petr Yan and rising star Sean O’Malley.
From a rankings standpoint, it’s a massive leap into the deep end of the pool for the No. 13 ranked O’Malley, who’s taking on the top-ranked contender in a crowded division of elite fighters. This was a booking that even caught UFC president Dana White off-guard when presented to him by Sean Shelby. Dillashaw shared White’s reaction in an interview with MMA Junkie.
“Yeah, absolutely surprised (by the booking), for sure,” Dillashaw said. “O’Malley has never done anything to fight a guy of Petr Yan’s caliber, other than hype himself up. He does have a lot of fans, he does have a lot of hype, and he’s worked his ass off to get that. Part of the sport is being a salesman, and he’s done a very good job with that.
O’Malley (15-1, 1 NC) is coming off a no contest vs. Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276, after Munhoz was unable to continue due to an eye poke. The 28-year-old has dazzled through much of his UFC career and has scored impressive stoppages of Thomas Almeida, Eddie Wineland, and Raulian Paiva, but he has no wins over currently ranked opposition.
Unsurprisingly, Dillashaw believes Yan will dominate the bout.
“He’s great for the sport,” Dillashaw continued. “He’s great for our weight class and bringing a lot of attention. I don’t see him winning, but he’s got some range on him, and he’s got a pace, and we’ll see. But most likely Yan is going to be able to run through him.”
Dillashaw vs. Sterling will serve as the co-main event to the vacant lightweight title scrap between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev. Yan vs. O’Malley will be part of a stacked pay-per-view in Abu Dhabi on October 22nd.