While Sterling’s second title defense was shifted from UFC 279 to the Abu Dhabi-held UFC 280 card, another pairing in his division has taken much of the limelight. in a surprising announcement last month, the promotion confirmed a matchup between Yan and O’Malley for October 22.
O’Malley, currently ranked at #13, recently faced his first ranked opponent in the Octagon, with an accidental eye poke resulting in a no contest against Pedro Munhoz. But despite failing to crack the top 10, “Sugar” is set for a steep step up in competition when he collides with former undisputed and interim champ Yan, who occupies the #1 spot in the division.
Given their ranking discrepancy and differing levels of experience against the elite at bantamweight, many have suggested that such a sizable rise up the ladder may be coming too soon for the developing Montana native.
But while he’s already confident in his own abilities to get the job done in Abu Dhabi, O’Malley now has some words of advice to adhere to from a man who holds consecutive victories over “No Mercy.”
Sterling Warns O’Malley To Defend His Midsection
At UFC 259 last March, Sterling controversially ascended the bantamweight mountaintop by way of disqualification following an illegal knee. While many branded his reign as illegitimate, “Funk Master” proved a whole host of fighters, fans, and pundits wrong at UFC 273, outpointing the Russian across five rounds.
Having spent nearly 45 minutes in the cage with Yan, the champ is in a unique position to assess what it takes to combat his impressive striking style. And during a recent interview with The Schmo, Sterling sent some advice the way of O’Malley.
“You know, I don’t give a sh*t who wins that fight. I really don’t. But if there’s a piece of advice I could give to O’Malley, it’s footwork,” Sterling said. “It frustrates Yan. He has a hard time tracking guys down who have good footwork and are not just gonna stand in front of him waiting for the kill shot.
“And using his range. And try not to get hit to the body, because I think he’s a little frail and a little soft around the midsection. So, try not to let Yan catch you with one of those straights, ’cause I’m telling you, it don’t feel too good,” Sterling concluded.
In their rematch earlier this year, Sterling utilized his wrestling pedigree to control Yan’s back on the ground in rounds two and three, helping earn him the nod on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
For O’Malley, who favors his hands despite some jiu-jitsu talent, he’ll likely need to find a different route to victory, which he firmly believes could come via Yan’s first knockout loss in MMA.
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 280, Sean O’Malley or Petr Yan?