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Sean O'Malley is likely facing his fiercest competitor yet, but he doesn't see the outcome as any different than his previous fights.
O’Malley (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) faces Marlon Vera at UFC 252 on Aug. 15, which is expected to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Since his return from a two-year suspension in March for violating anti-doping policies, the undefeated O’Malley has dominated, scoring two first-round knockouts over Jose Quinonez and Eddie Wineland in the span of three months.
Quinonez and Wineland both failed to contest, but O’Malley expects Vera to be a little more durable than what he's experienced recently.
“He’s a decent striker, black belt in jiu-jitsu – he’s definitely the toughest opponent to date, and that’s what I wanted,” O’Malley said.
“I think this fight against ‘Chito’ will really kind of get to show – you know, it’s hard to show your skills when you’re knocking dudes out in two minutes. It’s like, some people might see it as that was a lucky punch, or that was whatever, but I think ‘Chito’ might be able to absorb some extra punishment. So I’ll be able to show more of my skills and be more of a threat, and people will realize that. So I think some guys look at my skills and they’re like, ‘OK, yeah, he’s for real.’ Some don’t. So I think this next fight will get to show a lot.”
Vera was on a five-fight winning streak before a controversial loss to Song Yadong in May, that encompassed a wide variety of finishes. Many analysts, including O’Malley, thought he beat Yadong.
Despite Vera’s impressive resume, O’Malley thinks he has never faced anyone like him and still expects to shine.
“It’s hard not to see me get a first-round knockout,” O’Malley said. “That’s pretty much how my career has been. Even as an amateur, I was getting a lot of first-round knockouts. He’s never sparred someone like me. He’s never fought someone like me. And a lot of people say that, but a lot of people are basic. He’s pretty basic. He’s got basic striking and good jiu-jitsu. I’ve got excellent striking, and I feel I’ve got really good jiu-jitsu.
“So I think he’s going to try and put me up against the fence, do his little trips that he likes, and get on top and look for a submission. I don’t think he’s going to be able to put me up against the fence, and I think he’s going to absorb a lot of shots trying to put me up against the fence, trying to take me down, and I’ll sneak that one in there. It’s the one you don’t see that gets you knocked out. Jose, that uppercut – that’s what did it on him. Eddie was that right hand. So I have a lot of secret weapons that you’re not going to see that’ll put your lights out.”
Whether or not a knockout comes early, O'Malley has high expectations for his performance against Vera. Like his recent bouts, he is looking for another highlight-reel finish.
“Probably first-round knockout, but like I said, Chito’s tough, so I’m planning on being in there for 15 minutes,” O’Malley said. “I could see a second-round knockout or a third-round knockout. I do see myself putting his lights out. (It’s) kind of his choice how fast he wants to get knocked out and how much he pushes the fight.”
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