Helena's Sean O'Malley puts on masterful performance at UFC 299, retains title

Sean O’Malley
Sean O’Malley
Sean O’Malley
Marlon Vera
Posted at 11:54 PM, Mar 09, 2024

"Suga" Sean O’Malley left no doubt.

The Helena native and current UFC bantamweight champion throttled Marlon “Chito” Vera from start to finish to earn a unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-44) in the main event Saturday at UFC 299.

O’Malley, wearing pink shorts, put on a masterful performance to avenge the only loss of his UFC career. He out-struck the No. 5-ranked bantamweight 186-90 and controlled the fight for all 25 minutes.

The champ put his efficiency on display in the first round, connecting on 25 of 35 strikes, setting the tone for the rest of the fight.

In the second round, O’Malley landed his biggest shot of the night when he connected with a knee to Vera’s head. Vera is known for his durability and kept fighting despite bleeding and swelling around his face.

“Yeah, I felt something in his face break,” O’Malley said in his post-fight octagon interview. “Chito is as tough as it gets.”

Four years ago at UFC 252, a Vera kick struck O’Malley’s peroneal nerve and affected his leg mobility. Vera pounced and won the fight via TKO. O’Malley (18-1-0, 1 NC) has maintained that he doesn’t consider that loss to count against his record and said as much during his post-fight interview.

“I guess we can all agree that I’m undefeated,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley claims he gets calmer as fights get bigger. And he showed championship mettle on Saturday night, posting perhaps his most impressive performance to date. And he wants an even bigger challenge for his next fight.

In his octagon interview, O’Malley called out UFC featherweight champion Ilia Topuria (15-0-0).

“Dana White, get me a jet to Spain, I want Ilia Topuria,” O’Malley said. “He’s a scary dude, that excites me. Going up a weight class excites me.”

If O’Malley were to defend his bantamweight title first, it would likely be against No. 1 contender Merab Dvalishvili (17-4-0), who is on a 10-fight win streak.

“But whatever, if you want me to knock out Merab, I’ll do that too,” O’Malley said.

The crowd in Miami, where there is a large Hispanic population, was very pro Vera. But by the end of the fight, chants of “Sean O’Malley” rained down on the champ.

O’Malley has never had a problem with self belief and confidence, but with one title defense under his belt and his skills improving in each fight, there’s no telling how long the reign of Suga will last.

Sean O’Malley
Marlon Vera
Sean O'Malley, right, lands a blow against Marlon Vera during a bantamweight title bout at the UFC 299 mixed martial arts event, early Sunday, March 10, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)