Decorated ex-UFC champ changing fighting style, blames judging criteria, Sean O’Malley

UFC 280's fight between Sean O'Malley and Petr Yan ended in controversy, and this ex-champ explains why.

By: Milan Ordoñez | 4 weeks ago
Decorated ex-UFC champ changing fighting style, blames judging criteria, Sean O’Malley
Sean O'Malley's split decision win over Petr Yan has been heavily questioned. IMAGO | ZUMA

UFC 280 featured a controversial decision in the main card. The bantamweight fight between Sean O’Malley and former champion Petr Yan was a back-and-forth battle, but in the end, it was “Sugar” Sean who had his hand raised via split decision

Dominick Cruz believes Sean O’Malley’s victory may have been the effect of the new judging criteria, and he explained how it’s also led to bigger changes in his own career in an appearance at Brendan Schaub’s Calabasas Fight Companion. 

UFC 280’s disputed decision explained

Sean O’Malley admitted to being rocked by Yan’s strikes, but he is nonetheless proud of his performance. For the 28-year-old, it was the first time he was dragged into deep waters. 

“Ideally, I go in there, not get hit,” O’Malley said in the post-fight presser. “But I think it makes it even sweeter, the story, like I got to really show my heart. I had to dig deep. 

“I had to go somewhere mentally, physically, that I’ve never been before. And that’s what happens when you fight the best guys in the world.” 

But as Cruz explained, the judges’ decision was anchored on one thing: damage.

“They’re scoring little bit different. They’re scoring on damage more than ever. And they’re sticking pretty close to it. Like, bloody nose. Or a cut. Or actual, physical, you can see damage, they’re scoring. 

“So like in that fight, Yan didn’t make O’Malley bleed. And O’Malley made Yan bleed with a cut. And so, they went… it was a really close, super close fight, so that one that’s bleeding lost. 

“I also get how (people) can get upset, but if you don’t know the criteria — which I only know ‘cause I went to that meeting and talked to the refs and the judges, so that was a blessing I got…”

Dominick Cruz says new ruling changed his fighting approach

Because of what he saw with Sean O’Malley at UFC 280 and the new criteria that was implemented, Cruz says his approach to the game has now changed. From putting value on wrestling and takedowns, he says his priority now is to inflict as much damage as possible. 

“It also did change my game. When you’re wrestling people, you need to be looking for elbows. And knees. You need to cut them. You have to cut the guy. To me, cuts are worth more than takedowns. That’s how I’m looking at it now. 

“So I’ll fake a takedown to a cut. How do I fake a takedown to a cut? How do I get a takedown to a cut? How do I get him down and cut him? That’s the question.” 

Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan after UFC 280

The careers of Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan after their UFC 280 clash went on different paths. “No Mercy” found himself losing once again when he fought Merab Dvalishvili in March. Yan is now on a three-fight losing streak and further away from another potential crack at the belt. 

As for O’Malley, his UFC 280 win bumped him ten spots up the rankings to number one as he now looks at a title fight against reigning champion Aljamain Sterling.

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About the author
Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

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