Sean O’Malley defied the odds and knocked out Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292.

If Snoop Dogg says you’re going to be a future champion, I guess we shouldn’t question it.

Sean O'Malley won the belt at UFC 292.
IMAGO / USA Today / Gary A. Vasquez

Seriously, how many times have we been told about that, the way he lost his mind when Sean O’Malley won his way into the UFC via knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series? That pretty much cemented O’Malley as the poster child for this new pipeline of talent into the organization.

No offense to The Ultimate Fighter, of course, but didn’t the show used to have its own live finale? What were Kurt Holobaugh and Brad Katona doing getting buried in the prelims of UFC 292?

We’re a long way from Griffin-Bonnar, aren’t we? At least Michael Chandler got to watch a lot of great action while waiting to find out if he’s ever going to be allowed to fight again.

UFC 292 was low on finishes but still had a lot of great action. Brad Tavares spoiled the return of Chris Weidman, who also got buried on the prelims. Ian Machado Garry proved that, whether it’s Neal or Neil, the rocket is still firmly strapped to his back. Zhang Weili looked like a cat playing with a fish in defending her UFC Strawweight Championship against Amanda Lemos. 

No offense, but Amanda had pretty much no offense.

Sean O’Malley represents the new age better than most

It was all to whet the appetite of the Boston crowd, who came out for their new native son. O’Malley has proven his ability to play to the crowd and he understands better than a lot of the roster how important it is to build up one’s brand (and to not rely on others to do it for you).

He also understands how to not get taken advantage of by the promotion, as his path to the title mostly consisted of facing the lowest ranked talent he could face in the highest placement on the card. That was until he finally had to prove his worth, which he did in controversial fashion against Petr Yan in a fight that, even if he didn’t win (he didn’t), he still showed he belonged in the title conversation.

The win was actually just enough to set Sean O’Malley up as the next man to end the controversial run of UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and, after willingly stepping aside so Henry Cejudo could soften the champ up for him at UFC 288, Sean was finally ready on Saturday to do the one dance many have been waiting to see if he knows the steps to.

Turns out he knows the steps just well enough, giving the crowd what he promised by slipping a left hand from the champ to blast Sterling with a vicious right to pound out a stoppage, a win, and the gold via second round TKO.

Follow the rainbow hair (and the money)

It wasn’t the kind of win that says a whole lot about Sean O’Malley’s overall game but, as long as he can move the way he does and throw as hard and as accurately as he does, the rest doesn’t really matter, right? Plus, he got to execute his gameplan. In the battle between the striker and the grappler, the striker won handily.

It’s definitely a bitter pill for Aljamain to swallow, as he’s been stuck punching up ever since he won the championship via disqualification. He went on to defend that championship three consecutive times, an accomplishment that shouldn’t be diminished by the nature of those victories.

Whether Aljo does go forward with jumping up to featherweight or waiting to try and get a rematch, one thing is for certain now: we are living in Sean O’Malley’s world, so buckle up, boys and girls.

The Suga Show is on the air. It’s actually one of the only shows that’s been in production during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

A show operating in spite of union demands? No wonder Dana White likes this kid so much…

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About the author
Evan Zivin
Evan Zivin

Evan Zivin is a writer, having joined Bloody Elbow in 2023. He's been providing his unique takes on the sport of MMA since 2013, previously working as a featured columnist for 411Mania. Evan has followed MMA and professional wrestling for most of his life. His joy is in finding the stories and characters within all combat sports and presenting them in a serious yet light-hearted way.

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