UFC 292: Sean O’Malley vs. Aljamain Sterling – Winners and Losers

Get the lowdown on the real winners and losers of UFC 292: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O'Malley.

By: Dayne Fox | 1 month ago

UFC 292 has come and gone and the bantamweight division has a new king. The UFC got what it wanted when Sean O’Malley blasted Aljamain Sterling with a right hand that sent the then-champion to the mat. It took several follow-up strikes before the fight was called off, but that strike is going to be played over and over again for years to come. It will help if Sean O’Malley is able to pull off a long reign, something that is plausible given he’s just 28.  

Sean O'Malley celebrates his title win over Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292
IMAGO / USA Today / Bob DeChiara

The co-main event saw Zhang Weili deliver one of the most one-sided beatdowns in the history of UFC title fights. Credit goes to Amanda Lemos for not quitting, but it was clear pretty quickly that Lemos shouldn’t have been in the same cage as Zhang. 

There was a question whether Sterling would vacate the title and move onto the featherweight division if he emerged successful. With the loss, Sterling indicated he may be re-thinking those plans, handling the loss with grace. Sterling made no excuses, didn’t challenge what some have called a questionable stoppage, and gave plaudits to the new champion. Given how well he handled the loss I couldn’t call Sterling one of the biggest losers of the night. 

But who were the real winners and losers of the event? Sure, 12 UFC fighters officially had their hand raised in victory, but that doesn’t always mean they are the true winners of the night. Same with those who didn’t get their hand raised. Just like not all wins are created equal, not all losses are either. I’ll give you the lowdown on who the biggest winners and losers of the event were. I’ll limit it to three in each category, and while I typically do my best to avoid having the same combatants of a contest in both categories I had to make an exception this time around. Let’s dig in! 

UFC 292 Winners 

Sean O’Malley 

There has been a lot of criticism over the years that the UFC was protecting Sean O’Malley. I can’t say I would disagree with that assessment, but Sean O’Malley eventually would have to beat the best in the division if he wanted to proclaim himself the best in the world. That moment has come and all the haters have to admit that Sean O’Malley did it fair and square at UFC 292. He’s the best 135er in the world, becoming that in highlight reel fashion over the previous champion who still owns the record for the most consecutive successful title defenses in UFC history. 

Sean O’Malley’s claim that he’s going to reign until 2035 appears to be farcical, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t in good shape to turn himself into the bantamweight GOAT. Hell, he could end up just being an all-time great. I know that I’m shooting to the moon with some of this talk – especially given Merab Dvalishvili appears to be a nightmare matchup for him – but the UFC has already proven they’re willing to do everything they can to help Sean O’Malley find success. 

Zhang Weili 

I get the feeling a lot of people will point out Lemos isn’t exactly the most high-profile opponent for Zhang, but the champion did exactly what she’s supposed to do to a challenger like Lemos. She tossed her around like a rag doll, taking her to the mat whenever she wanted and delivering some of the most brutal GnP seen in the strawweight division. It was a wonder Lemos didn’t give in to the heavy elbows from Zhang in the first round. It didn’t matter as Zhang was able to use positional dominance over the rest of the contest to cruise to an easy win. 

Given the division has seen the title passed around like a hot potato, Zhang’s next defense is going to be especially key as no one has been able to defend the title more than once outside of Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Given how dominant Zhang looked against Lemos, the chances of Zhang scoring that second defense looks mighty good. Of course, many will say it will depend upon the matchup, but Zhang is well positioned to be a long reign at this point. 

Brad Katona 

This has nothing to do with Katona becoming the first two-time TUF winner. That program is a relic at this point, something no one cares about. No, this has everything to do with Katona coming out on top of an all-out brawl with Cody Gibson, resulting in one of the all-time great TUF crowing contests. Everyone remembers the Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar classic from the first season. While I wouldn’t say the stakes were as high in this contest, it was right up there in terms of entertainment value. So much for Katona being a boring fighter…. 

More than anything, the victory proves Katona has always been a UFC level fighter. I get that’s a loaded term, but Katona was handed a pink slip after two consecutive losses, one of those to Merab Dvalishvili. The thought was the UFC didn’t want to continue to invest in him as Katona has always been known as a meat-and-potatoes fighter, nothing flashy. Now that he has a legit FOTY candidate under his belt, perhaps he’ll be looked at in a brighter light. 

UFC 292 Losers 

Amanda Lemos 

I try to avoid having fighters from the same contest in both categories, but the contest was about as one-sided as I can remember. It wasn’t just that Zhang ended up scoring more total strikes in a strawweight contest than anyone else had previously; it was that she also scored the highest strike differential in divisional history. I know that Lemos showed all sorts of heart, hunting for submissions on several occasions despite her terrible beating. But no fighter wants to be be primarily known for their heart; that means they’re taking a beating. 

Unfortunately for Lemos, it’s looking like this could prove to be the defining moment of her career. She’s already 36 and her getting the title shot was a surprise to some given her lack of marketability. She does have some awesome finishes on her highlight reel, but those came on a smaller stage. She was fighting for a title here. It’s possible this loss could haunt her for the rest of her career. She certainly wouldn’t be the first fighter to see their career meltdown after such a denigrating experience. 

Neil Magny 

Magny has been a mainstay of the official UFC rankings for a long time. It looks like that time could be coming to an end. Even in his recent wins, Magny hasn’t exactly been in peak form. Against Ian Machado Garry, Magny wasn’t competitive in the least. I won’t ever question the toughness of Magny, but Garry did whatever he wanted to Magny over the course of 15 minutes. It was bad enough that Garry was awarded a 30-24 scorecard and no one questioned the legitimacy of the scorecard.  

It could be argued that Garry has the look of a future champion, but it was just six months ago that Song Kenan put a scare into Garry. No one is about to consider referring to Kenan as a fighter anywhere near the official UFC rankings. Combine those facts with Magny’s recent performances and I’d say it’s more that Magny’s nearing the end of the line as opposed to Garry being a world beater. At 36 with 31 UFC bouts under his belt, Magny has been a LOT of miles on his body. He still has a few fights in him, but it would be foolish to refer to him as a gatekeeper to the rankings anymore. 

Andrea Lee 

With a 5-6 UFC record, Lee is better than what her record indicates. She’s consistently faced some of the better competition in the flyweight division and there’s a solid argument the judges got it wrong in a couple of those losses. However, it isn’t like she isn’t without fault for her losing record. In fact, many would say Lee employed the exact strategy that Natalia Silva would hope she would employ to give the Brazilian the best chance of winning. 

While Lee doesn’t have a glaring weakness in terms of technique or skill, she is physically slower than most other members of the division. Despite that, she opted to stay on the outside and have a kickboxing fight with Silva. Silva pieced her up the entirety of the contest as Lee couldn’t handle the speed. Why Lee didn’t attempt to close the distance and either clinch up or look for a takedown, I’ll never know. In the process, she has now lost three straight and six of her last eight. I would predict her job is safe, but I don’t know that for sure. 

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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