UFC 222 (March 3, 2018)
Sean O’Malley Vs Andre Soukhamthath
Winner – Sean O’Malley Via Decision
This past weekend’s UFC 222 featured some of the sports most promising young fighters. The card hosted twelve fights, seven of which were won by fighters in their twenties – Brian Ortega, Sean O’Malley, Ketlen Vieira, Mackenzie Dern, Alexander Hernandez, Cody Stamann and Jordan Johnson. Brian Ortega was by far the biggest standout of this group, rightfully so, but today I want to focus on the youngest fighter from the card, Sean O’Malley.
At 23 years of age, (10-0) Sean O’Malley has quickly become one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC. O’Malley is a testament to the success of ‘Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series’ and has set the bar for the show’s competitors. The series was the perfect launching pad for the young fighter and has aided him greatly in becoming an instant fan favourite.
O’Malley is an endlessly entertaining fighter to watch. His loose, creative, striking backed by a large arsenal of attacks has made him a handful for everyone he has faced so far. In the small amount of time that he has been in the spotlight (three fights), he has made tremendous leaps in his game – most importantly in his defence.
From his DWTNCS fight through to his fight at UFC 222, O’Malley has made a tremendous improvement in his defence. As a fighter who strikes with their hands low, it is essential to maintain both clean footwork and fast reactive head movement. In his fights previous to this weekend, O’Malley showed a solid base for these aspects of his defence, but left himself open for counters far too often. Although some of the same deficiencies could still be exploited, especially if he was to face a pressure based fighter, it is a great sign to see a young fighter making constant improvements in the weaker aspects of their game.
Many comparisons, albeit slight, can be drawn between Sean and Conor McGregor when it comes to some of their striking habits. It’s hard to deny the similarities when the two are shown side by side and it’s quite plausible that Sean would be heavily influenced by Conor. The main difference in their striking stems from O’Malley’s lack of one-shot power. Sean has implemented kicks into his game to greater effect than Conor, but he lacks the single weapon lethality that McGregor possesses. Conor throws the majority of his strikes in an effect to disguise his favoured left hand, whereas O’Malley does his best to create damage with every strike, hence the focus of kicks.
My only concern with O’Malley is that he may be pushed beyond his means too early. Being a popular young fighter in the UFC can be a blessing and a curse. When a fighter draws a large amount of attention, the UFC tends to push them into fights against top level fighters before they are ready. If he continues to face fighters at his own level and is given the time to grow into a top-level fighter, the sky is the limit for O’Malley.
Sean O’Malley still has a long road to travel before he is capable of competing with the best Bantamweights in the world – but if he is given the right matchups and not pushed too early, he could definitely grow into one of the best fighters in the division. O’Malley is going to be a UFC stable for many years to come and I am sure he will be entertaining every step of the way.