Bantamweight gold will be on the line in Boston, Massachusetts this weekend as champion Aljamain ‘Funkmaster’ Sterling takes on fast rising star Sean ‘Sugar’ O’Malley over five rounds.
The main event is as intriguing as it gets but it is complimented by a stellar support cast as is standard for a major UFC event.
Aljamain Sterling, 34, is an underappreciated champion who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Fighting out of New York, ‘Funkmaster’ has gone from regional scene competitor to dominant UFC champion and although his personality can be divisive at times, his record is as strong as anyone in the promotion and he is well on his way to becoming a UFC great.
Members of Team Sterling have started suggesting he is ‘the greatest bantamweight of all time’ and while that is a bold claim, his record stacks up against anyone in recent history. When your record has names like Henry Cejudo, TJ Dillashaw, Petr Yan, and Cory Sandhagen you have a right to be mentioned alongside the greats of the bantamweight division.
What holds Sterling back from being a household name is his personality. Although not intentional, he has a habit of alienating himself from the fans and this was evident when he was jeered by sections of the crowd after his most recent win, against Henry Cejudo, despite the fighting being held in New Jersey, just a few miles from where Aljamain Sterling calls home.
In total contrast, Sterling’s opponent this weekend Sean ‘Sugar’ O’Malley is quickly becoming a household name despite not having the record to justify it. The 28-year-old has a huge social media following and a fan friendly style that translated to the fans since his UFC debut in 2017.
In his early UFC career, O’Malley made a name for himself with one punch brutal knockouts over the likes of Eddie Wineland, Thomas Almeida, and Jose Alberto Quinonez. Those flashy knockouts were against fighters’ way below championship level but he proved he was championship worthy last time out, when he come through an epic back and forth battle with Petr Yan to prove he is much more than a flashy striker.
Before that win against Yan, people doubted whether O’Malley had the ‘metal’ to compete with the very best fighters at bantamweight. In 2020, he was beaten by Marlon Vera and the way that fight ended suggested ‘Sugar’ would struggle when things got tough. However, with all those doubts now erased, he looks ready to prove he can compete with one of the finest bantamweights to ever grace the promotion.
Stylistically, these two match up well because they are so different. As a beautiful, crisp striker O’Malley will hold all the advantages on the feet but the champion is in a class of his own if this fight hits the mat. Sterling has proven many times that he is a submission threat from all angles and if he can impose his will by putting O’Malley on his back, he will hold a huge advantage in this fight.
MMA at this level is all about the finer details and the one that sticks out here is experience. For all the potential O’Malley has, Sterling is the one that has proven his worth. He is the bigger guy also and that will play a part if he can get this to the ground. All things considered, Sterling is the correct favourite and (2/1) for him to defend his title via submission is worth consideration.
Elsewhere on the card, keep an eye on fast rising Irish star, Ian ‘The Future’ Garry who is quickly becoming a player at welterweight. This fight against Neil Magny is at late notice after his original opponent Geoff Neal pulled out with injury. Garry is an outstanding striker and is backed by his fellow countryman, Conor McGregor.
Magny is a stalwart in the UFC and has seen everything the promotion has to offer. He has only been beaten by the best fighters at welterweight but by taking this at late notice, he is taking a big risk. Garry has serious momentum right now and his popularity will only grow if he gets a finish in front of the lively Boston crowd.
Ian Garry to win by KO/TKO is the play here. (11/10).
Another solid fight on the card is Marlon Vera vs Pedro Munhoz. These two are long standing members of the bantamweight division and are just a few wins away from being contenders for the belt again. Over three rounds, this is a very close contest but the class of Vera should just pull through and the Columbian can get a victory by decision (11/10) to set up a future rematch with Sean O’Malley.
BACK Aljamain Sterling to win by submission 1pt at 2/1 (⭐
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BACK Ian Garry to win by KO/TKO 2pts at 11/10 (⭐
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BACK Marlon Vera to win by decision 2pts at 11/10 (⭐
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PROFIT/LOSS (AUGUST 2023): LOSS -2.97 points