Sean O’Malley defends UFC title with dominant beatdown of Marlon Vera

MIAMI — And still, UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley was painfully accurate at UFC 299.

Landing nearly triple the number of strikes and battering the face of his opponent, “The Sugar Show” prevailed with a successful title defense over Marlon “Chito” Vera by five-round decision

The crowd, commentary team, and O’Malley himself were mind-blown that Vera was able to eat a knee that landed flush to the face during the second round of a successful title defense.

Sean O’Malley punches Marlon Vera during his win in the UFC 299 bout. Getty Images

The cracking sound reverberated throughout a loud arena; Vera entered zombie mode, staying on his feet, and kept moving forward.

But it was for naught, with O’Malley (18-1) winning by unanimous decision and no judge giving Vera a single round.

Dawning those Miami-cool pink shorts, O’Malley was calm under pressure, constantly hunting for a finish, but it seems like no one can finish Vera (23-9-1).

As Joe Rogan exclaimed after the event, “Marlon, you’re a f–king dog.” Vera has never even been knocked down in his 23-fight UFC career, as he walked off and was showered with love from the fans at Kaseya Center by a vast sea of yellow flags representing his home country, Ecuador.

“I tried to stay toe to toe with him and catch him,” Vera said. “At the end of the fifth round I landed a nice body that hurt him, but I ran out of time.”

Nearly four years ago, O’Malley was in the opposite position, laying on the octagon floor at Vera’s hands, having tainted his undefeated—then 12-0—record with a TKO loss.

O’Malley has often downplayed that loss — the kick shut down the peroneal nerve in his lower leg, causing temporary loss of feeling — and vowed to dominate in the rematch.

Sean O’Malley delivers a knee to Marlon Vera during his victory in the UFC 299 bout. Getty Images

“That one feels good getting that one back,” O’Malley said. “I’m guessing we can all agree that I’m undefeated still.”

He added that he wants to fight featherweight champion Ilia Topuria next.

“Dana,” he said, “Give me a jet to Spain, baby.”

On Aug. 15, 2020, O’Malley suffered what felt like a blown ligament in his right leg. But, like Knicks star Jalen Brunson, those worst fears were not realized.

Sean O’Malley delivers a right hook to the face of Marlon Vera during his UFC 299 win. AP

O’Malley continues his path to stardom, and now, having cleared the lone blemish on his record with his win over Vera, he is cleared for take off.

Now, 18-1 and a defending champion, there can be no more questions about who the biggest star in the combat sports world is: “Suga” O’Malley is a sweet and spicy main attraction.

“He’s the biggest bantamweight we’ve ever had,” UFC President Dana White said in his post-event press conference.

“Miami is as big as Madison Square Garden in terms of numbers now,” White told reporters, having reported a $14,142,904 gate, the fifth-highest in the company’s history.

He’s a massive star, but 2016’s UFC 205 McGregor vs. Alvarez’s gate of over $17 million at Madison Square Garden will be a tough one to beat.

—  with AP

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