Paiva, victorious in his bantamweight debut with a short-notice decision over Kyler Phillips this past July, admits he was “a little bit surprised” when offered the spot at UFC 269 against “Suga” on Dec. 11.
“O’Malley sells a lot, there’s a lot of marketing around him,” Paiva said in an interview with MMA Fighting, “so that’s even better for us, for my work, and to spread my name in this new division.”
O’Malley made waves in the UFC ever since his Dana White’s Contender Series knockout of Alfred Khashakyan in 2017, going 6-1 in seven UFC appearances. The bantamweight star is 2-0 since losing to Marlon Vera at UFC 252, a defeat that Paiva believes has shown a lot about his heart.
“‘Thominhas’ [Almeida] was basically in the end of his UFC career, and [Kris Moutinho], who took the fight on short notice, was way lighter than him. [Moutinho] could take a beating, but was way inferior,” Paiva said of O’Malley’s most recent victories.
“And he lost when he tough a top fighter. Marlon Vera is very experienced, has many fights in the UFC, he put pressure over him and that’s it. He wimped out, got desperate and that happened, he got TKO’d. … There are fighters that only know how to hit but drop in performance when they are under pressure, and that’s what I see in O’Malley.
“If you give him space he’ll do his thing, but he’ll start to get desperate and make mistakes more and more if you don’t give him space. That’s basically what I’ll do. I’ll make him make mistakes at his own game. I’m going there to pressure him from the first to the third round, if we get to the third round.”
Paiva sees O’Malley as a “good matchup style-wise” and considers him a “talented” even though he thinks “Suga” makes his name off outside-the-cage antics rather than his fighting skills.
“As a fighter, he likes to showboat like [Conor] McGregor but [most of] his followers come from his YouTube channel,” Paiva said. O’Malley has 1.9 million followers on Instagram and over 300,000 on YouTube.
“He’s cocky on social media and that gives him more followers, but not every follower actually likes his work as a MMA fighter,” he added. “They like the stuff he does more than his actual work, which is fighting. But he’s a young kid, a talented kid, and has everything to grow in the organization. But I also want to grow in the organization and in this new weight class and I won’t let him make his name over mine.”
Paiva expects to be the underdog come fight night but doesn’t care, and projects a fight with “a top-5 or top-7” next after finishing O’Malley.
“I can submit him if he gets desperate, but my hand can land because he keeps his hands low,” Paiva said. “But I believe it’s going to be via submission.”