The former Contender Series winner has long touted himself as a future champion and he might have his best shot to make a jump up the MMA Fighting Global Rankings with his next fight scheduled against proven 135-pound veteran Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 in July.
While he’s still probably a few wins away before actually challenging for gold, Sterling can’t help but praise O’Malley as a legitimate threat to anybody in the division.
“Honestly, if I’m being honest, that guy’s really f******* good,” Sterling said about O’Malley on The Joe Rogan podcast. “I like his honesty and the way he breaks down fights and analyzes it kind of reminds me of myself except he’s a little bit more brash about it. He’s like ‘Frankie [Edgar] was winning that entire fight with ‘Chito’ [Vera], he was winning 13 minutes of the fight until he got caught with the front kick.’ Very accurate. ‘Chito’ was losing that fight.
“The way he breaks down fights, he’s a good analyst and honest about what he’s looking at. His terminology may not always be the best to describe it but he knows what he’s talking about.”
As far as his skills inside the octagon, Sterling noted that O’Malley really understands how to use his size as an advantage over opponents where he routinely towers over most bantamweights.
In fact at 5-foot-11-inches tall with a 72-inch reach, O’Malley actually maintains a size and reach advantage over every single UFC fighter currently ranked in the top 15 at 135 pounds.
“Good movement, slick on the feet,” Sterling said about O’Malley. “I think his feints are really what does him well, especially having that length and that range at this weight class.”
Now for all the praise he heaped on O’Malley’s shoulders, Sterling isn’t without his criticisms as well.
Because O’Malley is such a tall, lanky fighter, it’s likely he sacrifices some size and strength by keeping his body small enough to continue making the bantamweight limit.
That’s one area where Sterling is confident he could potentially overwhelm somebody like O’Malley, especially during grappling exchanges.
“I feel like he might be a little bit weak though,” Sterling said. “I feel like if I grab that guy and put a body lock on that guy, I’d probably break his ribs and get a submission with a standing body lock. Just crunch his back like the Hulk.
“Something has to lack. You can’t have the power, the speed, the height, the leverage, you can’t have all those things. God did not bless you like that. Something has to lack.”
In comparison, Sterling looks at O’Malley as a similar body type to Cory Sandhagen and that’s a fight he finished inside the first round with one of his most dominant performances to date.
“I feel like that was the case with [Cory] Sandhagen,” Sterling explained. “I feel like that was the difference. Even [Petr] Yan, I don’t feel he was overly strong but him being more compact, I feel like he was more explosive than Sandhagen. I feel like he was a little bit stronger in some of those positions as well.”
Of course, O’Malley isn’t at Sandhagen’s level just yet in terms of accomplishments but a win over Munhoz in July would move him towards the top of the division and potentially one step closer to a future fight against Sterling.