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Morning Report: Sean O’Malley praises Cory Sandhagen for Marlon Vera win: ‘Cory just outclassed him’

UFC 252: O’Malley v Vera Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The bantamweight division is on a different level right now, and the top contenders are well aware of it.

Ahead of the upcoming UFC title fight on May 6 at UFC 288 between the champion Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo, several contenders have been battling it out for supremacy. This past weekend, UFC San Antonio hosted a crucial clash between Marlon “Chito” Vera and Cory Sandhagen.

Sandhagen continued his resurgence after a two-fight skid in 2021, toppling Vera via a compelling split decision, and getting back on a winning streak. “The Sandman” started quickly, perplexing Vera with his unique movement and striking, blending in his sneaky wrestling abilities more than he’d show off previously. Meanwhile, Sean O’Malley has watched on the sidelines as the No. 2-ranked contender in the promotion’s official rankings. “Sugar” couldn’t help but be impressed with how well Sandhagen did against the only man to defeat him in his 18-fight career (16-1, 1 no-contest).

“I think Cory just outclassed him,” O’Malley said on his TimboSugarShow podcast. “I do think the big cage — it’s like if you’re playing a basketball game and you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s only play half-court.’ That’s pretty much the difference between the big cage and the small cage. It’s 40 percent bigger, so it’s like a different playing ground that you’re playing with. I think it would have favored ‘Chito’ a little more in the small cage.

“I don’t think anything was wrong with ‘Chito,’ I think Cory’s that f—king good, and that style beats ‘Chito.’ He’s not very fast, he’s f****** super good, super durable, well rounded everywhere. Cory was focused for 25 minutes, did what he needed to do. Wrestled more than I thought he would.”

Wrestling will be something O’Malley will be forced to deal with should he face the winner of Sterling vs. Cejudo as he expects to. For now, the 28-year-old is enjoying the action between his fellow 135-pounders and analyzing his potential opponents.

At UFC San Antonio, the opening two rounds of the main event were Sandhagen’s strongest, winning handily on all three judges' scorecards. Vera’s slow start accompanied by Sandhagen’s striking approach was expected by O’Malley, but the wrestling dominance admittedly caught him off guard.

“I was super surprised at the lack of skills that — I don’t think he’s lacking those skills, but he wasn’t using them,” O’Malley said of Vera. “He just laid on his back. Cory’s not like a Merab [Dvalishvili] who just gets on top and has this crazy pressure where you can’t get the f—k up. Maybe. I haven’t felt that. But ‘Chito’ looked like he was just giving up that position. I don’t know if he was like, ‘I’m gonna try to get Cory tired.’ Which is not a f****** good game plan. Maybe it worked against a couple guys, but that can’t be your game plan, ‘I’m gonna go in there, lose these two rounds then try to win it in the last three.’

“Fights you get a couple times a year. You gotta show up. You gotta f****** show up on that night. That’s the most important thing.”


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PFL Newscastle recap.

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On To the Next One. MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck and Alex K. Lee discuss the matches to make after UFC San Antonio.



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Vadim Nemkov (16-2, 1 NC) vs. Yoel Romero (15-6); Bellator 297, June 16

Sergio Pettis (22-5) vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (35-5); Bellator 297, June 16

Tereza Bleda (6-1) vs. Gabriella Fernandes (8-2); UFC Fight Night, June 17

Tatsuro Taira (13-0) vs. Kleydson Rodrigues (8-2); UFC Fight Night, June 24


Hmm. Maybe now is the time for “Chito” vs. O’Malley 2?

Thanks for reading!



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