Sean O’Malley will be watching UFC 288 closer than most this Saturday night.
The UFC bantamweight title takes top billing in Newark, N.J., this weekend when the reigning champion Aljamain Sterling looks to spoil the return of the former two-division champion, Henry Cejudo. A lot was made about whether or not it was right for Cejudo to jump immediately back into a title shot after having not fought since May 2020, but the top contenders grew to be compelled by the matchup.
According to O’Malley, the UFC has already promised him a crack at the winner as he sits in the No. 2 spot within the promotion’s official 135-pound rankings. Discussing the fight plenty since rumblings first began, “Sugar” had yet to make an official pick until this week.
“I’m gonna say I think Henry gets the job done,” O’Malley said on The Bro’Malley Show. “[The run-in] was kinda awkward. I get it. They’re just like, ‘Hey, we’re fighting. You know what I’m saying? Crushing another man’s dreams.’
“I think Henry’s going to out-pace ‘Aljo.’ I think Aljo’s cutting too much weight. I think Henry is going to get the decision or get the job done in the later rounds. I’m calling it right now. They both said they want me.”
Sterling has already alluded to his time at 135 pounds winding down with featherweight title aspirations in mind. It’s not just about the weight for “Funk Master,” however. The champ’s best friend and No. 1 training partner Merab Dvalishvili also happens to be the most deserving contender and official No. 1-ranked bantamweight. The pair have said on numerous occasions that they’ll never fight each other. Therefore, a Sterling bantamweight departure or title loss are the only options to allow Dvalishvili his well-earned opportunity.
The pairing with Cejudo was originally hoped to take place at UFC 285 in March, but a lingering bicep injury stalled Sterling’s side from making things official. Ultimately, O’Malley believes it may be a slight factor to consider on top of the continuous weight depletion he’ll have taken over the years against the smaller and faster Cejudo.
“I was saying Aljo could take his back, I was saying Henry could do this ... and I really — it’s in New Jersey,” O’Malley said. “It’s kind of hometown for Aljo. He did say, ‘Yeah, I wish I did get the surgery. My bicep does f****** hurt, I’m not gonna lie.’ I was like wow, that’s interesting to kind of come out and say. So, I know he’s probably dealing with that. But it looked like if you watched his footage it doesn’t look like he’s babying it too much. It doesn’t look that bad, but for him to acknowledge that it must be somewhat kinda bad.
“Henry looks like he had a good camp. I know he had that big cut on his face so he must have forgot how to box. It’s weird. The greatest combat sports athlete of all — he even invented play fighting. He said that. He literally said that. Shadow sparring. And the funniest thing is his little ass probably believes it.”
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No Bets Barred. MMA Fighting’s Jed Meshew and Conner Burks discuss if Henry Cejudo can defy history and beat Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288.
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Austin Vanderford (11-2) vs. Imamshafi Aliev (9-0); Bellator 297, June 16
I’ve gotta say I can’t help but agree with the Sugar Show on this one.
Thanks for reading!
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