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Marlon Vera questions if Sean O’Malley is worthy of UFC title shot

There’s one person who isn’t convinced Sean O’Malley will make a good opponent for bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling: his former opponent, Marlon Vera.

Vera was the first to tarnish O’Malley’s professional record when they met nearly three years ago. O’Malley recovered, however, and earned a shot at the title against Sterling at UFC 292.

That doesn’t mean O’Malley is a threat to the bantamweight title, Vera opines.

“If we talk facts ... just because I could just start talking s*** right now, right? And just make fun of a funny guy,” Vera said on The MMA Hour. “But if you see accolades and who fought who, the fight shouldn’t be a problem for Sterling.

For Vera, it comes down to quality of opposition.

“O’Malley can say whatever the f*** he wants to say – the two guys that have been in the top-five that beat him, me was one and I beat him – I put him out,” Vera said. “Pedro Munhoz, been around, and he’s a top-five caliber guy – [O’Malley] poked him in the eye, and it was a no-contest, and he didn’t show anything. You get opportunity to fight somebody like that, you try to go and smoke him.

“The B-level competition, yeah, he put all of them out. Almeida was washed a lot of times. He wasn’t washed up – he was super washed up. Eddie Wineland, respect to the guy, he’s a legend, but I mean he got killed, what, four more times or three more times. Then the green-haired kid [Kris Moutinho] couldn’t wanna fight the UFC.”

Most MMA observers would take exception to the idea that O’Malley’s most recent opponent, Petr Yan, is B-level competition. Although the Russian lost three straight bouts when he was outpointed by O’Malley in March, he preceded Sterling as the UFC bantamweight champion, beating longtime featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo to capture the belt.

Vera will concede O’Malley was impressive against Yan. But he said the title challenger’s gifts will fade when he faces top-tier talent in their prime.

“It’s like, I get it,” he said. “You got talent, you got all this hype, cool, we’re in the YouTube and TikTok era. You’ve got a couple of kids that follow you everywhere. But fighting wise, you didn’t fight anybody, and then you grabbed Jan after no-contest. Yes, you looked good in the Jan fight. People were expecting less from you.

“Yeah, he can still fight. But how good is he? Who has he beat? Who has he been in a fight with? That one-punch thing won’t last forever.”

Vera was expected to face ex-champ Henry Cejudo at UFC 292 following a decision loss to Sterling training partner Merab Dvalishvili in his previous outing, however Cejudo recently withdrew due to injury.

When it comes to Sterling vs. O’Malley, Vera isn’t rooting for the champ, but he doesn’t expect the belt will change hands — O’Malley’s aren’t enough to end Sterling’s reign, he indicated.

“We saw it with Johny Hendricks, maybe three, four fights, and after that, once you find a better caliber of guys, it just doesn’t happen like that,” Vera said. “And on paper, it’s hard to think O’Malley is gonna win. He could, and that will only benefit me. But I’m not really rooting for nobody. So we’ll see what happen. I’m ready to fight, and I know that.”

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