Augusto Mendes fought Sterling to a decision in his final UFC bout in 2017, parting ways with the company with a 1-2 record with the other setback coming against Cody Garbrandt. “Tanquinho” is one of the all-time best jiu-jitsu competitors with multiple ADCC and IBJJF world titles and has helped O’Malley evolve on the ground for the past few years in Arizona.
“Sean is very smart intelligent and mature, he knows how much he represents to the UFC and the numbers he brings,” Mendes said on this week’s Trocação Franca. podcast. “He brings to the table a lot more than most fighters, especially in this division, but he’s also aware that he needed to evolve in order to fight for the belt. He had to mature and get better in all areas. We’ve been working on his jiu-jitsu, wrestling and striking for many years, and the time has come.”
Mendes said the team is aware of Sterling’s “qualities” as a fighter, especially after Mendes shared the octagon with “Funkmaster” for 15 minutes. The jiu-jitsu ace expects Sterling to “bring a different type of fight for Sean” given his wrestling and “impeccable” cardio.
O’Malley is one of the most technical strikers in the 135-pound class and enters his first title bout with a record of 16-1, 1 NC and 10 knockouts, including bonus-winning stoppages over Thomas Almeida, Eddie Wineland and Raulian Paiva. Sterling, on the other hand, scored most of his finishes by way of submission, tapping out the likes of Cory Sandhagen, Cody Stamann and Takeya Mizugaki in the UFC.
“We know this fight will end up going to the ground at some point and we worked hard that Sean doesn’t make mistakes,” Mendes said. “It’s like that in jiu-jitsu, you if you make mistakes you put yourself in a position that maybe there’s no coming back. You can’t make mistakes against a guy like Aljamain, especially because Sean is not a jiu-jitsu guy that has done this since he was a kid.
“We know that if he makes a mistake he’ll pay the price, and we don’t want him to make that mistake. We’re training really hard so he doesn’t make mistakes over those 25 minutes. Aljamain will try to take the fight to the ground so we have to remain calm, move and find an opportunity to get back to the feet. Sean won’t make mistakes.”
Mendes expects Sterling to move up a weight class after UFC 292, and hopes O’Malley ultimately ruins his farewell bout at bantamweight with a knockout.
“We always hope that one hand lands and [the opponent] goes down fast but we’re training for five rounds,” he said with a laugh. “Either it’s a five-round war on the feet or we have to work to get back to the feet, it’s hard to predict. We hope it’s a quick fight but we know of Aljamain’s qualities and we won’t go in there thinking that a title fight will end in 10 seconds. We believe in Sean’s abilities. He’s been putting in the work and training way more than the others, and it’s to use all that to try and win this title.”