Sean O’Malley was already a superstar but now he can call himself a UFC champion as well.
In his first attempt to claim a title since joining the promotion by way of Dana White’s Contender Series, O’Malley faceplanted Aljamain Sterling with a vicious counter right hand early in the second round in the UFC 292 main event. While Sterling attempted to survive as he scrambled off his back, O’Malley just continued launching bombs from the top until referee Marc Goddard had no choice but to stop the contest.
The end came at just 51 seconds into the second round with O’Malley celebrating as the new king of the bantamweight division. Afterwards, O’Malley admitted he felt the pressure of the moment but he still delivered another jaw-dropping performance.
“Honestly this was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a fight,” O’Malley said in his post-fight interview. “In my eyes, Aljamain Sterling is the best bantamweight of all time. I was a little bit nervous but I never lost the confidence because I know what I possess in this f****** right hand!
“I said going into this fight, it only takes one mistake against me. I don’t even know if that was a mistake — I’m just that f****** good!”
Prior to the knockout, neither fighter was willing to give an inch during the opening round with O’Malley striking from the outside and Sterling kicking back at him. Sterling did connect with a few leg kicks while O’Malley was feinting and trying to get the champion to bite on something so he could throw a power punch behind it.
It wasn’t until late in the first round when Sterling attempted a takedown but O’Malley resisted until the horn sounded as the fighters returned to their corners.
On the restart, Sterling got a little more aggressive but it appeared that O’Malley had started to find his timing, which is exactly what he wanted. With Sterling lunging forward and reaching for a combination, O’Malley just stepped back and unleashed a vicious right hand that landed flush.
Sterling ate the punch and fell face first to the canvas before kicking up his legs in an attempt to survive but O’Malley was all over him. O’Malley’s incredibly long reach helped him continue to hit Sterling on the canvas and once the New York native rolled through to protect himself from absorbing any more punishment, the referee saw enough to wave off the fight.
Sterling didn’t complain about the stoppage and only had congratulations waiting for O’Malley while complimenting his performance and admitting the loss might change his future plans to move to the featherweight division.
“Sean is a lot better than I thought,” Sterling said. “He did really good job of being elusive and staying on the outside of the cage. I can’t say nothing bad about the guy. Congrats to him and his team. This was nothing but respect at the end of the day.
“I’ve lost before, I’ve been knocked out before. I picked myself up and I became a UFC champion. Do not be surprised if you comeback and you see me in here again and this time getting the belt. Definitely got to go back and reassess some things because if he caught me like that, I could only imagine what [Alexander] Volkanovski would do.”
With O’Malley now cemented as champion, the UFC has another marketable star to bank on but he’s not wasting any time to just sit around with the title around his waste. In fact, O’Malley is already looking for a taste of revenge in his next fight against the only person to ever hand him a loss.
“This is just the beginning of the ‘Suga’ era,” O’Malley shouted. “I’m running this s*** until 2035, baby. Did ‘Chito’ [Vera] win? Was it boring? Probably. I’ll whoop ‘Chito’s ass in December in Vegas at T-Mobile. Let’s f****** go.”