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3 logical next opponents for Sean O'Malley in the UFC

Sean O
Sean O'Malley picked up his fifth UFC win at UFC 260 by beating Thomas Almeida
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 29 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

UFC 260 saw a number of fighters pick up big victories. One of the night’s biggest winners was undoubtedly bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley.

Sean O’Malley defeated Thomas Almeida in the third round by KO to pick up his fifth UFC win. Who will this talented fighter face off with next?

Bantamweight is one of the UFC’s most loaded divisions, so there’s certainly no shortage of possible foes lying in wait for him.

With that in mind, here are three logical choices for Sean O’Malley’s next opponent in the UFC.


#3 Marlon Moraes (UFC record: 5-4)

Marlon Moraes has fallen on hard times recently, but would still mark the biggest win of Sean O
Marlon Moraes has fallen on hard times recently, but would still mark the biggest win of Sean O'Malley's UFC career

Former UFC bantamweight title challenger Marlon Moraes has fallen on hard times as of late. However, he’d still make for an intriguing opponent for Sean O’Malley.

‘Magic’ was last seen in the UFC in December 2020, suffering a knockout loss to Rob Font.

The loss was his second in a row and his third in four fights. Regardless, the Brazilian still remains ranked 6th in the UFC’s bantamweight division.

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That alone makes him a major step up for O’Malley, who was unranked prior to his win over Almeida.

With wins over Jose Aldo, Jimmie Rivera and current UFC bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling on his ledger, it’s hard to dispute that Moraes is a very dangerous fighter.

The truth is that while the UFC could easily market Moraes using his older highlights, he’d probably not be favored to beat O’Malley at this stage of his career.

And that’s why he’s almost the perfect fight for ‘The Sugar Show’. He’d offer O’Malley a chance to beat a fighter who remains highly ranked, but who isn’t quite at his best any more.

With all of the fighters ranked above Moraes matched already – except one, who we’ll get to a little later – this fight may well seem very logical for the UFC.


#2 Dominick Cruz (UFC record: 6-2)

Former UFC Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz would offer Sean O
Former UFC Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz would offer Sean O'Malley a serious challenge
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Considered one of the greatest bantamweights in UFC history, Dominick Cruz has held the UFC bantamweight title on two occasions, only suffering two losses in the process.

‘The Dominator’ is only ranked at #9 right now, but that’s largely due to his massive stretches of inactivity over his actual in-cage talent.

In his prime, Cruz’s blend of unorthodox striking, tremendous grappling and incredible cardio made him an almost impossible puzzle opponents to solve.

While he’s still good enough to beat opponents in the UFC – he’s coming off a win over Casey Kenney earlier this month – it’s clear that at 36, his best years are most likely behind him.

That should make him a prime target for a prospect looking to break into UFC title contention like Sean O’Malley.

This fight would almost certainly not be easy for ‘The Sugar Show’. Given the striking skills that both men possess, it’d be tremendous fun to watch.

More to the point, thanks to Cruz’s natural charisma and skills on the microphone, it’d be very easy for the UFC to sell it as a big fight, too.

Could this be a case of O’Malley biting off more than he can chew? Well, it’d definitely be a possibility.

However, at some point every prospect needs to find out whether they can sink or swim. A win over Cruz would be a ticket to UFC stardom for O’Malley, making the potential reward well worth the risk.


#1 Jose Aldo (UFC record: 10-6)

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Despite being slightly past his prime, Jose Aldo remains one of the most dangerous Bantamweights in the UFC
Despite being slightly past his prime, Jose Aldo remains one of the most dangerous Bantamweights in the UFC

The UFC loves matching their rising prospects with once-great fighters on their way down. That alone would make a fight between Sean O’Malley and Jose Aldo an excellent piece of booking.

Aldo isn’t the force of nature he was during his famed UFC featherweight title run. At the age of 34, his time in the UFC is most likely going to end in the near future.

However, the Brazilian is still a highly dangerous foe for anyone in the UFC’s bantamweight division.

He was defeated badly by Petr Yan in 2020. The fight before that saw him lose a highly contentious decision to Marlon Moraes in a fight he arguably won.

To add to this, Aldo is coming off a win. He defeated Marlon Vera in December 2020. That win adds another dimension to this potential fight with O’Malley.

That’s because ‘The Sugar Show’ suffered the first defeat of his UFC career to Vera earlier in 2020, although he’s tried to claim an injury led to his TKO loss.

If O’Malley could claim a victory over Aldo, he’d probably be able to leapfrog over Vera in the UFC’s rankings without needing to avenge that defeat.

In fact, a win over Aldo could well elevate O’Malley right into the top five at 135lbs.

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While the likes of Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw would likely sit ahead of him in the queue for a title shot, a win over Aldo would be a definite marker to suggest O’Malley is a genuine title contender.

This fight would also stand as a chance for O’Malley to main event a UFC show for the first time, as Aldo is a well-recognised name who’s headlined numerous UFC cards in the past.

If the UFC is serious about pushing O’Malley as a marketable star, then this is just the kind of fight they need to book him in.

Published 29 Mar 2021, 20:09 IST
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