Sean “Suga” O’Malley is a 5’11, 27-year-old high-end prospect in the bantamweight division. Professionally, “Suga” is 15-1 with 11 knockout wins and his sole loss coming by knockout to #5 ranked Marlon Vera. O’Malley will face Pedro Munhoz who is 35 years old and 19-7 as a pro. He has 13 finish wins but has never been finished himself.
O’Malley vs. Munhoz features on the UFC 276 PPV event and will stream only on
The “Suga Show” is a significant favorite over the higher-ranked Munhoz.
O’Malley is about as technical and fast of a striker as there is in the 135-pound division. He is an expert at keeping range, a range he often enjoys over his opponents, through pinpoint accuracy and fluid movement. On the feet, O’Malley is a calm, confident, and effortless kickboxer who can mix in a wide variety of attacks from either stance. Typically, “Suga” moves in and out or side to side constantly throughout his fight, changing stances to create angles and avoid counter shots expertly. He has an impressive 8.26 strikes landed per minute compared to his 3.52 strikes absorbed per minute.
His footwork and head movement are not only evasive and make him difficult to hit, they also often cause an aggressive opponent to over-commit to a strike, allowing O’Malley to L-step and land a heavy counter strike. “Suga’s” infamous flaw is his struggle against leg kicks. Standing 5’11 and weighing only 135-pounds results in O’Malley carrying very little weight, especially in his legs. Said another way, the kid is skinny. O’Malley has been hurt, and later finished, behind a leg kick-heavy attack. Outside of an opponent landing cracking leg kicks on O’Malley’s legs, few others have been able to stand and strike with him. He is too fast, technical, and precise.
Munhoz is a grizzled veteran of the division. He has solid power in his striking and is willing to take a shot to land a combination of his own. Munhoz has insane durability, seemingly undeterred in the octagon, regardless of the strikes being fired at him. His striking style is fairly straightforward: land chopping calf kicks to slow his opponent down, then pounce with heavy combinations once he immobilizes his opponent. He has thudding power and can drop an opponent quickly, especially when he lands his combinations. If an opponent looks to grapple, something I highly doubt we see in this matchup, Munhoz has proven difficult to take down and has an excellent defensive guillotine to fall back on if necessary. His likely path to victory will be to pressure O’Malley against the cage and force a brawl.
The popular narrative in this fight is whether O’Malley will be able to defend or survive the cracking leg kicks of Munhoz because of O’Malley’s historic weakness against leg kicks. I feel that narrative is overplayed and over-exaggerated. O’Malley has only struggled against leg kicks one time, when facing one of the most powerful fighters in the division, and the leg kick that hurt O’Malley landed in the perfect spot, the perennial nerve.
O’Malley has thin legs but has the movement and striking defense to defend leg kicks, especially given the time he has had to evolve. Even if he doesn’t, it’s unlikely that a single perfectly placed leg kick will severely impact him again.
I expect Munhoz to give “Suga” a tough fight and be there for all 3 rounds, but, I foresee O’Malley being too fast, too rangey, and too technical for Munhoz. Look for O’Malley to stick’n move fluidly for three rounds of high volume and damage.
Pick: Sean O’Malley to win by decision (+150 odds at MyBookie)
UFC 276 is a PPV event and will stream only on
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.