Just a week and a half from their scheduled bout at UFC 264, it was announced that featherweights Sean O’Malley and Louis Smolka would no longer meet in the octagon. First reported by Ariel Helwani, it was revealed that Smolka withdrew due to a recent staph infection. Over the following few days, a number of potential replacements threw their name in the hat in order to face O’Malley. However, the role in the “Suga Show” has ultimately been given to UFC newcomer Kris Moutinho, who will now make his promotional debut on the biggest card of the year.
The Massachusetts native has racked up a professional record of nine wins and four losses, mostly in the organization ‘Classic Entertainment & Sports’ (CES MMA), but with his last and most impressive win coming at Cage Fury Fighting Championship 96.
O’Malley’s performance on Saturday will be an attempt to continue the momentum started with his last win over Thomas Almeida at UFC 260. The win comes after his first career loss to Marlon Vera, where O’Malley suffered a leg injury and a TKO. However, this loss seems to have fuelled a vengeance in the young prospect who not only dominated Almeida in his return but made a point to put on a show.
O’Malley vs. Moutinho betting odds
Understandably, Sean O’Malley is a massive betting favorite as we approach his UFC 264 bout against Kris Moutinho. O’Malley’s currently listed as an -1111 favorite at MyBookie with Moutinho available as a +476 underdog.
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O’Malley vs. Moutinho breakdown
Both men actually share a number of similarities with each other as fighters. Both seem to choose to spend most of their fight time on their feet. Both prefer to fight at range utilizing longer weapons. Both are efficient with their energy, and both even favor the power straight from the rear hand.
However, despite the fact that they tend to enjoy fighting in the same areas, the intricacies within these elements differ a bit. O’Malley will patiently pick his moments to explode, whereas Moutinho’s efficiency is a product of his consistency. He will walk opponents down at a constant pace, not exploding often but landing at a high volume. This style sometimes results in Moutinho taking shots to land shots, however between his conditioning and will, he typically outlasts his opponents who fade.
This has led to his most impressive moments, often slick kickboxing combinations landing on a stationary target as his opponents tire. Compared to “Suga,” Moutinho also takes a more traditional Muay Thai approach to his striking.
Contrastingly, O’Malley’s style is more reminiscent of traditional martial arts, using kicks and movement techniques from Taekwondo and Karate. He also feints much more in order to set up his power strikes as opposed to Moutinho’s ‘walk you down’ style. Another key difference between the two is when fighting O’Malley, it is particularly difficult to predict which side his strikes come from. Between a high-level ability to switch stances throughout the fight, and a proficiency at spinning kicks, he keeps opponents constantly guessing.
Both fighters do some of their best work when they lead the fight. Moving forward with the long right hand is a staple for both their styles and often the most dangerous, but O’Malley may be just a little more comfortable on the counter than Moutinho. He often acts as an offensive counter puncher, threatening with feints or strikes and drawing out reactions in order to counter. One of his favorites is the fade-back, counter-cross made famous by Conor McGregor against Jose Aldo. Due to a comfortable reach advantage over most UFC bantamweights, this becomes even more effective for “Suga” Sean.
O’Malley vs. Moutinho prediction
Ultimately, the two share a lot of strengths but O’Malley is just a bit stronger in each of those areas. There will likely be times when playing out with range strikes, Moutinho will find himself unable to reach O’Malley. In order to combat this, he will be forced to take risks that he hasn’t had to take often in the past against lesser opponents.
With a four-inch height advantage, two inches of extra reach, and legitimate one-punch knockout power, O’Malley is justified as an approximate -1100 favorite. Although unlikely to pay off significantly on its own, this fight may be a good one to add onto another to build up a parlay.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley to win by knockout (first round)
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How to watch Sean O’Malley vs. Kris Moutinho
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Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.