One of the UFC’s fastest-growing young stars of the sport is ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley. After putting on a masterclass performance against UFC newcomer, Kris Moutinho in July he looks to return this Saturday against his highest-ranked opponent yet. Raulian Paiva made waves in the MMA world as well this past July with his win over ranked Kyler Philips. This win briefly catapulted him into the top 15, before movement amongst other fighters knocked him out. Likewise, O’Malley also sat within the top 15 in the past couple of years, now residing just outside them, however never has O’Malley fought a top 15 opponent while they resided there.
It will be a big test for the prospect and regardless, a win for either man promises great reward amongst the rankings of the bantamweight division, as well as a leap forward for their legacy.
O’Malley vs. Paiva Betting Odds
The fan-favorite in O’Malley comes in as a -305 favorite. He is yet to enter a UFC fight as an underdog so far in his career.
- O’Malley: -305
- Paiva: +245
O’Malley vs. Paiva Breakdown
Sean O’Malley has captured the attention of so many fans for a reason. He is dynamic, explosive, and has a theatrical flair to the fighting style he uses, often showboating and taunting between combinations, but in a way that flows with whatever he is doing. He works mostly from the outside, taking full advantage of his tremendous reach. He will use straight shots from the outside to stun, switching stance so that his power cross comes from either side, and his teep consistently stops his opponents as they try to bridge the gap.
Using this method, if he can find the moment to rock them, then comes the flashy spinning kicks and awkward angle boxing, a lot of the time he will circle the outside of the cage drawing in his opponents to chase him, and then cut off the opposite angle and land the cross while he slips and exits the opposite side. Particularly, this is done more often circling to his right, slip left, and land with the right cross. Largely the pace at which he utilizes these tactics is dictated by his opponents, if they are hesitant to push forward, he will take his time and calculate each shot. If his opponent is gunning to get him, O’Malley uses all elements of footwork to control his distance and angle away in order to consistently on his oncoming foe.
O’Malley has not shown much of his ground game in the octagon so far, typically winning out on the feet without the need to change it up, however at times he has shown an ability to scramble off of his opponent’s takedowns or snatch on a neck when his opponent is knocked down, albeit too late so far. If there is a large criticism of O’Malley it’s his issue with low kicks, while a calf kick can deaden anyone’s leg. O’Malley in particular has suffered immensely in fights at least twice where his leg all but gave out completely. Furthermore, in the fights where this wasn’t the case, his leg was still tagged, he often brings his feet close together in order to dance out of range and in doing so gets caught to the leg while fading away, which is a quick way to affect balance.
Raulian Paiva is on the less creative side of the spectrum, but puts more emphasis on heavy power punching and sticking to sharp basics. He stands tall, Thai style but uses mostly boxing and occasionally low kicks. Where O’Malley has largely leaned on his striking, Paiva owes much of his success to being able to mix it up between his striking and grappling and showcasing his well-roundedness.
His best weapon is likely his right hand, it’s long and heavy, as Paiva throws from a planted stance with his weight behind every shot. The biggest knock on his style by most analysts is his lack of head movement, he moves forward and often takes shots down the centreline rather than slip and roll, but he often does so, in order to land the counter down the pipe as well. Although hurt before, his ability to take a shot and rally through is rarely seen in most fighters.
One of the most common looks from Paiva is the reset and burst. Paiva doesn’t throw rapid combinations in boxing range, he will usually throw long combinations of hard individual shots in succession. He will also pace himself well until he chooses to burst and he will cross-foot straight punch his way directly at his opponent in a straight line, this does not bode well against O’Malley who has shown an ability to counter this strategy in the past. However, this knack for exploding forward is used by Paiva in another way as well, against his opponents he will catch kicks and explode forward on the one-footed opponents, catching them off balance or using it to take them down and control from top. O’Malley who is yet to prove his true grappling skills, may have to if one of his kicks are caught in this way, on the flip side because this is a constant habit of Paiva, he will have to watch out for O’Malley taking advantage of his dropping hand.
O’Malley vs. Paiva Prediction
Overall, O’Malley should have the tools to win this contest. One of Paiva’s characteristics is that he used his reach largely to his advantage while he spent time at flyweight, coming up to bantamweight this is mostly nullified but even more so against the likes of O’Malley. His linear attack is exactly what the angle heavy footwork of O’Malley was created for, and his lack of head movement plays right into the fluid boxing O’Malley built his style on.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley to win via late stoppage
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.