In the highly anticipated main event of UFC 292, Aljamain Sterling will face off against Sean O’Malley, two fighters at the pinnacle of their craft.
This bantamweight title fight is set to take place on Saturday, Aug. 19, at the TD Garden in Boston, MA., and promises to be a clash of styles that will leave fans on the edge of their seats.
Along with this thrilling matchup, our UFC predictions page features expert insights and predictions for other fights at this event. Don’t miss out on exclusive fight predictions and betting tips by signing up for our free weekly newsletter.
For those eager to catch every punch, kick, and takedown, UFC 292 will be broadcasted live on ESPN+ PPV starting at 10 p.m. ET, with Prelims at 8 p.m. and Early Prelims at 6:30 p.m.
The betting odds for the UFC 292 main event are as follows:
- Aljamain Sterling: -260
- Sean O’Malley: +210
Sterling, the reigning bantamweight champion, enters the fight as the favorite, with his wrestling and submission game expected to be a significant factor. On the other hand, O’Malley’s striking prowess and knockout ability make him a dangerous underdog.
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Sterling vs O’Malley predictions
Sean O’Malley will only enjoy an extra inch of reach, but three inches of height adds to that. Both men manage their work rate and pace very differently; where O’Malley maintains a well-managed consistency and flows through the fight, Aljamain Sterling often puts himself in full gear with awkward timing that makes it very difficult for his opponents to make decisions with much confidence. It’s no secret that O’Malley’s biggest concern will be the takedown of Aljamain Sterling as the latter is the much better wrestler with much better jiu-jitsu.
Sterling is a back specialist because not only is he very good at maintaining back control and setting up chokes patiently, but he has a good chain of plans to transition as his opponents try to escape. Sterling is great at sitting back and going back to riding the back as a wrestler or putting up sneaky submissions over the top if his opponents try to escape out the back or tripod him off of them.
I do not think that O’Malley has the jiu-jitsu prowess to consistently work his way out of Sterling’s back control and get himself back to his feet. If he finds himself stuck on the bottom, his goal should be submission defense until either the ref calls for stalling or he makes it out of the round and resets the next round. O’Malley does have to put a lot of emphasis on stopping the initial takedown and even more importantly making Sterling pay for the attempts to dissuade a constant shooting for the legs.
Aljamain Sterling does have a habit of level-changing with his arms out to the side, potentially setting himself up for low uppercuts or knees down the middle. O’Malley as the taller fighter will be looking to fade away and counter many of Sterling’s entries, as long as he can keep himself off of the fence when doing so by constantly circling, Sterling’s takedowns attempts can also serve as opportunities for ‘Suga’.
In order to avoid this, A: Sterling needs to earn some respect with his strikes, enough that O’Malley is reacting to the strikes before the level changes. Sterling is very chaotic in his strike selection, in the aspect that he will enter and throw many different options, so O’Malley may have a harder time reading what Aljo will be throwing each time. He has to keep the pressure on and use his unpredictability to force O’Malley towards the cage, where he can clinch up and drag the legs out with trips to avoid the knees as well. Otherwise, when Sterling does shoot, he needs to get O’Malley backing up aggressively so he can’t plant and counter.
What this fight comes down to is really the clean striking and the knockout ability of O’Malley and the chaotic energy and grappling of Sterling. O’Malley is a very clever fighter, he is going to be throwing things early that show him openings to tag Sterling later and try to put the lights out with one sniping shot. For Sterling, it’s about out-working O’Malley and eventually putting him on his back. Sterling has effective striking, but the chances of him being caught if he doesn’t mix things up is high.
If he gets the fight to the floor, the rest of the round may be a wrap, and at the very least, this lets Sterling steal rounds and make O’Malley desperate and tired by the championship rounds. The difference here is I think both men have areas to finish the other, O’Malley on the feet and Sterling on the mat, but on the way, Sterling edging out rounds to force O’Malley into playing ‘catch-up’ sets himself up well to win.
Pick: Aljamain Sterling to win (-260 at BetUS)
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Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling is nearing or has arguably entered bantamweight GOAT (greatest of all time) status. The 34-year-old New York native won the belt in 2021 and has successfully defended it 3 times. He has 9 UFC wins in a row and has beaten some of the most recognizable names in the sport.
Aljo’s primary path to victory is through his elite wrestling, grappling, and submission game. Sterling was a D3 wrestler in college and has brought over a similar style to the UFC. However, as his nickname suggests, he adds a little “funk” to the singlet as well. Sterling’s wrestling is most successful when he can start it from the clinch and use his natural athleticism and strength to trip or drag opponents to the mat.
Rather than shooting traditional single or double-leg takedowns- which he is still more than capable of executing- which can be timed and countered, Aljo’s clinch takedowns are safer and present a smoother transition to the back. Taking the back is his endgame and what he does better than anyone not named Nurmagomedov in the bantamweight division. Sterling will often use his pull or trip takedowns to send an opponent to the canvas face first which means when they hit, their back is exposed.
Once Sterling gets the back, he is not giving it up for the rest of the round. Aljo has one of the best body triangles in the UFC and is a master at holding position, rolling with transitions, and dealing enough damage to control opponents for entire rounds. The most unique aspect to Sterling’s game is his striking. He is a successful but unorthodox striker.
Statistically, Sterling’s striking is on par with some of the better strikers he faces. He lands nearly 5 significant strikes per minute at a better than 50% clip and only absorbs 2.3 His style, though, is what makes “Funk Master” truly funky. While he has one of the best boxing coaches, Ray Longo, in his corner, Sterling is anything but a traditional striker. He tends to move in a uniquely bouncy way, using his shoulders as feints to set up looping hooks and wide kicks. He likes to bob and weave his way into range and then use his speed and threat of a takedown to open up striking opportunities. While he has a unique style, his striking is undeniably successful.
Sean “Suga” O’Malley is a superstar without ever holding the belt. Part of his stardom is due to his outside-the-cage success, with his podcast, his style, and his life that includes rainbow hair and Lamborghinis. However, make no doubt about it, what put Suga on the map is what he can do when he puts the gloves on. O’Malley is a world class striker and might be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the UFC. His speed, timing, creativity, and vision are simply elite.
Suga is a stance-switch striker who can land nearly every punch and every kick from every angle with absurd speed and accuracy in any moment of the fight. His statistics which are not fluffed up from ground-and-pound strikes, as is the case with some wrestlers, don’t even seem real. O’Malley has 10 UFC fights against real contenders and still boats a 60% striking accuracy percentage, landing 7.4 significant strikes per minute, and only absorbs 3.5.
His frame, skillset, speed, and ingenuity epitomize the old boxing adage: hit and don’t get hit. Watching what O’Malley can do on the feet is special. His ground game, namely his take down defense and positional grappling, though, are the concerns in this fight. Suga is an elite striker but a, at best, growing grappler. He showed an improved ability to scramble in his last fight against Petr Yan and was even able to reverse some spots and transition into an advantageous position.
However, Yan, who is a solid wrestler but it is not his primary path, took O’Malley down 6 times with nearly 6 minutes of control time in a 3-round fight. The bright spots in those moments were Suga’s jiu-jitsu which put Yan in a few compromising positions and his ability to survive bad spots. But, Suga was clearly out of his depth at times and struggled to dictate where the fight went. Still, though, because of his striking and the damage he dealt out, he won the fight.
This fight is fascinating because O’Malley will be the best striker that Sterling has ever fought and Sterling will be by far and away the best wrestler and grappler that O’Malley has ever fought. Both men are elite in their specialty and their specialty is the other’s weakness. The paths to victory are clear: Aljo needs to get in tight safely, take Suga down, and look for the submission while Suga needs to keep the fight standing and pick “Funk Master” apart. I like Suga to get this done. I expect this fight to be one-sided round after round, with Aljo backpacking or body-triangling Suga for a round and other rounds where Suga lands an absurd amount of volume and damage on the feet.
More specifically, I like Suga to get Aljo’s timing early and hurt Aljo on the feet while they’re both dry and fresh, and Suga has a better chance to keep it standing. Then, as the fight progresses, I do expect Aljo to get this fight down; but, just like with Petr Yan, I think Suga can do enough to not be finished. So long as he isn’t submitted, I think Suga can survive the canvas enough to win out the fight on the feet. Then, if Aljo’s funky striking has him zig when he should have zagged, we could see a Suga KO.
Best Bet: O’Malley to win (+210 at BetUS)
The upcoming UFC 292 main event between Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley is one of the most anticipated bantamweight title fights in recent memory. This is because Sterling is just now getting the respect that he deserves within the diehard MMA community. Juxtaposed that, Suga Sean is one of the most popular fighters among casuals, so there is a clear line in the sand between the fanbases which creates a fantastic build-up.
From a fighting perspective, diehards have begun to realize the degree of success Sterling has shown is quite repeatable and has done so against elite competition, both demonstrable points which tend to be viewed favorably by diehards and bettors alike. The way in which he puts forth repeatable victories is by leveraging his incredible size for the division through strong wrestling accompanied by having innate athleticism that is showcased through unorthodox striking. While his striking is still underappreciated, Sterling will certainly look to leverage his elite wrestling to take Suga Sean down, and on the mat, there is perhaps no better bantamweight to control the fight there and progress his way to a finish.
The game plan of Sterling is known and stated by Sean O’Malley. He expects Sterling to attempt to close distance, and as O’Malley coins it “grab a hold of me” where he can then secure a takedown. The greatest attribute O’Malley has a preventing this system of events from transpiring is first, being cognitively aware of the danger he is in with respect to getting taken to the mat which he has demonstrated to be aware of already, and second, use his elite footwork and frame to keep Sterling away. While both are indeed a possibility on paper, Suga Sean will more than likely need to show the ability to either posture up against the cage to prevent the fight from being taken to the mat or showcase the ability to get off the mat given this is a full five-round affair. If he can get up, he has the elite footwork and fast boxing necessary to secure a win here.
While Suga Sean O’Malley is a fan favorite and has uniquely elite striking skills, I fully expect Sterling to look dominant here. The reason for this is twofold: first, the power threat of O’Malley is overblown, albeit he does have elite striking, and second, Sterling has shown the ability to effectively wrestle far greater grapplers than O’Malley. The latter point is the most important, and given Sterling will be stronger than O’Malley, coupled with the fact he can somewhat match the physical stature of him, I expect Sterling to close distance, work his way to the mat, and from there, find a submission.
Bet: Aljamain Sterling by Submission (+185 at BetUS)