No sooner could he begin celebrating his third successful title defense earlier this month, Aljamain Sterling was already being lined up for his next challenge.
Although always insistent that he doesn’t make matchups on fight nights, Dana White appeared to do just that at UFC 288, where Sterling spoiled the comeback of former two-division champion Henry Cejudo.
In the immediate aftermath, plans for “Funk Master” to return in less than four months to defend the bantamweight gold against Sean O’Malley in Boston were revealed and later confirmed by the promotion.
While the UFC 292 headliner has had some uncertainty around it due to niggling injuries on the side of the champ, it appears likely that the 135-pound belt will be on the line come August 19.
And although preparing to face whom he believes to be the most dangerous bantamweight of all time, O’Malley’s coach thinks his man will find a home for his strikes.
Welch: Sterling’s Mistakes Will Leave Him Sleeping
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Tim Welch looked ahead to the challenge awaiting his pupil in Massachusetts later this summer.
While the coach was complimentary towards Sterling’s talents and accomplishments, he insisted that the reigning champ has a number of holes in his game on the feet that he expects O’Malley to exploit en route to a title-winning knockout.
“I mean, he makes a lot of mistakes too. You see him dropping his hands, dipping his head. Henry’s only 5″2′ and he almost smacked a head kick on Aljo, and he (was) hitting him,” Welch said. “The key’s going to be good footwork. It’s gonna be a big cage, that’s a big difference. I think the small cage (at the Apex) had a lot to do with Cory Sandhagen and Aljo. Then obviously you have to be able to sprawl and just be careful when you’re getting up. He wants you to go to all fours and get up so he can body triangle your back. He’s an expert in that area.
“‘Sugar’s reaction times are so good, and if you make a mistake striking — look at Petr Yan, how high his guard is and how sharp of a striker he was. ‘Sugar’ was able to find his chin and drop him,” Welch continued. “I think ‘Sugar’s gonna crack him, hurt him, wobble him, and Aljo’s gonna take a sh*tty shot and he’s probably gonna put him to sleep one way or another.”
Although many have shared a different take to Welch, predicting that Sterling’s grappling abilities will firmly reign supreme in the UFC 292 main event, O’Malley certainly isn’t a stranger to upset victories.
Just last October, “Sugar” shocked the MMA community by earning a shot at the belt with an underdog triumph over former titleholder Petr Yan in Abu Dhabi.
While he’s facing a different test in Boston, one that got the better of “No Mercy” last April, O’Malley will hope to ultimately achieve the same feat — having his hand raised.
Boston we are BACK and we're bringing two titles fights with us!! 🏆@FunkMasterMMA vs @SugaSeanMMA@MMAWeili vs Amanda Lemos
Official for #UFC292 on August 19th! pic.twitter.com/YIX2bVv3iW
— UFC (@ufc) May 16, 2023
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