Sean O’Malley and Marlon “Chito” Vera have been at each other’s throats for 3 years now.
Their rivalry will now continue at the very top of the sport at UFC 299 in 2024. It is quite evident that the new UFC bantamweight champion has never been fond of the #6-ranked contender for his title. So let’s take a look at how it all started and what’s happened since their first encounter…
O’Malley vs. Vera 1
This all dates back to 2020, when ‘Suga Sean’ took on Marlon in a fight that did not have the implications that this rematch will carry. It was a time in which both fighters were still towards the bottom of the ladder. Yet for Sean, it was a fight that saw him lose his undefeated record. O’Malley was red hot in terms of popularity, and he was knocking out opponents left and right.
That is, of course, until he ran into the Ecuadorean savage that is Vera. To O’Malley’s credit, a leg kick from Vera struck Sean’s peroneal nerve, thus shutting off his leg completely. Chito was able to capitalize, finish the fight, and become the 1 to the current bantamweight champion’s 17-1 record.
Similar to Kamara Usman and Colby Covington, who were feuding from the time they sat at the back tables of the press conference to facing each other for world championships, O’Malley and Vera’s rivalry will now be for all the marbles. Specifically, for the coveted UFC bantamweight championship..
Though they have not faced each other in years, this fight has remained relevant throughout Sean’s rise to the title. Ever since the Vera loss, O’Malley has been quick to put up the 0 with his hand each time Bruce Buffer announces his record for every fight. Even in countless interviews and podcasts, O’Malley is not shy about saying that his loss to Chito was a fluke. Chito tends to share a similar view on O’Malley, leading to a collision course between two of the top bantamweights on the planet.
O’Malley vs. Vera 2
Well, O’Malley finally achieves his goal and wins the bantamweight title, and who is the first person he calls out? Chito Vera. A very on-brand thing for O’Malley to do, by the way, in calling his own shots. And while you do have killers like Dvalishvili, Sandhagen, Sterling, and others… The champ has chosen Chito, and so that is who the champ will get at UFC 299. The fight was recently announced by UFC president Dana White and will take place in March 2024.
Given the way it played out last time and the hype that has been added since, this is a fight that will surely capture the attention of MMA fans, and beyond that, even casuals. Fans will be tuning in for this one given Sean’s star power and the fact that Marlon has actually become a fan favorite himself since they last fought. Often times in combat sports, we can get a great stylistic matchup with two of the top fighters, and that should sell itself. But there is nothing like a good old-fashioned story to a feud. Perhaps the WWE-UFC merger through Endeavor has had an affect on me, but this is a mega fight regardless.
The odd thing in all of this is Merab Dvalishvili, who is riding a 9-fight win streak and just beat former bantamweight champion Yan in convincing fashion. His best friend, Aljamain Sterling, is no longer the champion, and there seems to be no title shot in place. The reason it bears relevance is due to the potential nightmare matchup it could have been for O’Malley.
This just goes back to O’Malley calling his own shots; he has been doing this even before he was a ranked fighter. Years ago, he made it clear that he was not going to fight top-level opponents until he was paid accordingly. Now as champion, he seems to be taking a similar approach as he continues to call it to his favor.
Would we still watch Sean vs. Merab? Yes. But do I think most MMA fans would favor this UFC 299 matchup against Marlon Vera? Absolutely. This could be a chance for Chito to perhaps slam the door shut on this rivalry at 2-0, or for O’Malley to make his first statement as world champion.
Are you excited for the matchup? Let us know in the comments below.