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Sean O’Malley coach predicts ‘viral knockout’ of Marlon Vera at UFC 299

Sean O’Malley’s coach has predicted a “viral knockout” for his fighter in the UFC 299 main event, when “Sugar Sean” faces Marlon Vera.

O’Malley, who won the UFC men’s bantamweight title in August, will make his first defence of the belt on 9 March, taking on the only man to have beaten him: “Chito” Vera.

In the pair’s first fight, in 2020, Vera battered O’Malley’s legs, ultimately causing an injury before sealing a TKO of the American. Yet O’Malley is the favourite ahead of their rematch next month – a verdict that Tim Welch agrees with.

“I believe it’s going to be a viral knockout,” Welch said on The MMA Hour on Wednesday (7 February). “But like I said, I’m preparing Sean for a five-round war. I’m bringing the toughest people I could find in to spar him, going tons of rounds, trying to break him, trying to break his legs, kicking his legs.

“We’re preparing him for a five-round war, because Chito is really good at taking shots, he’s very durable. So, we’re preparing him for five rounds, but I do believe in my heart that [Vera is probably going to be] face-planted at the end of the fight.”

O’Malley won the bantamweight title with a second-round TKO of Aljamain Sterling in August, when the latter was widely seen as the favourite due to his perceived advantage in the grappling exchanges. O’Malley, 29, dropped Sterling with a counter right cross, before finishing the Jamaican-American with punches and hammer fists.

That win extended O’Malley’s win streak to five – with the exception of a No Contest against Pedro Munhoz in 2022 – since Sugar Sean was beaten by Vera.

O’Malley (left) facing off with Vera in 2020 (Zuffa/LLC via Getty Images)
O’Malley (left) facing off with Vera in 2020 (Zuffa/LLC via Getty Images)

Since beating O’Malley, Vera has gone 5-2, most recently beating Munhoz via decision in August – on the same night as O’Malley’s title win. Between his wins over O’Malley and Munhoz, Vera outpointed Rob Font and Davey Grant and scored stunning knockouts of ex-champions Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz. His defeats in that time both came on points, against Cory Sandhagen and former featherweight king Jose Aldo.

“I don’t think [he’s improved] a ton,” Welch said of Vera. “I don’t think his confidence is going to be high, and the way he showed up against Cory Sandhagen, he got smoked. He barely got past a little, short – no diss, but – Pedro Munhoz, who’s not very fast and big, he’s a little bit older.

Vera sealed a TKO against O’Malley in their first fight (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Vera sealed a TKO against O’Malley in their first fight (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

“So, I don’t think his confidence is super high, but Chito’s dangerous. He is really, really good at getting beat up and then winning, which is a dangerous thing. He’s very durable, he trains hard, he’s got a good coach, and he’s dangerous.

“Last time we fought him, we [underestimated] him. We thought he was just slow and clunky, and then that happened, so we’re not underestimating him this time.”