Saturday, May 28, 2022

Sean O’Malley: Why Hasn’t Vera Kicked Anyone Else’s Nerve?

UFC bantamweight Sean O’Malley has questioned the absence of the kick that led to his 2020 defeat against Marlon Vera from the Ecuadorian’s game.

The one and only blemish on O’Malley’s professional record came at UFC 252. In the co-main event, the rising star shared the Octagon with now-top-five contender “Chito” Vera.

Midway through the opening round, a leg kick appeared to connect with O’Malley’s peroneal nerve, causing a rare instance of “drop foot,” which the likes of Henry Cejudo and Michael Chandler have notably suffered from in the past.

After constantly rolling his ankle courtesy of a lack of control and feeling, “Sugar” was eventually sent to the ground, where Vera unloaded with some brutal elbows to force a TKO stoppage.

The MMA community appeared to be largely split on the result. While some gave full credit to “Chito,” and even attributed the kick to skill and placement over luck, others have suggested that without the unlikely connection to the nerve, the fight would have played out very differently.

It’s pretty clear which side of the fence O’Malley sits on…

O’Malley: Another Vera Fight Wouldn’t Be A Rematch

During an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, O’Malley discussed the prospect of entering the cage with Vera for a second time. According to the Ecuadorian, the Montana native actually turned down a rematch last year.

Although he believes Vera has now “earned” the right to face him again, O’Malley doesn’t think it would be a rematch. That’s because he’s effectively wiped the first meeting from the record in his mind. Citing the way that the fight ended and his injury as the reason for that, “Sugar” sarcastically noted that Vera hasn’t thrown a kick to the nerve since.

“I don’t really feel like it’s a rematch, I don’t think our fight really got to play out at all. He threw a kick, that he hasn’t thrown again. He hasn’t kicked anyone’s nerve again, I don’t know why he hasn’t been doing that,” O’Malley said. “So, I feel like our fight didn’t get to play out, to where it’s like, a rematch. If we fight, it’s gonna be the first time we fight.”

O’Malley went on to assess Vera’s improvements since they shared the cage in 2020. While he acknowledged that “Chito” has developed his skills, the #13-ranked bantamweight did provide a reminder about the Ecuadorian’s loss to José Aldo, as well as the fact he was likely down on the scorecards before a late knockout against Frankie Edgar.

“People are gonna think I’m a hater. I just — he lost to Aldo, he basically lost to Frankie, in my opinion, he was losing on the cards,” said O’Malley. “Lost to Frankie, throws a little kick, lands it. His performance against Rob (Font) was impressive. We all know he’s durable. He’s definitely improving in his skills when you watch him from fight to fight.

“I think he’s improving. He’s obviously improving with each performance. I don’t look at him as super — he’s just durable. He’s got good skills, and he’s getting better, but he’s just f*cking durable, he’s just stupid tough, and that’s dangerous.”

Having emerged victorious in his main event debut last month, Vera has his sights set on bantamweight gold. Meanwhile, O’Malley is gearing up for his first appearance of the year, which is expected to come against top-10 contender Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276.

Should “Sugar” continue his rise up the 135-pound ladder, it seems that a second date with “Chito” is more than likely.

Sean O'Malley & Marlon Vera
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 14: (L-R) Opponents Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera of Ecuador face off during the UFC 252 weigh-in at UFC APEX on August 14, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

How do you think a rematch between Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera would play out?

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