Ahead of UFC 280, the championship plan at 135 pounds had appeared to be laid out, with Dana White seemingly approving a suggestion that the winner of O’Malley and Petr Yan‘s three-round contest would meet the titleholder next.
As well as the pair of contenders being in action, reigning king Sterling also took to the Octagon in Abu Dhabi, defending his belt against an injured TJ Dillashaw in the night’s co-main event.
But while it seemed that Sterling could emerge from the event with his next challenger already set, that’s been far from the case.
Despite O’Malley recording a massive victory for his career, with a split-decision victory over Yan securing his place as the #1-ranked bantamweight, the manner of the result left many scratching their heads.
After 15 minutes of action, O’Malley was awarded the nod, outraging a whole host of fighters, fans, and pundits, who took to social media to protest the result. As well as the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Bryce Mitchell suggesting that the judges got it wrong, 25 of 26 media scorecards on MMA Decisions backed the Russian.
Since the event, however, O’Malley has insisted that he did enough for the win, per the scoring criteria. And with that, he encouraged fans to rewatch the fight before forming their opinion.
Whether that advice has been heard or not is unknown, but a recent poll suggests that the common line of thinking hasn’t altered…
O’Malley Flops & Cejudo Backed In Sterling Defense Poll
On Twitter earlier this week, UFC color commentator Jon Anik posted a poll, the topic of which was the next challenger to Sterling’s bantamweight reign.
Joining O’Malley as options were #4-ranked contender Marlon Vera and former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo. While “Chito” has worked his way up the ladder with four consecutive wins, including over Dominick Cruz this past August, “Triple C” is looking to make a comeback having been retired for the past two years.
Perhaps owing to the fact he vacated the 135-pound belt in 2020 following a successful defense, Cejudo’s claims to an opportunity received the highest backing with 39.2% of 3,352 answering fans.
Taking 32.8% of the vote, meanwhile, was fan favorite Vera. His former opponent, “Sugar” Sean O’Malley, came in last, with just 28% of polled fans believing he’s deserving of the next title shot in the division.
What do you make of the poll results? Do you agree that Henry Cejudo and Marlon Vera deserve a title shot over Sean O’Malley?