Chael Sonnen Snubs Alex Pereira For 2024’s Best Male Fighter Thus Far: ‘When I Watched O’Malley…’

Former UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen had an interesting pick for male fighter in his and Daniel Cormier’s recent mid-year awards.

While the real interest in awards comes at the end of each calendar year, there’s been no shortage of action and memorable moments to digest on mixed martial arts’ biggest stage through the first six months of 2024.

In line with that, ESPN recently released its mid-year awards. A 14-person voting panel including renowned journalists like Brett Okamoto and Brett Okamoto voted on a number of categories following UFC 303.

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And that event contributed to one result, with 100 percent of the votes for Male Fighter of the Mid-Year going to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Alex Pereira.

Pereira is the only titleholder to have emerged victorious twice in 2024, with “Poatan” following his knockout of Jamahal Hill in the main event of April’s milestone UFC 300 card with another brutal finish last month, this time at the expense of Jiří Procházka on short notice.

While that run would perhaps make the Brazilian an obvious and unrivaled choice, one former fighter sees things differently…

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Sonnen Favors O’Malley Title Defense Over Pereira’s Two Knockouts

During a recent episode of his and Cormier’s Good Guy / Bad Guy show on ESPN MMA’s YouTube channel, Sonnen left his co-host in shock with one of his mid-year award picks.

Despite Pereira’s dominant performances against two high-ranked former light heavyweight champs, “The Bad Guy” gave his nod to bantamweight kingpin Sean O’Malley.

“When you look at the Male Fighter of the Year, I’m going with Sean O’Malley,” Sonnen said. “When ‘Sugar’ Sean fought ‘Chito’ Vera, I did not know Sean was that good. I believed that Sean was the best guy in the world. I thought it was competitive; there’s guys that could beat him but he could beat them as well. But when he fought ‘Chito’ Vera and he dominated that…

“To watch the growth that Sean had (from the first Vera fight), not to mention the pressure he had going from the Apex to top of the bill, a $14.1 million gate, and you’ve got to follow the show Dustin Poirier put on,” Sonnen continued. “There was so much pressure on this young man, who is a showman. … Can you back up what you say? Not only did he do it, he did it for 25 minutes. 15 minutes in he could’ve put the brakes on…wasn’t good enough for him. He tried to finish that fight. … I thought it was the total package.”

Sonnen’s pick received a shake of the head from Cormier, who was firm in stating that Pereira is the correct and obvious pick.

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Whether that will remain the case come the end-of-year awards remains to be seen. O’Malley would no doubt strengthen his case should he get past his expected next challenger, wrestling specialist Merab Dvalishvili.

But should Pereira face and defeat the man widely labeled his biggest threat at 205 pounds in Magomed Ankalaev, the debate could be wrapped up.