Aljamain Sterling picks Petr Yan to win at UFC 280 but would be ‘extremely happy’ to face Sean O’Malley next


Aljamain Sterling has a vested interest in every major fight at bantamweight, but none more so than the upcoming showdown between Petr Yan and Sean O’Malley at UFC 280.

As he prepares to defend his 135-pound title on the same night against T.J. Dillashaw in the co-main event, the New York native is keeping a close eye on Yan vs. O’Malley, because the winner could be the next person in line to challenge for the belt.

While Yan represents a huge step forward in O’Malley’s competition, Sterling believes there are still many advantages for the up-and-coming star.

” It’s a win for O’Malley,” Sterling said to MMA Fighting’s The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I know he said he’s not looking at it like that, but it’s a great opportunity stylistically. His chances of winning in three rounds are greater, I believe.

“Yan starts slow. He becomes aggressive, just like he was against me the first round. Yan gets picked apart and then banks on trying catch him later. I think that’s going to be an ill-advised mistake, because O’Malley’s good, he’s got great footwork. I think he has all the tools needed to win.”

That being said, Sterling still has questions about O’Malley, especially based on his ability to deal with adversity and come out on top when he’s not just dominating his competition.

There’s no better example of that than O’Malley’s only loss in the UFC, which came when he faced an aggressive charge from Marlon Vera. O’Malley was beaten by “Chito”, who didn’t stop until the end. O’Malley won with a TKO in the first round.

” The only thing I question about O’Malley is his toughness,” Sterling stated of O’Malley. “When Yan actually touches him up a bit and keeps chipping away, will he wilt or will he stay there and compete? This is my one concern with the matchup. I just have no idea how he’s going to fare when he gets some opposition pushed back at him.

“I saw it with [Marlon] “Chito” Vera. [O’Malley] It was kinda folded. It was not an easy task. It’s hard for anyone to fight with a drop foot like that, but I think the way he kind of folded was just very telling. That was many years ago. He’s grown. It will be fascinating to see his progress .”

Despite having fought a bitter battle with Yan over nearly two years, Sterling continues to praise his foe. He knows how hard Yan is for anyone, even O’Malley who has never faced such opposition. The two even shared a friendly greeting when they bumped into each other in Abu Dhabi.

Their two title fights are part of the reason why Sterling favors Yan to get the job done on Oct. 22, although he certainly isn’t counting out O’Malley from pulling off the upset.

” I’ve been there with Petr,” Sterling stated. “I know he’s going to be there for the entire 15 minutes, in your face, looking to touch up O’Malley to the body, chop down his legs until he can get take off his head. O’Malley’s one of those guys who uses a lot of footwork, a lot of finesse. He uses a lot of feints and touches you from the outside. He had a tough time with Pedro [Munhoz] in that first round, so it really just makes me wonder how he’s going to do with that style when he actually has someone that can mix it up with him and not be a human punching bag.

” I don’t know how this fight will go but I would choose Yan if forced to. He’s more experienced than me and will be able to adjust because he has made these adjustments before, on the largest stage .”


Sterling’s choice of Yan is based on his truthful opinion. However, he’s not against O’Malley’s victory, particularly considering the personal stakes involved.

O’Malley, since his arrival in the UFC has been one of the most talked-about fighters and has a high television rating. This usually leads to increased fan interest and TV ratings.

As the UFC bantamweight champion and Sterling, O’Malley is likely to bring home a large payday. He admitted, however that he won’t be as excited about a three-fight series with Yan because he has already faced him in back to back fights.

“If O’Malley loses, I will take out T.J.,” Sterling stated. “Whichever happens, I’m going to be excited for either opportunity.

“Obviously with Yan, I’m not going to be as excited because we’ve seen each other twice already for damn near 10 rounds. I think we’re good on this one for a little bit longer at least. We’ll see. Pay-per-view is my favorite. I love money .”