Morning Report: Sean O’Malley envisions a bantamweight title fight with Marlon Vera in 2023


Sean O’Malley hopes 2023 is the year he and Marlon Vera finally get to settle their feud.

O’Malley and Vera have a sordid history together but for the moment, that is on the back burner as in February, Vera is set to face Cory Sandhagen in the main event of UFC Vegas 69. Currently on a four-fight win streak, a victory figures to put “Chito” on the cusp of a title shot, and so O’Malley says he plans to be in attendance for the matchup.

“I’m excited. I’m going to go,” O’Malley said on his BroMalley podcast. O’Malley said, “I am going to be in the front row and witness these warriors fight… It is a sweet fight. It is at APEX but I’m not fighting so I don’t give a f***.”

O’Malley and Vera have a tumultuous history together as Vera was the one to hand “Suga” his first MMA loss, a bout O’Malley dismisses entirely, claiming the outcome was caused by injury, not by Vera. Since then, both men have emerged as stars in the bantamweight division, with fans clamoring for a rematch, and if “Chito” can get his hand raised against Sandhagen, O’Malley believes that rematch could finally take place this year, with the bantamweight title on the line.

Though not officially announced yet, all signs point to current bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling defending his title against former champion Henry Cejudo early in 2023, with O’Malley most likely next in line, but O’Malley thinks there’s a world where instead, he and Vera end up fighting it out for the belt next.

“What’s going to happen? O’Malley stated that he didn’t wish to delve too deeply into this. Cejudo said, “Marlon Vera, a mere journeyman not strong enough to defeat Cory Sandhagen.” But that is not the truth. I used to call ‘Chito’ a journeyman, but that was before he beat all those good guys. I didn’t think ‘Chito’ was going to get as good as he did, but he’s gotten good. His skills have improved and he has my respect. I hope he beats Cory, and Aljo beats Henry, Aljo moves up to 145, and me vs. ‘Chito,’ July, massive fight, for the belt.

“Or, Aljo beats Henry, comes back, I sleep Aljo like [Marlon Moraes] did, and then I beat up ‘Chito. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as “Chito” does the job. Although I love Cory, me vs. “Chito” is an enormous fight. Cory anyone vs. me is a big fight. The biggest fight in the division is me vs. anybody, but me vs. ‘Chito,’ the people have been waiting for it, and it’s getting closer.”

First thing’s first though: Vera needs to take care of business against Sandhagen. A former interim bantamweight title challenger, Sandhagen is one of the most dangerous fighters in the division and presents substantial challenges for Vera, but O’Malley believes the circumstances of the fight — five rounds at the UFC APEX — do ultimately favor his rival.

” I think Cory will bounce around and be quick — people look great against ‘Chito’ young,” O’Malley stated. I feel that everyone wins the first round. F****** Frankie Edgar won 14 minutes of the fight and then got head-kicked by that god damn toe. It’s hard to say. Five rounds would be sufficient. Small cages are better for ‘Chito. Cory would be my choice if it were a big cage with three rounds. I don’t know. I’m excited for that fight. It’s going to be a sweet fight.”

UFC Vegas 69 takes place on Feb. 18.


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