What now, Sean O’Malley?
Less than two minutes into his fight at UFC 250, O’Malley sent a devastating message with a right cross. Yes, the hype appears to be real. With his second Performance of the Night this year, there’s only one question to ask. Who’s next?
With his first fight on a UFC main card out of the way, the conversation on his eventual role as a top contender must be had. People are clearly excited about O’Malley’s potential, but without some fiercer competition, much of that potential can be dismissed as speculation.
Veteran Eddie Wineland was a respectable matchup, but with a 10-year age gap between the two, the competition will mostly be a stepping stone. O’Malley was ambiguous on the subject of his next fight.
“I don’t have a name right now, I know it depends on who’s healthy, who’s coming off a win,” he said at his post-fight interview.
Social media, as expected, is buzzing with fans’ favorite matchups from logical to overly ambitious. Sober suggestions like 13th-ranked John Dodson, where a win could put O’Malley more seriously into talks about being a top contender, are right alongside calls for him to fight Cody Garbrandt. We’ll assume that’s not going to happen just yet. Garbrandt, no doubt, has his eyes on contenders at the top of the division after his own exciting finish.
O’Malley also said after the fight that he came away relatively uninjured, so his next fight might be relatively soon.
The fight, which advanced O’Malley to a 12-0 record, was the eighth to end in a knockout in his professional career. With an unquestionably ferocious standup game, he could look to diversify his record by ending some bouts on the mat. O’Malley, a BJJ purple belt, addressed this topic at his post-fight interview.
“I know eventually it’s gonna go to the ground, but that’s why I prepare,” he said. “I’m trying to get my grappling as high-level as my strike, and I think it’s almost there.”
As exciting as the bantamweight division looks right now, even with the retirement of Henry Cejudo, O’Malley shows just how deep the well of talent is, which should make for some intriguing matchups down the road.