UFC 280 is in the books, and what an amazing card it was. What many were calling the pay-per-view of the year took place in Abu Dhabi and lived up to the incredible hype. UFC fans sat in awe as Islam Makhachev submitted Charles Oliviera in a dominant performance. Prior to that, however, two fights would shake up the top of the Bantamweight division, leaving us uncertain of the future of the bantamweight division.
Aljamain Sterling TKO’d T.J Dillashaw, who fought a majority of the fight with one arm, disclosing after the fight that he had injured his arm months ago. Sean O’Malley won a split decision over Petr Yan. Many fans are disputing the victory; however, regardless of how you score the fight, you have to admit that O’Malley looks better than many thought he would and proved to be a real contender in the bantamweight division. With all this movement, let’s look forward as both of the winners and look at what opportunities lie before them.
Sterling has had an unfortunate run as bantamweight champion. Winning his belt via DQ after Yan threw an illegal knee and then had a controversial bantamweight decision victory in the first defense of his belt. After the bizarre fight at UFC 280, the buzz around Sterling is unique for sure. The rumor is that Henry Cejudo is who the UFC would like to see fight Sterling next after Dana White teased the idea at his press conference post-UFC 280.
However, truly I don’t know who really wants to see that fight right now. If Sterling wins, I don’t think it does anything to build Sterling as a champ, as people will claim that beating a washed-up old fighter isn’t much to hang your hat on. Prior to UFC 280 it was widely believed the winner of Yan vs. O’Malley was going to get their shot at the belt; however, with the decision being so controversial, I don’t believe O’Malley is a great candidate either. I would like to see Marlon Vera get his bantamweight shot next. Vera has proven himself to fans as a true warrior throughout his current 4 fight win streak, and if Sterling could beat Vera, I believe more fans would start singing his praises.
So If I don’t have Sean O’Malley as the next contender, who do I think he should fight? I like a match-up against Merab Dvalishivili. Sterling has already made it clear he won’t fight his teammate Merab who looks like he could have champion potential. The fight could either give Merab the #1 contender spot, which is where Sterling wants his friend to be, before vacating the title and moving up a weight class so that Merab can get a shot at the belt. Or it could give Sean the boost he needs to get a title shot as he could use another outing to win in a more convincing manner over a top-ranked opponent before getting his title shot, and who could be better than the friend of the Champion he’s trying to beat.
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