The UFC returns to Boston in the TD Garden for a huge bantamweight title fight at UFC 292 between champion Aljamain Sterling and number one contender Sean O'Malley.
Sterling will be defending his belt for the fourth time in his career and looking to continue to dominate one of the most stacked divisions in the company, while this will be O'Malley's first attempt at claiming gold in his career.
We'll take a look at the fight and break down the match-up between these two fighters before providing you with our best free UFC betting picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash while you watch the action.
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UFC 292 information
- Saturday, August 19th 2023
- TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
- Bantamweight championship fight (135-pounds)
- 5 x 5 minute rounds
- 22:00 ET main card start time
Aljamain Sterling vs Sean O'Malley
"The Funkmaster" comes into this bout as the reigning and defending champion of the world at 135-pounds, and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world right now.
With a professional record of 23-3 including eight by submission and 11 decisions, Sterling has won each of the last nine fights in a row that he's been in.
He initially claimed the title via disqualification when Petr Yan kneed him in the head despite being a downed opponent, and when he wasn't able to continue he was awarded the title. In the rematch though Sterling dominated Yan in the grappling department and claimed a split decision win.
He followed that up with a stoppage win over former champion TJ Dillashaw, dominating him with wrestling and ground and pound and taking full advantage of his opponent's injured shoulder. Last time out he earned a decision win over Henry Cejudo in a closely fought bout.
'Suga' on the other hand is on a five-fight undefeated streak after losing for the first time in his career to Marlon Vera after he suffered a leg injury.
Since then he has claimed stoppage wins over Thomas Almeida, Kris Moutinho and Raulian Paiva before an accidental eye-poke saw his bout with Pedro Munhoz end in a no-contest. Last time out he claimed a controversial decision win over Petr Yan to earn this title shot.
O'Malley has a professional MMA record of 16-1 (1 no contest), including 11 wins by knockout.
Route to Victory
Stylistically this is a really interesting match-up because on paper it is a classic grappler vs striker fight, however both men are more than comfortable in the realm their opponent shines in most.
Sterling is a fantastic wrestler and one of the most elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport at any weight, but he's also a solid kickboxer with good power in his shots and a great leg kick too.
As for O'Malley, he is one of the most accurate and technical strikers in the company with phenomenal one-punch knockout power as well as a great kicking game. But he is also a jiu-jitsu black belt who has competed in grappling tournaments and done well, so he will be comfortable if the fight leads to him being on his back.
But while both fighters will be comfortable in their opponents wheel-house, they know their best chance of success comes in their own and that's where they will look for this fight to take place.
Sterling will be confident that if he takes this fight to the ground he will keep it there and be in a dominant position to see out the round and work for submissions, while O'Malley will feel he can take advantage of his striking advantages on the feet to land a big knockout punch.
If O'Malley is going to win he needs to be standing and striking with Sterling, because on the ground he will definitely be losing the exchanges and most likely be in an inferior position in the eyes of the judges.
Check out our review for BetOnline sports betting here.
UFC Picks: And still...
Ultimately the likelihood of Sterling not getting takedowns in the fight is slim to none, and that means that he is likely to win those rounds unless he can only do it late on after getting pieced up.
O'Malley will know that his greatest chance of victory comes inside the distance, with his lightning-fast striking giving him the best opportunity to become the bantamweight champion of the world. But there are just more routes to victory for Sterling because of his submission skills and his ability to control on the ground.
If Sterling gets caught on the feet a few too many times he will be in trouble, but he'll abandon any plan of striking and use his wrestling as much as possible, even without takedowns and just closing the distance and putting O'Malley against the cage.
If the fight is clean and technical he's at a disadvantage, so he'll make this ugly and the likelihood is that he claims a not-so-exciting victory on the scorecards.
Check out our review for Bovada sports betting here.