UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi looks set to be a star-studded occasion and the latest major fight to be confirmed for the card will see former bantamweight champion Petr Yan fight Sean O’Malley.
O’Malley was the first to reveal the fight during an interview on ESPN’s DC & RC show.
““He’s obviously the No. 1 contender right now. He’s pretty much 1-1 against ‘Aljo’ [Aljamain Sterling],” O’Malley said of Yan. “He whooped Aljo the first fight, then he got kind of whooped up in the second fight. But he could be considered the champion. The whole top 5, really — the way Petr beat Jose Aldo was one of my favorite performances of Petr Yan.
“So going in there and stepping up against a guy like Petr is exciting, it’s motivating, and it’s the biggest fight in the bantamweight division right now. I think it’s bigger than Aljo vs. T.J. [Dillashaw].
“I’m so excited for this. I almost can’t even believe it’s real, it’s happening.”
This is certainly a massive step up for O’Malley, who has build up significant star power despite the fact that he’s still only ranked No.13 in the division.
Part of that is due to his distinctive appearance and outspoken character, but he’s also largely backed up his words with action in the Octagon, having delivered a string of TKO and KO victories during his nine-fight run in the promotion.
However, with his recent wins coming against the likes of Thomas Almeida, Kris Moutinho and Raulian Pavia, along with a lackluster no-contest fight against Pedro Munhoz last time out, not many people would have been expecting him to land a fight with the division’s No.1 contender for his next match-up.
It’s certainly a daunting challenge to go up against Yan, who lost the bantamweight title to Aljamain Sterling in controversial fashion back in March of 2021 after landing an illegal knee strike in a fight he had appeared to be winning up to that point.
Since then he’s picked up a decision win over Cory Sandhagen and then lost out by split decision to Sterling in their rematch.
With a bantamweight title fight between Sterling and TJ Dillashaw set to be the co-main event for UFC 280, a win for Yan could book him a title shot against the winner, while an impressive victory for O’Malley could also see him catapult up the rankings and potentially also into the title picture too.