O’Malley (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) meets former bantamweight champion Yan (16-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) at UFC 280 on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi. At the same event, champ Aljamain Sterling defends his title against T.J. Dillashaw.
Yan marks a big step up in both competition and rankings for O’Malley, who is coming off a no contest with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 in July. O’Malley inadvertently poked Munhoz in the eye and Munhoz was unable to continue.
“Yeah, (I’m) super surprised,” Sandhagen told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Wednesday’s media day for UFC Fight Night 210. “We’ll see how it goes for him, I guess. It’s three rounds, so that’s a little bit more of an advantage for O’Malley, but I think Yan is not a stupid guy, and I think that he’s definitely learned from his mistakes in the past, which have been not being aggressive enough in the first round, so I don’t think he’s going to make that same mistake.
“I think Sean’s last showing against Munhoz wasn’t good. Nothing really happened in the first round, and then he poked the guy in the eye in the second one. So whatever narrative has been around that fight, that’s how that fight went, which, should you fight the No. 1 guy after a performance like that? My opinion, no. But what do I know?”
Sandhagen (14-4 MMA, 7-3 UFC), who will look to get back to the win column against Song Yadong (19-6-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 210 main event, sees a title shot for O’Malley if he can get past Yan. However, he will look to leapfrog the winner of that fight with a statement performance against Yadong.
“He probably will,” Sandhagen said. “Yan’s a good fighter. Yan almost beat Sterling in his last one. He was kind of beating him in the one before that. So if (O’Malley) wins, then sure, I guess. I don’t really have an opinion about it, and I don’t want to say yes because maybe if I win this weekend, then I can maybe jump in that spot if it’s impressive enough. But I think beating Yan might get you a title shot, yeah.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 210.