Sean O’Malley becomes newest UFC superstar with dazzling KO of Aljamain Sterling

Sean O’Malley’s rapid rise up the rankings culminated in a dazzling knockout of Aljamain Sterling on Saturday, as “Sugar Sean” took the bantamweight title at UFC 292.

O’Malley’s crisp and flashy striking has seen him become a fan favourite with crossover potential in recent years, and that potential was realised when he dropped Sterling with a picture-perfect right hand in Boston, setting up a TKO finish.

American O’Malley, 28, arrived in the main event without having taken on many top contenders – with the exception of former champion Petr Yan, whom he beat via a controversial decision – and he was similarly able to avoid significant danger in Round 1 against Sterling. The Jamaican-American, 34, was put on the back foot and unable to utilise his standout grappling skills, though O’Malley offered little output despite his forward pressure in a cagey opening frame.

And the fight was over before it got going, as Sterling rushed onto a short, clean right cross from O’Malley early in Round 2, a shot that dropped “Funk Master” at once. O’Malley then finished Sterling on the canvas with a series of punches and hammer fists, as the TD Garden in Boston was flooded with cheers.

“It feels right, baby, it feels right,” O’Malley said in the ring. “Honestly, this was the most nervous I’ve been for a fight. In my eyes, Aljamain Sterling is the greatest bantamweight of all time, but I never lost the confidence – because I know what I possess in this f***ing right hand, baby! It only takes one mistake against me. I don’t even know if that was a mistake, I’m just that f***ing good!”

Meanwhile, Sterling was gracious as fans booed the now-former champion, who entered UFC 292 on a nine-fight win streak and with three successful title defences to his name – all against ex-champions.

“Sean is a lot better than I thought, man,” Sterling said. “He did a really good job. He was elusive, stayed on the outside. This was nothing but respect at the end of the day. [We’re] chasing the dream, something everyone in the crowd should be trying to do every day of your life.”

O’Malley is crowned UFC men’s bantamweight champion (Getty Images)
O’Malley is crowned UFC men’s bantamweight champion (Getty Images)

In the co-main event, Zhang Weili dominated Amanda Lemos to win a lopsided decision (50-43, 50-44, 49-45) and retain the strawweight title.

Full UFC 292 results

Main card

Sean O’Malley def. Aljamain Sterling via second-round TKO (punches, 0:51)

Zhang Weili def. Amanda Lemos via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 49-45)

Ian Machado Garry def. Neil Magny via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-24)

Mario Bautista def. Da’mon Blackshear via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Marlon Vera def. Pedro Munhoz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Zhang Weili, right, dominated Amanda Lemos to retain the strawweight title (Getty Images)
Zhang Weili, right, dominated Amanda Lemos to retain the strawweight title (Getty Images)


Brad Tavares def. Chris Weidman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Gregory Rodrigues def. Denis Tiuliulin via first-round knockout (elbows, 1:43)

Kurt Holobaugh def. Austin Hubbard via second-round submission (triangle choke, 2:39)

Brad Katona def. Cody Gibson via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Early prelims

Andre Petroski def. Gerald Meerschaert via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Natalia Silva def. Andrea Lee via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Karine Silva def. Maryna Moroz via first-round submission (guillotine choke, 4:59)