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Sean O’Malley retains title with masterclass against Chito Vera at UFC 299

Sean O’Malley avenged the only defeat of his professional career on Saturday, outpointing Marlon Vera to retain his bantamweight title at UFC 299.

It was a masterclass in Miami by “Sugar Sean”, who varied his offence and repeatedly switched stances to outstrike “Chito” across five rounds. The scorecards read 50-45, 50-45, 50-44 in O’Malley’s favour.

With the victory, O’Malley made his first title defence a successful one, having knocked out Aljamain Sterling to win the title in August. The American also took revenge upon Vera, who beat him via TKO in 2020.

The standout moment of the fight saw O’Malley drill a knee into his challenger’s face in round two – a shot that the Ecuadorian somehow survived. O’Malley then dropped Vera to a knee just before the buzzer signaled the end of the round.

Vera, 31, showed spirit to muster a decent spell of offence at the end of round three and early in round four, with O’Malley briefly retreating. However, the champion hurt Vera with a cross in the fifth and final round and saw out a clinical performance in the remaining minutes.

O’Malley, 29, proceeded to call out featherweight champion Ilia Topuria, saying he would gladly challenge the Georgian-Spaniard in Spain later this year. Meanwhile, Vera – sporting significant swelling to the face – vowed to bounce back and become champion someday.

Sean O’Malley (right) outclassed Marlon Vera across five rounds (Getty Images)
Sean O’Malley (right) outclassed Marlon Vera across five rounds (Getty Images)

In the co-main event, former interim champion Dustin Poirier knocked Benoit Saint-Denis out cold after fighting through adversity in their lightweight bout.

Poirier’s previous fight was a knockout loss to Justin Gaethje in July, and many fans feared for the 35-year-old as he took on 28-year-old Saint-Denis. But the American survived some precarious striking and grappling exchanges to knock out the Frenchman with a clean right hook in round two.