Pedro Munhoz, who holds the record for most fights in the UFC bantamweight division, enters the octagon for the 20th time to face Marlon Vera just a few hours before “Suga” challenges “Funk Master” for the throne at the TD Garden, and broke down the match-up on this week’s episode of Trocação Franca.
“It’s going to be a great fight because Sean O’Malley has shown how good and versatile he is,” Munhoz said. “He’s shown great durability against Petr Yan. I’ve trained with Petr Yan before and I know how good and tough he is. I’ve fought Aljamain Sterling and it was a very strategic fight on his part.”
Munhoz went the distance with Sterling in June 2019 before the Serra BJJ talent choked out Cory Sandhagen to earn a title shot. Munhoz’s bout with O’Malley happened 13 months later and ended late in round two after an unintentional eye-poke scratched his cornea and resulted in a no-contest.
“I think Aljamain wins this fight by points by a close margin because I don’t see such a big technical different between them,” Munhoz said. “I think they’re both complete fighters. I see Aljamain Sterling with a bit more experience, but I also see Sean O’Malley’s precision with the strikes making a difference in the fight.
“He’s a lengthy guy, too. Aljamain has fought guys with long reach before, like Sandhagen, and a lot change from fight to fight, not to mention from different opponents. Let’s say I see a win for Aljamain in five rounds. Not taking anything away from them, they’re two very strategic and lengthy athletes, and for that reason I see a very close five-round fight.”
Sterling has indicated that UFC 292 might mark his final cut to 135 pounds, and Munhoz doesn’t see him returning to the division for two reasons: to pursue history by challenging Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight championship, and to allow his teammate and friend Merab Dvalishvili to get his long-awaited title bout. For Munhoz, a win over Vera will give him a boost in the rankings and put him in a good spot even if he’s not that near of a title shot just yet.
“In case I beat Marlon Vera, I still think there are other people ahead there, even Sandhagen and other fighters like Yan and Merab,” he said. “I don’t know where [a win] would put me, but I’m a guy that focus on each and every fight first. My plans for after this fight are plans I’ll think after the fight. But I believe it puts me closer to fighting someone int he top-5.”
Vera was on a roll in the UFC with consecutive wins over Dominick Cruz, Rob Font, Frankie Edgar and Davey Grant before losing to Sandhagen in March. The Ecuadorian star is the only man to ever beat O’Malley in MMA, and a victory Saturday would be a great addition to Munhoz’s record.
“It’s going to be a tough fight,” Munhoz said. “Marlon is very durable. I think I’m technical better than him in all areas, on the feet and in grappling. I always see myself finishing fights for the way I fight, giving it all, but with two durable guys like us, I think this fight could go to a decision and [I’ll win by] landing more dangerous strikes and being more effective, with more octagon and strikes landed.”