O’Malley captured the title with a second-round TKO win over Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292 in Boston. While a lot of people counted O’Malley out of the fight due to the stylistic discrepancies between Sterling and O’Malley, Faber always knew “Sugar” had it in him to wear UFC gold.
“It’s a great lift to the division,” Faber told MMA Fighting. “We need stars in there and he’s the star right now. People always try to discredit, it happened to me too, ‘Oh, you’re only getting title shots because he’s this, that at blah, blah, blah, whatever.’ I’ve been saying forever, people are way underestimating Sean O’Malley because he’s fun, relaxed, different, doesn’t look the part.
“When he submitted Takanori Gomi [at Quintet Ultra], who’s a high-level wrestler, high-level jiu-jitsu player, and O’Malley did it in style and in comfort — I was out there and watched that live when Sean was still on suspension, and the conversations I’ve had with him just as a person, he’s very calculated, level-headed. I figured he has an advantage because there’s dollar signs attached to him, but he’s legit.”
Sterling was looking to become the first bantamweight in history to defend the title four consecutive times and add to an incredible résumé. But that fight week in Boston had certain vibes that indicated O’Malley would not be denied. Combine that with how Faber views O’Malley’s overall skill set and it became a formula that was going to be very difficult for Sterling to thwart.
“I didn’t necessarily see him getting past Petr Yan, initially, and that was still a close fight, could’ve gone either way,” Faber explained.
“And I knew that there’s only really one way for Aljamain to win that fight, and that he was in the danger zone until that happened. So I wasn’t that surprised [that O’Malley won]. Aljo is a huge guy for the weight class, so that was the one thing I thought he had on his side. But other than that, O’Malley is a real fighter. He’s a pinpoint puncher, he’s super coordinated for being long and lanky. That’s rare.
“Him and Sandhagen have that in common, like super coordinated guys. And then sometimes, the stars need to align. That happened for me a little bit, it’s happened for Conor [McGregor], where some fights have to go your way, and then everything falls into place. That was the one for O’Malley.”