UFC 292 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley: Multiple Bets for Main Event Stoppage (Saturday, August 19)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling
Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O'Malley Odds
UFC bantamweight gold is on the line in Saturday night's UFC 292 main event in Boston as reigning champion Aljamain Sterling faces No. 2-ranked contender and title challenger Sean O'Malley.
Sterling enters on a nine-fight winning streak that includes a trio of wins against former champions Petr Yan, T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo in his past three bouts.
With a victory on Saturday, Sterling may move up to 145 pounds to face champ Alexander Volkanovski and let his teammate and friend, current No. 1 bantamweight contender Merab Davalishvili, fight for the belt.
O'Malley is unbeaten in his past five fights but lost the first round of his bout against Pedro Munhoz before poking him in the eye, rendering the bout a no-contest. And, like Sterling, he won a controversial split decision against Yan.
Saturday will mark O'Malley's first five-round test. Sterling, meanwhile, enters his fifth consecutive five-round UFC headliner.
Below, I'll provide my analysis and projections for Saturday's UFC 292 main event (10 p.m. ET main card, ESPN+ PPV) and utilize those factors to bet on Alajamin Sterling vs. Sean O'Malley, who should make their cage walks at approximately 11:55 p.m. ET.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||13:36||9:01|
|Weight||135 pounds||135 pounds|
|Reach||71 inches||72 inches|
|Date of birth||7/31/1989||10/24/1994|
|Sig Strikes Per Minute||4.78||7.43|
|SS Absorbed Per Minute||2.37||3.54|
|Take Down Avg||2.02||0.45|
O'Malley is the taller (four inches) and longer (one inch) man in this matchup, and he might have an advantage striking from a distance. He makes the most out of his length, fighting behind long straight punches and teep kicks, and he manages range well.
O'Malley maintains a high pace (12.4 significant strike attempts per minute), is highly accurate with his punches, and tends to wear opponents down with attritional damage – or one precisely placed strike – rather than loading up on any individual punch or kick.
Still, O'Malley rarely faces opponents who can seemingly match his reach, and "The Funkmaster" can keep the striking competitive with his unorthodox movement and techniques by creating openings as he mixes in the grappling.
Sterling maintains 100% of the grappling upside in this fight; he recently proved his MMA grappling level by out-wrestling Olympic champion Henry Cejudo (landed four of 15 takedowns, 4:00 of control time).
Among current UFC fighters, relative to their division, only Islam Makachev (lightweight) and Jailton Almeida (heavyweight) appear to have the same level of elite blend between their grappling and wrestling.
O'Malley's submission defense is likely underrated, but the UFC has mostly fed him strikers on his accent through the rankings. Yan took him down six times in their fight (on 13 attempts), spent 5:44 in control position, and probably would have wrestled more had he known the scorecards were as close as they were.
Additionally, O'Malley has shown a tendency to give his back when standing after takedowns, which Sterling – the Human Backpack – looks to capitalize on against any opponent.
O'Malley couldn't break free from Yan's body triangle and will have a much more difficult time escaping from that position against Sterling, who is both longer and a superior offensive grappler to Yan.
Sterling shoots takedowns at a high clip (projects for 14 attempts in a 25-minute fight) and utilizes chain wrestling techniques to get opponents to the mat, explaining his 24% completion rate.
Against O'Malley, he might need only one takedown to win the fight – or at least one takedown to win each round – since he's able to consistently take the back and maintain that position for extended stretches, where he can threaten chokes, land strikes or maintain a low-risk but dominant position.
O'Malley needs to damage Sterling as much as he can, especially in the opportunities where he can land clean strikes from range. Still, I don't expect Sterling to play an outside kickboxing game or stand in the pocket for extended stretches.
When he isn't on top or in control of O'Malley's back, I expect Sterling to be shooting for legs or attempting to clinch. I also expect him to avoid exchanges in which O'Malley can fully leverage extension into his kicks and punches.
However, I expect Sterling to hammer O'Malley with leg kicks whenever they are at range. We've seen O'Malley's peroneal nerve shut off in two separate fights: his loss to Marlon Vera and his win over Andre Soukhamthath (taken down six times).
And if Sterling can limit O'Malley's movement on the feet, it should reduce O'Malley's finishing ability and make him more susceptible to takedowns.
Unless O'Malley consistently denies takedowns, I have difficulty seeing him winning this fight consistently outside of a flash knockout.
Sterling has a knockout loss on his record (via knee to Marlon Moraes), and O'Malley combines length, explosiveness and dynamic ability to pull a highlight-reel finish against any opponent. Still, Sterling's style seems all wrong for O'Malley's game.
It's the type of test O'Malley has yet to face at the UFC level, and he's getting the best possible version of that style in the biggest fight of his career while potentially experiencing the championship rounds for the first time.
Typically, title challengers have some 25-minute experience – at least headlining a UFC Fight Night-type card – before a title bout.
O'Malley's recent performances are questionable, and his path to a title was rushed.
Sterling vs. O'Malley Pick
I projected Aljamain Sterling as a -269 favorite (72.9% implied odds) in this bout and would bet the champion up to -250 (71.4%) at a 1.5% edge compared to my projection.
However, Sean O'Malley is seemingly the big public underdog this week, and as limits increase closer to fight time, I'll wait to see whether enough money floods the market to drive Sterling's price down, giving us more value.
I expect the fight to end inside the distance 73% of the time (-266 implied odds) and would bet the inside-the-distance props for this matchup up to -245. Alternatively, consider playing a ladder bet and staking the Under 2.5 (+114), Under 3.5 (-141), and 4.5 (-200) separately.
Since I show value both on Sterling and the under, I also see value on Sterling to win inside the distance (projected -104) and Sterling to win via submission (projected +149).
I would opt for the former; a positional TKO on the mat is possible, and since O'Malley seems like the kind of guy who would rather watch his arm snap than tap, it's worth noting that those types of injury-based referee stoppages are ruled as TKOs rather than technical submissions.
While I have only bet props related to a finish – so far – I'm potentially going to bet on Sterling's moneyline before fight time, too, depending on where the market takes the line.
If that line continues to move toward Sterling and floats out too far, I may alternatively increase the stake on the bets I currently have on my card.
The Picks: Aljamain Sterling wins inside the distance (+115 at FanDuel) | Sterling vs. O'Malley ends inside the distance (-215 at FanDuel)