- What: UFC 292 Pay-Per-View Card Main Event
- Who: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley
- Date: Saturday, August 19, 2023
- Location: TD Garden in Boston, MA
- Time: Early Prelims (6:30 p.m. ET) Prelims (8:00 p.m. ET) Pay-Per-View (10:00 p.m. ET)
- How to Watch: Early Prelims (ESPN+), Prelims (ABC, ESPN), Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)
The UFC is back in Boston for the first time since 2019 for this weekend’s UFC 292 pay-per-view card. The event, which streams on ESPN+, is headlined by a title fight between UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley. Sterling is looking for his fourth successful title defense, while O’Malley, who is the No. 2 ranked fighter in the official UFC bantamweight rankings, looks to end Sterling’s UFC bantamweight record nine-fight winning streak. Here is some background on the Sterling vs. O’Malley title fight before we discuss the betting breakdown for the UFC 292 card.
Aljamain Sterling (23-3) has not lost since Marlon Moraes knocked him out cold with a flying knee in December 2017. Since that setback, Sterling has picked up nine wins, five via decision, one by TKO, two by way of submission and one thanks to a DQ. He is coming off a split-decision win over former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo in May.
O’Malley (16-1-0-1) is unbeaten in his past five outings. He picked up the biggest win of his career in October when he won a split decision over former UFC bantamweight titleholder Petr Yan. Ahead of that fight, O’Malley picked up three knockouts and had one no contest on his record.
UFC 292 main event: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley betting picks
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UFC 292 main event: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley betting breakdown
One of the pre-fight stories to keep an eye on ahead of UFC 292 is the fact that Aljamain Sterling was initially reluctant to take this fight. It seemed that no sooner had Sterling defeated Cejudo than the UFC was announcing Sterling would face O’Malley in the main event of UFC 292. That did not sit well with Sterling or his team. “I would rather be able to enjoy my summer a little bit more and my birthday,” Sterling said shortly after his win over Cejudo. “So it is what it is. Yeah, it’s a little frustrating, but I know this is a job so we’ll try to figure it out as best we can.” Sterling added that he had lingering injuries from the Cejudo fight.
As for the matchup, the betting odds reflect the reality of this fight, and that reality is that Sterling is the better all-around competitor. That’s not to say that O’Malley doesn’t deserve, or hasn’t earned, his title shot. Both things are true following his win over Yan, who was a -275 on fight night against O’Malley. But Sterling has many more ways to win than O’Malley, who is primarily a striker.
Sterling’s game plan is no secret. He will use his wrestling, back control and heavy ground game early and often, and if O’Malley ends up on the mat early in each round and stays there, he won’t have much of a chance. O’Malley needs to use footwork and takedown defense to keep the fight standing and hope that his striking does enough damage on the feet that it will negate Sterling’s dominating ground game.
UFC 292 main event: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley statistical breakdown
What UFC 292 bettors want to focus on in this matchup is striking vs. grappling. O’Malley is the most accurate striker in UFC bantamweight history, connecting on 60.9 percent of his significant strike attempts. He also has the UFC 135-pound record for strikes landed per minute at 7.47 and significant striking differential at 4.04. That’s all well and good, but his takedown defense is not stellar. Yan landed six takedowns on 13 attempts against O’Malley. That number is worrying when one considers Sterling has the fourth most takedowns in UFC bantamweight history with 32, the most control time in the division at 1:08:36, and the third-most top position time in the division at 46:36.
O’Malley has a four-inch height advantage over Sterling but only one inch in reach over the champ.
What this fight comes down to is who can impose their will on the other, and from what we have seen at the top levels of the division, the betting odds favor Sterling in that department.
Best Bets for UFC 292 main event: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley
For the UFC 292 bettors who feel Sean O’Malley’s striking will carry the day, the betting odds for his matchup opposite Aljamain Sterling are attractive. If O’Malley can do damage on the feet before he gets taken down and then use his defensive grappling to keep Sterling from picking up submission attempts or doing damage on the mat, then the challenger has a good chance of picking up the UFC bantamweight title via an upset victory. I don’t see O’Malley getting the knockout over Sterling because the champs camp will have him well prepared for the offense of his challenger. If one is leaning toward O’Malley, the betting pick is a win via decision.
O’Malley has not faced an opponent as accomplished, well-rounded, prepared, or experienced as Sterling. All those traits are what make the champ the favorite. His wrestling will make or break him in this title defense, and I don’t think O’Malley has the tools to stop the ground game of the UFC bantamweight champion. With that, my betting pick is for Sterling to pick up the win via decision. With that being said, a prop bet on Sterling to win via submission late in the fight could be worth placing if the odds are favorable.
Best UFC 292 main event betting pick: Aljamain Sterling to beat Sean O’Malley via decision to retain the UFC bantamweight title.
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