Aljamain Sterling has pointed out what he sees as an interesting twist in the plans for UFC 299, particularly in the context of Sean O’Malley's first title defense against Marlon Vera. Speaking on The MMA Hour, Sterling shared his observations, expressing his amusement at the UFC's efforts to boost O'Malley's draw on the card.
“In terms of styles, it’s still a good fight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to watch. It’s just kind of funny that the UFC felt the need to stack this card so much to make it feel like Sean is the draw,” Sterling commented.
Acknowledging the anticipation around UFC 300, Sterling noted that some fights fans might have expected for that event are slated for UFC 299 instead. Despite no longer being deeply involved in the bantamweight division, Sterling sees a strategic move to build up O'Malley by bringing attention with other notable fighters.
UFC 299, set for March 9 in Miami, features a headline bout between O'Malley and Vera. Other matchups on the card include Dustin Poirier vs. Benoit Saint Denis, Curtis Blaydes vs. Jailton Almeida, Gilbert Burns vs. Jack Della Maddalena, Kevin Holland vs. Michael Page, Petr Yan vs. Song Yadong, and Mateusz Gamrot vs. Rafael dos Anjos.
Sterling, preparing for his featherweight debut against Calvin Kattar on April 13 at UFC 300, is less concerned about the bantamweight division's dynamics. However, he sees a potential path for Vera to claim the title from O'Malley.
“I think ‘Chito’ has to play the long game, and I think while playing the long game, he needs to chip away, and I think his gas tank will start to take over, and I think his durability will start to take over,” Sterling analyzed. He expressed doubts about O'Malley's durability and mental toughness, emphasizing that Vera could capitalize on these weaknesses in a five-round fight.
Vera had previously defeated O’Malley via first-round knockout in August 2020, the only loss in O'Malley's MMA record. Despite O'Malley's improvements since then, Sterling believes Vera has a chance to capitalize on the rematch.
“If Sean could land big damage, make it count, let ‘Chito’ wear it, I think he can kind of discourage him a little bit,” Sterling said. He noted O'Malley's speed advantage but raised concerns about the energy output and weight cut. While acknowledging O'Malley as the more skilled fighter, Sterling emphasized Vera's proven and tested track record as a potential difference-maker.
Sterling concluded by stating he doesn't have a strong preference for the outcome but hopes that Merab Dvalishvili gets the next title shot.