Sean O’Malley defeats Petr Yan by split decision at UFC 280

Former bantamweight champion Petr Yan looked to get back in the win column on Saturday when he faced rising star Sean O’Malley on the UFC 280 main card in Abu Dhabi.

Yan entered the match ranked No. 1 in the 135-pound division while O’Malley was ranked outside of the Top 10 at No. 11. It was the biggest test of O’Malley’s career and “Sugar” rose to the occasion.

They exchanged leg kicks early with Yan taking the center of the octagon. O’Malley circled on the outside looking for an opening. O’Malley stepped in with a right hand that landed. Yan responded with a kick to the body. O’Malley landed a right hand followed by a leg kick. Yan had difficulty getting inside O’Malley’s reach.

Midway through the opening round, Yan changed levels and looked to get the fight to the ground. O’Malley defended the takedown attempt and circled free. Yan connected with a left hand and quickly took O’Malley down. O’Malley worked his way back to his feet and the two separated. In the closing seconds, O’Malley took Yan down, but Yan immediately got back to his feet.

Yan opened the second round with a body kick. O’Malley landed a huge left hand. He followed with a right that hurt Yan. Yan responded with right hand that staggered O’Malley. Yan secured a takedown and worked inside O’Malley’s closed guard. O’Malley was active off his back and scrambled back to his feet. Yan kept the pressure on and delivered knees inside the clinch.

Midway through the frame, the two separated. O’Malley landed a right hand and Yan tripped O’Malley to the canvas. O’Malley quickly got back to his feet. Yan landed a hard kick to the body. A left hand found its home for O’Malley and Yan closed the distance to get the fight to the ground. He secured a double-leg takedown. The second round ended with Yan on top.

They touched gloves to start the final round. O’Malley started pressing forward. He pumped his jab. O’Malley landed a knee that opened a cut on Yan. O’Malley picked up the pace. Yan connected with a big left hand. O’Malley responded with a head kick that forced Yan to immediately shoot for a takedown.

With two minutes remaining, Yan secured the takedown. O’Malley isolated an arm and used it to get back to his feet. He pushed Yan away and with a minute left and they’re back standing. Yan connected with a counter left hand and looked for a takedown. He gets it, but O’Malley rolled back to his feet. Yan secured another takedown in the closing seconds of the frame. The two went the distance and likely earned a Fight of the Night bonus.

After fifteen minutes of back-and-forth fighting, the judges rendered their verdict. The scored the fight for O’Malley by split decision. The scorecards read 29-28, 28-29, and 29-28.

“I didn’t know, honestly,” O’Malley answered when asked if he thought he would be declared the winner. “I thought it could have went either way. I’ll have to rewatch it.”

“Fighting is the crazies f**king sport in the world. I had to go somewhere I had never been before. That’s what happens when you fight the number one guy in the world,” O’Malley continued. “I was hurt more than I’ve ever been in a fight considering I don’t normally get hit. I definitely was rocked.”

Leading up to the event, UFC president Dana White indicated the the winner would likely get a title fight in their next outing. O’Malley didn’t jump on the opportunity to call for a title bout.

“I really want to watch the fight back and decide after that,” O’Malley said. “I think the people would love to see me be the bantamweight champion, so we’ll give the people what they want.”