Pound sterling? O’Malley? browed? How Prime Bantamweight Stars May Take UFC Gold In 2023

Bantamweight is arguably the deepest division within the UFC. The checklist of potential fighters who may at some point be champions is lengthy, maybe longer than in some other weight class in MMA.

Two of the athletes closing in on title photographs will compete Saturday in the primary occasion of UFC Combat Night time in San Antonio (4 pm ET on ESPN+). marlon vera will put his four-fight successful streak on the road towards the beautiful striker cory sandhagenin what is anticipated to be a particularly entertaining matchup.

The winner will put his title on a really quick checklist of fighters who may problem for the UFC bantamweight belt in 2023, together with the likes of Sean O’Malley, Merab Dvalishvili and extra.

aljamain sterlina defends title towards former champion henry cejudo in the primary occasion of UFC 288 on Might 6 in Newark, New Jersey. O’Malley seems to be subsequent up later this 12 months. However past that, bantamweight is extensive open and filled with among the most gifted fighters within the sport.

Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi check out the very best fighters within the 135-pound weight class and their path to the title or their path to retain it.

Can Sterling proceed to be the king of the bantamweights?

Sterling’s path to holding the UFC championship is the simplest of all concerned, as a result of it’s already round his waist. Nevertheless, “straightforward” most likely isn’t the precise phrase as a result of he has a whole lot of work forward of him the remainder of the 12 months. A title protection towards Cejudo looms on Might 6, and that’s a tricky matchup. Sterling’s battle for shedding must be thought-about, as he has been extra energetic and has excelled in his final two outings towards petryan and T. J. Dillashaw.

That being mentioned, Cejudo is without doubt one of the most profitable fight sports activities athletes of all time, and his monitor report of Olympic gold medals will negate a lot of Sterling’s strengths within the wrestling division. Past Cejudo, a big-money title protection towards O’Malley is in retailer for Sterling. So, it’s easy for ‘Aljo’ for the remainder of 2023: he solely wins two fights. Let’s say Sterling defends the belt towards a two-weight champion in Cejudo and a well-liked contender in O’Malley. In that case, his inventory will go up exponentially and he’ll most likely take into account shifting as much as 145lbs in 2024. – okamoto

Cejudo’s probability for unprecedented glory

Cejudo’s precise highway to the title is fairly simple with the following title shot coming at UFC 288. By the best way, it’s a title Cejudo as soon as held and by no means misplaced within the Octagon. Former Olympic wrestling gold medalist and former UFC flyweight champion retained gold towards dominick cross in Might 2020 after which abruptly introduced his retirement within the post-fight interview. This might be Cejudo’s first battle, nearly three years to the day. And it’s a credit score to him and the way good it’s that he’s only a little bit of a loser towards Sterling.

If Cejudo beats Sterling, he’s in for the large cash battle towards O’Malley. There’s a little bit of a narrative there. O’Malley and Cejudo practice just some miles aside within the Phoenix space. The coaches and coaching companions of each side know the opposite aspect very nicely. And trash speak must be plentiful between the 2 males. O’Malley had anticipated his title problem to be in July, however that doesn’t appear so lifelike now, with Sterling vs. Cejudo in Might. But it surely may go down in late summer time or fall.

After that, issues may get fairly attention-grabbing. If Cejudo will get the higher of each Sterling and O’Malley, it’s probably he’ll petition to maneuver as much as featherweight and attempt to win a 3rd UFC divisional title, one thing nobody else has achieved. Cejudo anticipated to battle the featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovsky earlier than retiring. Profitable the 135-pound title and defending it would offer you a compelling case. — Raimondi

Suga Sean has the next

Love him or hate him, you need to admire what O’Malley has accomplished. He has constructed himself up as a contender in each attainable approach.

Viral finishes? Verify.

Social presence? Verify.

Memorable moments on the mic? Verify.

Potential rivalries within the works? Verify.

Most significantly, he has developed as a combined martial artist. That was proven in his final win when he took a huge he stepped up within the competitors to face former champion Yan and gained by cut up choice. Sure, there was a scoring controversy in that match, however what finally issues is the ‘W’ subsequent to that battle on his resume. O’Malley has mentioned that he might be able to step in on Might 6 if Sterling or Cejudo are compelled to tug out of their scheduled title battle. O’Malley preventing for a title is sweet for enterprise – the UFC is sweet with ‘Suga’s’ place as No. 1 contender behind the scenes, so there’s a story to construct as we wait and see what occurs on Might 6. O’Malley has accomplished nearly all the pieces proper in his rise and is in the absolute best place within the sport. The final piece is delivering his greatest efficiency in a five-round title battle towards both Sterling or Cejudo. — okamoto

The riddle of the machine



Merab Dvalishvili stuns Petr Yan in unanimous choice win

Merab Dvalishvili takes house the unanimous choice victory over Petr Yan.

Dvalishvili’s place at 135 is without doubt one of the distinctive conditions in any division in a very long time. Solely Daniel Cormier‘s dropped right down to gentle heavyweight to keep away from his former coaching associate and good friend Cain Velasquez it feels comparable. Dvalishvili simply dominated former champion Yan; previous to that, he had a victory over a legend and former UFC featherweight champion. Jose Aldo. He has put collectively a resume that will be compelling for a title shot underneath some other circumstances. However Dvalishvili doesn’t need one, a minimum of not but, as a result of his shut good friend and coaching associate Sterling is the champion.

The UFC isn’t an enormous fan of those situations, and Dana White mentioned as a lot earlier this month after Dvalishvili’s win over Yan. The promotion doesn’t care in the event that they’re teammates. They wish to put collectively the fights they wish to put collectively. This might relegate Dvalishvili to keeper standing so long as Sterling retains the belt. If Cejudo takes the gold from Sterling in Might, that would change all the pieces. Possibly then Sterling will transfer as much as featherweight, clearing the best way for Dvalishvili for a title shot. However Dvalishvili continues to be behind a minimum of O’Malley within the pecking order. O’Malley is the division’s largest draw. Dvalishvili will probably want one or two extra wins earlier than he will get a well-deserved shot at him. — Raimondi

Can Chito bounce when the mud settles?



Marlon Vera sends Rob Font to the canvas thrice throughout the primary occasion

Marlon Vera almost completed Rob Font thrice throughout their principal occasion bout at UFC Combat Night time.

Vera may be essentially the most intriguing title on this checklist for various causes. Her recognition is on the rise, and Vera has that ‘it’ issue amongst MMA followers proper now. Her confidence has grown in recent times, and that has been evident each out and in of the cage. He has loads of charisma in his media appearances, and contained in the cage he’s quietly discovering finishes towards prime opponents, typically when he’s behind on the scorecards. Vera doesn’t care concerning the scorecards as a result of he’s very assured in his potential to complete a battle in 25 minutes, and that’s exactly the type he resonates with the followers.

If he beats Sandhagen this weekend, he can wait and see. As we’ve already mentioned at size, 135 kilos is a bottleneck. But when Vera wins and desires slightly break, she’ll have loads of juice for a title shot as soon as she settles the mud. Plus, if O’Malley retains the belt when the mud settles, Vera is a primary contender. The 2 have historical past courting again to 2020, when Vera defeated O’Malley by way of technical knockout after O’Malley suffered a nerve downside throughout a kick from Vera that rendered him helpless. — okamoto

Can Sandhagen keep within the combine?

The highest of the bantamweight division is so glorious and deep that Sandhagen wants a win on Saturday over Vera to remain within the combine. If he loses, he could have misplaced three out of 4. And he’s already misplaced to Sterling in lower than 90 seconds. With all that being mentioned, a win over Vera modifications all the pieces. He wouldn’t make him the #1 contender or something, once more, that’s O’Malley all the best way, however he would put him on the shortlist.

Sandhagen’s loss to Yan and knockout victories frankie edgar and Marlon Moraes They haven’t aged that nicely. However Sandhagen has a couple of issues going for him. He’s solely 30 years previous, so time is on his aspect. In the meantime, Cejudo is 36 and Sterling is 33. Sandhagen might not be in his prime but, or if he’s, he’s simply getting began and may maintain enhancing. And he’s already excellent. His preventing type, a good looking show of punches with knockout energy, additionally works in his favor. Sandhagen is never in a boring battle and that’s one thing the UFC on the prime of his divisions cares about. Even when he loses to Vera, Sandhagen should still be related. However a win would velocity up his schedule. — Raimondi

What rising stars may compete for the belt in 2024?

The title “Nurmagomedov” will all the time catch the attention in MMA, and 27-year-old Umar (Khabib’s cousin) isn’t any exception. Nurmagomedov is a standout candidate poised for 2023. He already appeared unbelievable in a primary spherical knockout of Raoni Barcelos in January. He tried to get a battle in March, however the UFC had hassle discovering an opponent for him. Don’t be stunned if Nurmagomedov books a battle towards a high-ranking title subsequent, because the UFC is purchased with Nurmagomedov revved up. He has a built-in fan base and a whole lot of perception in his talents. He may even be seen preventing Dvalishvili within the close to future, as Dvalishvili has made it clear that he gained’t be preventing for a championship so long as Sterling holds the belt.

In addition to Nurmagomedov, former flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo he has an unlikely path to claiming the belt in 2024. He’s a longtime title with a monitor report of ending. There are a whole lot of enjoyable fights for him on this new division, and when he’s at it, it may be devastating. Nonetheless, there are sufficient contenders in entrance of him that he’ll have a tough time breaking by means of rapidly, but when any unranked bantamweight is able to it, it’s Figueiredo. — okamoto