UFC 299 Predictions: O’Malley vs. Vera Fight Picks

by | Last updated Mar 7, 2024 | mma

UFC 299: O’Malley vs. Vera Picks
When: Saturday, March 9, 2024
Where: Kaseya Center, Miami, Florida

Fight Analysis:

UFC 299 from Miami features a packed event, headlined by UFC Bantamweight Champion Sean O’Malley making the first defense of his title against longtime contender and former conqueror Marlon Vera. O’Malley, 29, is coming off his signature win, a 2nd-round KO over reigning bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling in August. But there are no easy outs as champion, with O’Malley being thrown in there against an experienced man who previously stopped him. Who should we get behind in this battle?

Sean O’Malley, 17-1 (12 KOs, 1 Submission), (-240) vs. Marlon Vera, 23-8-1 (8 KOs, 10 Submissions), (+195)
UFC Bantamweight Champion Sean O’Malley makes the first defense of his belt against Marlon Vera in Miami on March 9. Definitely adding some intrigue to this bout is Vera’s 2020 first-round TKO over O’Malley, the only loss on the champion’s MMA ledger. He has a chance to clean that smudge on his record by avenging that loss in this high-stakes contest on the 9th. O’Malley, two years Vera’s junior at 29, has not lost since that fight, but as they say, styles make fights. Does Vera have O’Malley’s number, or will the growth in the champion as an MMA fighter be enough to bridge the gap?

A ten-year member of the UFC, the So-Cal-based Ecuadorian Vera has seen an up-and-down career, but one where he has spent the better part of a decade as a high-ranking 135-pounder. This will be his first title shot, as he has seen untimely losses spoil his rise up the rankings previously. Even in his 2020 win over O’Malley, it was sandwiched by two losses. After losing to a bit of a spent force in Jose Aldo in December of 2020, he won four straight against good fighters, with a decision loss to Corey Sandhagen stopping his flow in 2023. But between a get-well win against Pedro Munhoz and being the only man to ever beat the champion, it’s enough to get Vera the shot.

In a sense, you get the feeling that Vera’s recent work likely wouldn’t have been enough to garner him a title opportunity if not for the prior history between these two men. That’s not a totally unfair assessment. Usually, a guy getting a title shot would have a winning streak greater than one. And if O’Malley weren’t the champion, they almost certainly would have selected someone else. But still, when you take a composite view of the men Vera has beaten and how long he has been around, there are way crazier things than giving him a shot at the title.

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It’s just that when you take a look at who has made the most progress as a fighter since 2020, the nod squarely goes to O’Malley. In the subsequent time since these two men first met, O’Malley has learned, gained experience, and compiled a body of work beyond reproach. His two last wins, over Petr Yan and Sterling, have thrust him to the pinnacle of the 135-pound class. Vera isn’t facing that same young kid still working things out after just a few UFC fights. At that point in a fighter’s career, you could see a steely vet and multidimensional veteran like Vera being a bit too hard of a test. But now you’re talking about a champion, hardened by the ultra-difficult path he had to endure to arrive at this spot. Vera and his supporters should brace for a whole different kettle of fish in this bout.

Vera is both an appealing and unappealing choice to get behind in this fight. He got O’Malley out of there the first time, showing that KO ability while also having ten submission wins on his ledger, illustrating how Vera can get you out of there a few different ways. Still, it has been five years since we’ve seen him sink in a submission, as he has become more of a striker in recent outings. He has extreme experience, with almost a decade in the UFC, but is still relatively young at 31. And perhaps counting his losses too hard against him is a mistake. After all, a stance that O’Malley is going to win this fight forces you to do that very thing. Therefore, it could be leading us down the wrong trail to look into the past only to downgrade Vera and not O’Malley.

While Vera won on strikes last time, it’s an area O’Malley has really improved, and Vera would be looking for a fight that isn’t a pure striking match. But it could easily become that, in which case it’s hard not to like O’Malley. If looking at who has gotten better, you’d figure O’Malley, who now knows he’s a champion, benefitting from the confidence that comes with that. And let’s not forget that O’Malley injured his leg before Vera took him down and pounded him out the first time.

I picture O’Malley entering this fight ultra-confident based on his recent body of work. Vera matches up well with the champion, as his previous win will attest. He’s the total package as a fighter and a durable one, to boot. His skills match up well with O’Malley. But I can’t help but envision O’Malley hitting Vera a lot with all kinds of strikes. And not that Vera is over the hill, but the respective rate of improvement between these men will be visible on March 9. I’m going with O’Malley in this one.

My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Sean O’Malley at -240 betting odds. It might be extremely difficult against a longtime contender in Vera to get his first shot against a man he has already beaten. But the added confidence, improvement, and eagerness of O’Malley to settle the score could be enough to land him in the winner’s circle. Bet your UFC 299 predictions for FREE by cashing in on a 100% real cash bonus from one of numerous top-flight sportsbooks!