UFC 292: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O'Malley prediction

Bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, looks to stop Sean O'Malley in the UFC 292 main event from Boston, Massachusetts.
UFC 288: Sterling v Cejudo
UFC 288: Sterling v Cejudo / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

UFC 292 is live from Boston, Massachusetts On Aug. 19 featuring not one, but two title fights. While Zhang Weili and Amanda Lemos will undoubtedly sling plenty of leather this weekend, the hype is around the bantamweight title fight. The champ, Aljamain Sterling, and the challenger, Sean O'Malley, should enter the Octagon at approximately 12 a.m. ET and are scheduled for five five-minute rounds, as is customary for championship fights.

When their resumes are compared, Sterling tips the scales, without question. Although it could be countered that his resume is such because he is the champion. Would O'Malley's resume look the same if the roles were reversed?

The reality is that fights are determined by effective striking, grappling, aggression, and if necessary, Octagon control, not resumes. Looking at these criteria independently and then cumulatively may give some insight into what to expect this Saturday.

Effective striking is often evaluated as perceived and/or real damage to one's opponent. Striking volume and finishing ability should favor O'Malley in this fight. Sterling is not known for his ability to finish a fight on the feet or even by way of ground and pound, having only won three fights by KO/TKO in his entire 26-fight career. O'Malley, on the other hand, lands more than 1.5 times the number of significant strikes as Sterling per fifteen minutes. O'Malley has also displayed crisper and more powerful striking throughout his 11 KO/TKO victories.

Sterling's advantage in this fight is in the wrestling, as it opens the door to his submission game. However, Sterling only lands an average of two takedowns per 15 minutes at an accuracy rate just shy of 25 percent. In terms of takedown defense, O'Malley has the better number on paper, but it came against lower-level competition. Even if Sterling is not able to complete every takedown, it should provide him an edge in aggression and control time.

A concerning intangible going into this Saturday though is Sterling's future in the bantamweight division. It is no secret that he and fellow bantamweight, Merab Dvalishvili are teammates and very close friends. Neither has any desire to fight the other. This means that Dvalishvili has no chance at the bantamweight title as long as Sterling holds it. As close as he and Dvalishvili are, one could not blame him if it weighed heavily on his mind going into this fight.

From a betting perspective, Sterling is currently a -280 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, which is an implied win probability of 73.68 percent. O'Malley is currently listed as a +200 underdog, which is an implied win probability of 33.3 percent. The popular methods of finish for Sterling are nearly even odds between submission at +200 and by decision at +150. That is unlikely to change much. O'Malley's perceived path to victory is by KO/TKO at +350. Interestingly, O'Malley by decision is +700, which is a heavy contrast with the odds that the fight goes to a decision.

UFC 292: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O'Malley prediction

Sterling will take a wrestling heavy approach through the first two rounds with above average success. O'Malley has undoubtedly been preparing for the wrestling and will start to have success defending the takedown starting in round 3, which will let him open up his hands through the end of the fight. As the gap in strikes landed widens, Sterling will continue to shoot for desperate takedowns, bringing his takedown rate for the fight down to his average.

The final prediction is O'Malley by split decision.

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