“Suga” Sean O’Malley became the UFC bantamweight champion at UFC 292 with a perfectly-timed and calculated TKO against defending champ Aljamain Sterling.

Sean O’Malley’s record now stands at 17-1-0 with one no-contest, and the sport’s fanbase is now wondering about a possible opponent for his first title defense. 

Petr Yan and Merab Dvalishvili spring to mind as two of the best MMA bantamweight division fighters right now. Yan had an electric fight against O’Malley in October 2022 -- a fight that went the distance and was controversially called in Suga’s favor.

Dvalishvili’s record now stands at 16-4, and he’s on a nine-fight win streak after defeating Jose Aldo and Yan in his last two. 

However, Marlon “Chito” Vera is the only man with a professional win over Sean O’Malley. As a result, some fans want to see a rematch as Sean’s first UFC bantamweight title defense.

Here are 10 reasons why Chito Vera deserves a UFC bantamweight title shot against Sean O'Malley:

  1. Five Strong Wins in His Last Six Fights

One of the current knocks on Chito Vera was his loss to Cory Sandhagen in March 2023. However, prior to that defeat, Vera had been on a four-fight win streak, including victories over Rob Font and Dominick Cruz.

Vera came back at UFC 292 determined to redeem himself after the Sandhagen fight. He looked sharp and dangerous in a unanimous-decision victory over Pedro Munhoz. Sure, the Sandhagen loss remains a blemish on his record, but Vera is a proud fighter who is getting better with age.

  1. Chito Was in the Conversation to Fight Aljamain Sterling 

Before his loss to Sandhagen, Chito Vera was in the mix for a title fight against Aljamain Sterling last year.

The UFC instead ended up booking a fight between Sterling and T.J. Dillashaw, although detractors would argue that it was the perfect time in Chito’s career for him to challenge for the belt.

So, given that some people already feel Vera was denied an opportunity he deserved, there could be more interest in giving him a chance to fight O’Malley. 

  1. Chito’s Following

Chito Vera is one heck of a personality -- somebody who draws a strong crowd for each of his fights.

Sean O’Malley is also a very strong, loud personality, so scheduling a fight between the two would be quite the headline act for a main event in December.

Suga, finally the UFC’s bantamweight champion after what has felt like a very long time as one of the division’s top fighters, would relish the opportunity, and Vera would bring a crowd by getting his first shot at the belt. 

  1. A New Face Challenging for the Title

Some fighters in the division won’t be happy if the title bout does go to Chito Vera. He is currently ranked sixth in the UFC bantamweight rankings, and it’s likely that both Dvalishvili and Henry Cejudo feel they are more deserving of a title shot.

Cejudo got a title bout against Aljamain back in May, so it’s fair to assume the UFC probably won’t offer him another one this quickly. Petr Yan has been in several title bouts, too. Dvalishvili hasn’t had a UFC title shot yet, so it would make sense if either he or Chito is in the mix for Sean O’Malley’s next fight.

  1. Rebounding against Pedro Munhoz

The loss to Cory Sandhagen hurt Chito Vera’s case to challenge for a title in the bantamweight division. There’s no doubt about that.

The first Chito Vera vs. Sean O’Malley fight took place back in 2020, and while Vera won that fight and has gone 5-2 since, his two biggest challenges against Jose Aldo and Sandhagen both resulted in losses.

It was vital for Vera to rebound against Pedro Munhoz, and while it required a decision, Vera’s power and striking were evident. The win put Chito back in the title conversation, and the UFC needed that to happen.

Vera’s record now stands at 21-8-1, and the 30-year-old knows he can’t afford many more losses if he wants to remain in that title-fight conversation.

  1. Suga Technically Called Him Out

In his post-fight press conference with Joe Rogan, Sean O’Malley asked if Chito won. Rogan told him he did, and O’Malley then said: “Was it boring? Probably.” 

The new champ went on to state that he would “whoop Chito’s a** in December in Vegas at T-Mobile,” so the UFC might need to act on that by making it happen. 

If Suga is interested in the fight -- and he has good reason to be -- then Chito could have the upper hand with the UFC decision-makers. Vera might not have one of the best UFC bantamweight records right now, but he does have the drawing power for a big-time main event.

  1. The History

Sean O’Malley’s record includes just one loss -- to Chito Vera. UFC fans would love nothing more than to see how an O’Malley-Vera fight plays out a second time.

Although he was beaten, O’Malley has always refused to give Vera due credit because O’Malley suffered an injury early in the fight and had to continue in a weakened state.

O’Malley hurt his lower leg early in the first round, and it was obvious he couldn’t move the way he would have wanted. Vera went on the attack and knocked O’Malley down, and that was all she wrote.

The storyline here is an easy one for UFC. If Chito Vera is indeed better than Sean O’Malley and can beat him again, then let him prove it. On the other hand, if Sean O’Malley believes the first fight was a fluke and that Chito got lucky because he was hurt, then he should have a chance to prove that, too.

  1. Chito is a Powerful Striker

Vera doesn’t always throw with volume. He’s more calculated. You could see that in his fight against Pedro Munhoz, who is a volume striker by trade. 

Vera’s stats against Dominick Cruz and Rob Font show that he can record wins even when his opponent throws far more strikes.

Chito possesses enough power to know he doesn’t need to throw hands at a high rate, and that could serve him well against O’Malley, who is one of the most calculated and patient fighters in the UFC.

O’Malley’s win over Aljamain Sterling was about as patient as it gets. The entire first round was just a case of trying to get a read on one another, and when the knockout ended the fight, O’Malley had only thrown 25 strikes. Suga is without a doubt one of the best UFC bantamweights right now, and the fact that he’s so hard to hit is one of the main reasons for that.

Trying to swing with volume against O’Malley isn’t a good idea. He is so quick and difficult to hit, which would tire an opposing fighter out in a hurry. Because of this, Vera, whose striking is more centered around power and throwing the right strikes at the right time, poses a far more genuine threat to the champion.

  1. The Knockout of Dominick Cruz

What a fight this was. In the last of his four-fight win streak, Chito Vera had a brawl with Dominick Cruz that made it all the way to the fourth round.

The two traded blows and knockdowns, and they had the crowd on its feet throughout what became such a great spectacle.

Vera eventually seriously wobbled Cruz in the fourth, and a beautifully timed head kick put him face-down on the mat.

As mentioned, Vera almost got a title shot after that battle, which remains one of the key arguments for giving him that opportunity in his next fight.

  1. The Story

There are several UFC bantamweight fighters deserving of a title shot against Sean O’Malley in December, if that is in fact when it happens, but none have a storyline as good as Chito Vera’s.

I would argue that Petr Yan is in the title-fight conversation, thanks to the five-round brawl he and O’Malley staged in 2022. Given how close that fight was, who wouldn’t want to see it again with a belt on the line? 

That said, the potential redemption story for O’Malley against Vera trumps any other narrative. While the UFC must of course consider recent form, records, and rankings, there’s definitely a way to spin this one and make a Marlon Vera vs. Sean O’Malley fight the main event for a big night later in the year.

Suga has already said he’ll happily beat down Chito Vera in December, and Vera himself believes he deserves a shot. It would be one of the most entertaining build-ups, one of the best stories, and one of the best fights in the bantamweight division right now.

UFC fans are divided over what happened in the first fight between these two. Did Suga get hurt or did Vera’s leg kick weaken him in a way that caused him to lose that fight?

Had he not injured his leg, would O’Malley have won it? We can answer all these questions that have lingered since 2020 with a spectacular rematch, and this time there would be a title belt on the line.

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