After a staph infection forced Hawaii’s Louis Smolka [17-7-0] out, the search began to find a short-notice replacement for 135lb showman, ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley [13-1-0] at July 10th’s UFC 264.

The bright spark, O’Malley, is said to have had a number of contenders chomping at the bit for the chance to face off against the high-profile fighter. Yet many fans arched their eyebrows following the announcement that the little-known Kris Moutinho [9-4-0] would be squaring off with Suga, in his debut for the promotion. Better still, the clash serves as a tasty hors d’oeuvre to the McGregor vs Poirier III main meal at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, live on PPV. Quite the induction for the 5’7” Moutinho.

The initial frontrunner to face ‘Suga’ was Vancouver, Washington native, Ricky Simón but that bout fell out of bed when the American Top Team Portland alumni was unable to make the 135lb bantamweight cut-off. 

“They sent me a list of a couple of guys, Simón being one of them,” O’Malley told MMAJunkie I told them, ‘I want to stay on the card. I’ve had a great camp and my weight is trending towards a bantamweight fight. Find me someone that can make ’35.’ They sent me a list of names, Simón was the toughest one on there and I picked him. They called me and said, ‘He can’t make weight.’ I don’t know if it was a miscommunication that they put his name in there, for ’45. I told the UFC, I was pretty clear that I want to fight at ’35. So, I dunno. There’s a lot of people on Twitter that called me out that weren’t on that list. I’m just happy I’m on the card at ’35.” 

O’Malley comes in as a -900 favourite for the bout. Yet, despite the criticism from the fans, the Montana Maverick remains wary that Moutinho isn’t getting the props he merits. 

“A lot of people think it’s a lose-lose for me. I make a lot of money to go out there and knock the guy (out). This guy’s tough. I watched one of his fights this morning and he’s not just a scrub, he’s not a nobody. Well, he is kind of a nobody because no one really knows who he is. But to be fair, not a lot of people know who Simón is, really. He’s beat a couple dudes in the UFC. I couldn’t tell you how many fights he’s had in the UFC. So he comes in there, he shocks the world, it’s a huge fight for him. Props to him for stepping up to take it.”

While there’s evident respect for the skills of Moutinho, the 5’11’’ KO specialist, O’Malley, will still be looking to sizzle in Sin City.

“He might go in there thinking it’s a win-win for him. He goes out there and loses, he’s in the UFC. But I don’t just knock people out. I change people’s careers. Mentally, the way I knock people out, they step into that cage and they’re different the next time they get out there. So it could be the beginning of his career or it could be the end of his career. So, we’ll see.”

Do you expect Sean O’Malley to get the win at UFC 264?

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