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Sean O’Malley lands a big shot, TKOs Aljamain Sterling to claim the bantamweight title

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Sean O’Malley reacts after defeating Aljamain Sterling for the UFC Heavyweight Championship during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Aljamain Sterling’s nine-fight winning streak and run as UFC heavyweight champion came to an abrupt end Saturday when Sean O’Malley knocked him out in the second round with a crushing counter right hand and some ground and pound.

Sterling threw a left that dodged O’Malley and then threw a straight right blister that landed on Sterling’s chin. Sterling fell in the center of the octagon and O’Malley landed punches from the top until referee Mark Goddard stopped them 51 seconds into the second round. The win, in the main event of UFC 292 at TD Garden in Boston, came after a slow-paced first round.

O’Malley was better than the 2-1 loser but fought with the cool, poise and precision of a veteran. He used his speed and trickery to stay out and knock Sterling, an elite wrestler and wrestler, out of it in the first round.

When Sterling tried to close the distance, he paid the price as a new star was born in the UFC. O’Malley made quite an impact when he was awarded a UFC contract in 2017 at “Dana White’s Contender Series,” and his star was on the rise right up until the moment he captured the belt on Saturday.

“This is the most tense thing I’ve ever had in a fight,” O’Malley said in the cage when he won the title. “In my eyes, Aljamain Sterling is the best heavyweight of all time.”

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Before the fight, he said his speed gave him a huge advantage over all of his opponents, and Sterling agreed in his gracious post-fight remarks. But at this speed O’Malley has plenty of power and Sterling found that the hard way on Saturday.

O’Malley slid in from the left and drilled Sterling with a crushing right. Sterling went head-to-head on the floor, with the new champ quickly finishing it off.

“I said it would only take one mistake to get into this fight,” O’Malley said. “I don’t even know if this is wrong. I’m just good.”

O’Malley exuded his usual post-fight confidence. Marlon “Chito” Vera has called for a match in December. Vera stopped O’Malley and handed him his only career loss at UFC 252 in Las Vegas on August 16, 2020, when O’Malley suffered a foot drop after being kicked.

Now 17-1 with a no contest, O’Malley has wanted that comeback ever since. But it wouldn’t be his only title defense if he had his way.

“This is just the beginning of the Suga era,” O’Malley said. “I’m running this *** until 2035 maybe.”

The loss ended Sterling’s nine-game winning streak and was his first since being caught by Marlon Moraes on December 9, 2017.

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