Marlon Vera Beats Sean O'Malley via TKO at UFC 252 After Sugar Suffers Injury

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2020

Marlon Vera celebrates a win against Brian Kelleher after their mixed martial arts bout at UFC on Fox 25, Saturday, July 22, 2017, in New York. Vera won via submission. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
Steve Luciano/Associated Press

Marlon "Chito" Vera halted the Sean O'Malley hype train with a first-round TKO win over the 25-year-old in the co-main event at UFC 252 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

O'Malley started off strong enough with a bevy of leg and body kicks early on. However, an apparent leg injury for O'Malley appeared to be a turning point in the fight. Vera took advantage of a hobbled O'Malley and finished the bout with elbows from top position.

O'Malley's injury appeared to be non-contact as his ankle buckled while moving toward his opponent. 

UFC @ufc

"Something's wrong with O'Malley's leg." #UFC252 https://t.co/jgJ1zaFBpU

Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports confirmed that it was Sugar's ankle that was injured in the fight:

Kevin Iole @KevinI

Injury is confirmed to O'Malley ankle. Being given a CT scan

Vera believes that a checked kick was what caused the injury that ultimately cleared the path to victory for him. 

Marc Raimondi @marc_raimondi

Vera believes that he checked a calf kick and that is what led to O’Malley injuring his leg. “When you kick a kicker, you better be ready to be kicked.” #UFC252

The win marks the most significant win of the 27-year-old's six-year run with the company. Generally a midcard fighter, Vera took the opportunity to take on the highly hyped O'Malley in the co-main event of a major pay-per-view and stunned those expecting another flashy performance from O'Malley.

While Vera has fought for the company since 2014, he has struggled to break out. With a win over someone the UFC was clearly spending time and resources promoting, Vera believes it's high time he gets put in the rankings.

He told MMA Junkie's Hablemos MMA:

"This is a fight that puts me close to the top five. We've seen fighters like Cody Garbrandt, who are coming off three defeats, beat someone who's basically outside of the rankings like (Raphael) Assuncao, knocks him out, and gets in the top three above Pedro Munhoz, who knocked him out. So the rankings make no sense. But since this is a popularity contest, I beat the brat, and they have to put me in the top, so good for me."

O'Malley was one of the bigger storylines of 2020. He had a two-year layoff as a result of injuries and a violation of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's policies in which he tested positive for ostarine but came back to rip off two highlight-reel knockouts against Jose Alberto Quinonez and Eddie Wineland.

The eclectic striker wasn't just making waves in the cage. He feuded publicly with former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and current champion Petr Yan.

It appears he should have spent more time focusing on the task in front of him. Vera took advantage of a potentially distracted O'Malley and should see some doors open in the division.