UFC 280 may turn out to be the strongest main card of the year for the UFC after the promotion added a bantamweight fight between ex-champion Petr Yan and Sean O’Malley. The UFC in the last week announced a lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev as the main event, with a bantamweight title fight between Aljamain Sterling and T.J. Dillashaw in the co-main.
The show will be Oct. 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Sterling is coming off a pair of wins over Yan, though the first, at UFC 259 came via disqualification and was highly controversial. Yan was the reigning champion and was clearly ahead in the fight in the fourth round when he kneed a downed Sterling in the head. Sterling couldn’t continue and won the fight, and the title, by disqualification.
Sterling needed neck surgery after the bout and so the UFC made Yan against Sandhagen for the interim title at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 30, 2021. They met in a unification bout at UFC 273 on April 9 in Jacksonville, Florida, and Sterling used his wresting to secure a split-decision victory.
Including the DQ win, Sterling has reeled off seven consecutive victories, including a submission of Sandhagen, two wins over Yan and a decision over Munhoz.
Yan and O’Malley should turn out to be a slugfest between two of the premier strikers in the UFC. O’Malley is coming off of a controversial no-contest with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 on July 2. Munhoz said he was poked in the eye and couldn’t see. O’Malley claimed it was a punch that hurt him.
The fight was stopped and called a no-contest. Munhoz was publicly seeking a rematch. Instead, the colorful O’Malley will face the biggest test of his career against No. 1 Yan. O’Malley is 13th in the current UFC bantamweight rankings.
O’Malley is quick with good striking skills and showed against Eddie Wineland that he has the one-hitter quitter power to end a fight at any point. Yan is a former champion who has been dominant in recent years. He lost a split decision to Sterling in his last outing, but has impressive wins over Cory Sandhagen, Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber and Jimmie Rivera.
Yan is 8-2 with four finishes in the UFC. He knocked out Faber with a kick to the head and dominated Aldo before stopping him with strikes in the third at UFC 251 on July 12, 2020.
O’Malley is 15-1 with his only loss coming at UFC 252 in 2020 to Marlon Vera when O’Malley injured his ankle.