Connect with us


UFC 299: O’Malley v Vera 2 Predictions

Bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley seeks to avenge his only loss as he makes the first defence of his title against Marlon Vera in the main event of a stacked UFC 299 at the Kaseya Center in Miami on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


Bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley seeks to avenge his only loss as he makes the first defence of his title against Marlon Vera in the main event of a stacked UFC 299 at the Kaseya Center in Miami on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

A pivotal lightweight bout serves as the co-headliner with former interim champion Dustin Poirier battling rising star Benoit Saint Denis, while former Bellator striking phenom Michael Page makes his much-anticipated UFC debut against Kevin Holland in a can’t-miss welterweight class.

Staying at 170 pounds, ex-title challenger Gilbert Burns meets the surging Jack Della Maddalena, and former 135-pound champion Petr Yan squares off against Song Yadong.

MAIN CARD (from 5 AM Sunday SA time):

Sean O’Malley (1.35) v Marlon Vera (3.25) (Bantamweight)

An already popular O’Malley (17-1-1NC) reached superstar status when he knocked out long-time champion Aljamain Sterling last August to become the new 135-pound king.

Having claimed the crown, vengeance is now on O’Malley’s mind as he looks to set the record straight against the only man with a victory over him. “Suga” first faced Vera (23-8-1) in 2020 in a clash that finished somewhat inconclusively.

O’Malley rolled his ankle after “Chito” targeted the perennial nerve with low calf kicks, with the injury spelling the beginning of the end for the American as he later collapsed trying to cut an angle. Vera pounced, dropping elbows on his flattened foe and forcing a stoppage.

O’Malley insists the loss was a fluke and he heads into the rematch, as he did the first meeting, as the favourite. Both men are elite strikers known for finishing their opponents. Boasting wicked one-punch knockout power (a rarity at bantamweight), the champion has a dozen KOs to his name, while the challenger has eight knockouts and 10 submissions to his credit, so expect fireworks as they take care of unfinished business.

Whether it was a fluke or not, O’Malley will once again have to deal with Vera’s low calf kicks. The fighting pride of Ecuador knows just how to lay them in, striking in a flash, and has fast head kicks with little tells, too.

Vera, who’s won five of his seven fights since the first bout with O’Malley to earn his maiden title shot, bases everything he does behind a piston-like jab. Once he establishes rhythm with this stabbing spear, he’s hard to stop, so plan A against him is to stop him from finding his groove.

Another key point is the 31-year-old has a proven gas tank. He’s gone five full rounds twice and has a fourth-round knockout win over former champion Dominick Cruz. O’Malley, meanwhile, has never gone past a third round, so while he’s never shown signs of cardio issues, it remains to be seen how he handles the main event/championship rounds.

The charismatic titleholder with his colourful hair is a showman and savage showstopper and is both loved and hated for it, although he has far more fans than he does haters. At this point, he’s proven that he’s not all hype but instead, an elite striker.

Very light on his feet, he glides across the Octagon and oozes confidence. Lean and lanky, his distance management, accuracy and shot selection are top tier and his unpredictability allows him to transform from a sniper into a berserker in the blink of an eye.

The world is O’Malley’s oyster at the moment and as much as he’s talked about facing Merab Dvalishvili next and called for a superfight against boxing star Ryan Garcia, he knows what a threat Vera is, both with his power and tactical nous.

As a result, the 29-year-old will be at the top of his game, use his range and pick his shots to soften up and ultimately become the first man to stop Vera.

Prediction: O’Malley by knockout. 

Best Bet: O’Malley by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.40.

Alternative Bet: Fight to finish inside the distance at 2.10.

Dustin Poirier (2.70) v Benoit Saint Denis (1.48) (Lightweight)

Generations collide in a rare five-round co-main event.

He’s a former interim lightweight champion. One of the best ever in the weight class and one of the biggest names in mixed martial arts thanks in no small part to him famously knocking out Conor McGregor in January 2021.

As an old-school scrapper, Poirier (29-8) has earned every bit of his success the hard way, taking the long road to MMA royalty. Thus, his decision – as the third-ranked contender – to fight the division’s scariest rising star – who’s outside of the top 10 in 12th – is not quite the shock it was when the bout was initially announced.

It’s still a massive, unnecessary risk as he could’ve waited to face a higher-ranked opponent, but “The Diamond” is built differently. He’s willing to give the next-generation savage a shot at the big time as he aims to bounce back from the knockout loss to Justin Gaethje in their BMF title fight last July.

On a five-fight win streak, Saint Denis (13-1) is as dangerous as they come. The former French Army Special Forces paratrooper lives up to his “God of War” moniker with a 100% finish rate (four knockouts and nine submissions) and has a golden opportunity to vault straight into the top five at 155 pounds.

It’s a big step up in competition for Saint Denis and his first fight scheduled for five rounds. Poirier, who boasts 14 knockouts and eight submissions, is used to the big stage and has little to no weaknesses. He’s calm in chaos and super crisp in every aspect.

Given Saint Denis’ aggressive style, this will be a war with a violent finish. For as much as Saint Denis is the real deal, I’m far from ready to write off Poirier, who’s polished and poised and will use his experience to fend off the French phenom.

Prediction: Poirier by knockout.

Best Bet: Poirier at 2.70.

Alternative Bet: Poirier by KO/TKO/DQ at 4.50.

Kevin Holland (1.74) v Michael Page (2.14) (Welterweight)

The spotlight shines on striking sensation Page (21-2) in the featured bout as he makes his much-anticipated UFC debut. A creative, supremely confident showman, the former Bellator star boasts a remarkable highlight reel that’s 13 knockouts long.

“Venom” is similar to the legendary Anderson Silva in terms of his flair and precision striking. The Brit is never in a boring fight and in Holland (25-10), he has a perfect dance partner, one willing to stand and trade and put on a show for the fans.

With seven submissions to go with his 14 knockouts, Holland is a threat on the ground as well and is the more well-rounded fighter but don’t expect him to shoot for a takedown unless he has no other option. The always-talking “Trailblazer” is rangy for a welterweight and will look to maximise his two-inch reach advantage to spoil Page’s party.

It’s another magnificent bit of matchmaking as the fight could go either way and promises to be a banger. As much as their thrilling offense is front of mind, it’s on the defensive end where Holland leaves openings and where I sense “MVP” will capitalise to signal his arrival in style.

Prediction: Page by knockout.

Best Bet: Page at 2.14.

Alternative Bet: Page by KO/TKO/DQ at 5.50.

Gilbert Burns (2.36) v Jack Della Maddalena (1.61) (Welterweight)

A rising force from Down Under, Della Maddalena (16-2) gets a crack at one of the welterweight division’s elite after racking up six straight wins in the UFC. Fearless and boasting plenty of firepower, which has earned him 11 knockouts in all (three in the UFC), he’ll take the fight to his decorated opponent.

Former title challenger Burns (22-6) is working his way back to another shot at the belt. Having come up short in his last bout against Belal Muhammad, the fourth-ranked Brazilian refuses to be a stepping stone and is eager to show he’s on a different level than his surging foe.

This is very much a classic striker versus grappler battle, in which grapplers usually have the upper hand, and I love Burns as an underdog in this one. Della Maddalena has suspect takedown defence and has never fought anyone near the level of Burns, who’s a multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion.

“Durinho” is no slouch in the stand-up department either and is ultra-durable, which he showed in his classic war with Khamzat Chimaev back in 2022. With an iron chin and a takedown-heavy game plan, I see Burns ending the Australian’s unbeaten run in the UFC.

Prediction: Burns to Win by Submission or Decision at 2.65.

Best Bet: Burns at 2.36.

Alternative Bet: Burns by decision at 5.50.

Petr Yan (1.84) v Song Yadong (1.98) (Bantamweight)

Former bantamweight champion Yan (16-5) will be desperate to get back on track in the main card opener against surging Song (21-7-1).

Yan heads into the clash on a three-fight losing streak yet is still unquestionably one of the best 135-pounders on the planet. Context is needed and when one considers he suffered narrow defeats to the last two champions (with many feeling he was robbed against O’Malley) and was outworked by the otherworldly Merab Dvalishvili, it’s clear that he’s not far off from the pinnacle.

Now ranked fourth, three places above his Chinese counterpart, the ruthless Russian is only 31, so he still has plenty of miles left on the clock, however, he’s in serious need of a win. “No Mercy”, as he’s known, is an elite, punishing striker, so much so that he’s one of the best boxers in the UFC. He pushes a very high pace and has great takedown defence, making him a top-tier all-around fighter.

At just 26, Song already has heaps of experience. He’s 10-2-1 inside the Octagon, has won five of his last six and has notable victories over former title challenger Marlon Moraes and this weekend’s headliner Vera. Yan, though, is his most decorated opponent to date.

As his nickname suggests, “Kung Fu Kid” is a good striker, albeit not as polished as his foe. He hits hard but Yan has never been finished and that’s unlikely to change in Miami. As the faster and more tactically savvy fighter, Yan looks set to get back in the win column.

Prediction: Yan by decision. 

Best Bet: Yan at 1.84.

Alternative Bet: Yan by decision at 2.40.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

More in UFC