Aljamain Sterling’s UFC bantamweight title reign began as a point of contention for those who didn’t view him as a legitimate champion. Sterling himself was disappointed with the way he won the belt after then-champion Petr Yan landed an illegal knee against him and was disqualified during their title fight at UFC 259 on March 6, 2021.
Now, ahead of Sterling’s title defense Saturday versus Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 at TD Garden in Boston, “Funk Master” should be more than pleased with his championship résumé. And the fans who aren’t are simply just haters. Because not only did Sterling go on to beat Yan in the rematch, he’s now racked up enough wins to be regarded by some — including esteemed UFC broadcaster Jon Anik — as the bantamweight GOAT.
A loss Saturday would of course put that mythical title in question, but there’s no doubt Sterling is one of the best to do it in the UFC’s 135-pound division. And oddsmakers don’t see a loss in Sterling’s near future, as he’s currently a -250 favorite at BetMGM to defeat the No. 2-ranked O’Malley, who is a +200 underdog in Saturday’s main event.
Unfortunately for those who enjoy watching fighters compete at the top of their respective division for years on end, a win by Sterling on Saturday would likely be the end of his bantamweight career as he’s set his sights on moving up to featherweight. Sterling has said he’s outgrown 135 pounds and struggles to make weight. Plus, he wants to make room for his close friend and training partner Merab Dvalishvili, who is ranked ahead of O’Malley at No. 1 in the division, to compete for the belt.
On the other side, O’Malley doesn’t figure to make things easy for Sterling. At 5-foot-11, he’s four inches taller than Sterling with a one-inch reach advantage. He lands 2.65 more strikes per minute than Sterling and he’s much more explosive. In his 10 fights in the UFC, he’s earned seven performance bonuses including four Performance of the Night awards. So while some may consider O’Malley a hype job, he’s proven that’s certainly not the case.
The co-main event features another title showdown between strawweight champion Zhang Weili and challenger Amanda Lemos. Lemos thinks she’s flying under the radar heading into the bout versus the two-time champion and believes she has all of the technical advantages over Zhang.
Lemos is a hard puncher and an outstanding finisher. She’s 13-2-1 overall in MMA and 7-2 in the UFC. She’s won 11 of her 13 fights by finish, with eight of those coming by knockout. Against Zhang, though, she’s going against a different type of athlete. Weili is a -320 favorite to defend her title. Lemos is +250.
Follow the entire card, from the early prelims to the two title fights, with our live tracker below:
UFC 292 – Main card, odds (Start time 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV)
• Bantamweight championship: Aljamain Sterling (C) (-250) vs. Sean O’Malley (+200)
• Women’s strawweight championship: Zhang Weili (C) (-320) vs. Amanda Lemos (+250)
• Welterweight: Neal Magny (+375) vs. Ian Machado Garry (-500)
• Bantamweight: Da’Mon Blackshear (+170) vs. Mario Bautista (-210)
• Bantamweight: Marlon Vera (-185) vs. Pedro Munhoz (+155)
UFC 292 – Prelims card, odds (Start time 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+)
• Middleweight: Chris Weidman (+200) vs. Brad Tavares (-250)
• Middleweight: Gregory Rodrigues (-350) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (+275)
• Lightweight: Austin Hubbard (-178) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (+155)
• Bantamweight: Brad Katona (-180) vs. Cody Gibson (+150)
UFC 292 – Early prelims card, odds (Start time 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
• Middleweight: Andre Petroski (-230) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+190)
• Women’s flyweight: Andrea Lee (+275) vs. Natalia Silva (-350)
• Women’s flyweight: Karine Silva def. Maryna Moroz by submission (guillotine) at 4:59 of R1