LAS VEGAS — In what was expected to be a moment of truth in Sean O’Malley’s potential ascension from bright prospect to bantamweight title contender ended with more questions than answers.
An accidental eye poke with his outstretched left hand in Round 2 compromised the vision of Pedro Munhoz, calling a halt to the bout at 3:09 after advice from the cageside doctor in the opening bout of the UFC 276 pay-per-view card at T-Mobile Arena.
The abrupt finish followed a largely inconsequential eight minutes of action in this 135-pound pairing as Munhoz (19-7, 2 NC), facing disadvantages of five inches in both height and reach against O’Malley (15-1, 1 NC), largely circled from the outside. The Brazilian’s offense consisted almost exclusively of calf kicks, many of which the 27-year-old O’Malley was able to check.
A rising star with a huge following outside the Octagon, O’Malley was never able to get into an offensive groove given the lack of action and high amount of poise and patience shown by both. The result was a largely anticlimactic affair for a matchup which featured plenty of tension between the two during fight week press events.
O’Malley was hoping to gain critical acclaim in his first step-up fight since suffering his lone pro defeat to Marlon Vera in 2020. The native of Montana, who fights out of Phoenix, Arizona, stopped all three of his opponents immediately after Vera yet admitted he was only willing to face a top-10 ranked opponent if UFC paid him commensurate to his perceived value.
Munhoz, 35, proved unable to snap a five-fight stretch in which he was just 1-4, although each defeat came against a current or former UFC champion.