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Sean O’Malley’s Coach Unimpressed With Marlon Vera’s Improvement Since First Clash

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Sean
O’Malley’s longtime coach, Tim Welch,
hasn’t seen anything from Marlon Vera
that he’s concerned about since their first meeting in August
2020.

Vera (23-8) handed O’Malley (17-1) his lone career loss in their
first encounter, which “Sugar” refuses to acknowledge to date,
blaming it on a damaged peroneal nerve due to a “fluke” leg
kick.

O’Malley is gearing up to defend his bantamweight strap in a
rematch against “Chito” in the main event at UFC
299 on March 9 in Miami. Welch believes Vera won’t be very
confident going into the rematch as he hasn’t seen a ton of
improvement in the Ecuadorian since the initial encounter.

“I don’t think [he’s improved] a ton. I don’t think his confidence
is going to be high,” Welch said in an appearance on The
MMA Hour. “And the way he showed up against Cory
Sandhagen, he got smoked by Cory Sandhagen. He barely got past
a little, short — no diss, but — Pedro
Munhoz, who’s not very fast and big, he’s a little bit older.
So I don’t think his confidence is super high.”

“But Chito’s dangerous. He is really, really good at getting beat
up and then winning, which is a dangerous thing. He’s very durable;
he trains hard, he’s got a good coach, and he’s dangerous. Last
time we fought him, we [underestimated] him. We thought he was just
slow and clunky, and then that happened. So, we’re not
underestimating him this time.”

While O’Malley hasn’t lost a fight since his defeat against Vera,
the reigning bantamweight champion cemented his place amongst the
elites with a split decision win over former champ Petr Yan in
October 2022, which also earned him a title shot. “Sugar” then went
on to score a stunning upset knockout over Aljamain
Sterling to be crowned the new champ in August of last
year.

Meanwhile, Vera has gone 5-2 since his win over O’Malley and is
coming off a decision win over Munhoz, which saw him bounce back
from a split-decision loss against Sandhagen. Not only was Welch
not impressed with Vera’s recent performances, he also believes
O’Malley’s style will give “Chito” flashbacks of the Sandhagen
loss.

“That was not that long ago, so we watched film on that. Watched
film on Cory Sandhagen, because Cory standing there, obviously he
switches stances, moves around a lot, and how did [Vera] go about
that fight? What did he do? It seems like he just got confused and
he got broke mentally. So, if that Chito shows up on March 9, it’s
going to be really bad for him.”

“I just think that Cory Sandhagen bout is just going to be in his
mind. And when he feels Sean’s movement and Sean’s speed and his
reaction times, I feel like that’s going to come back into play
into his mind. Like, f*ck, he just couldn’t get started. He felt
like he just couldn’t reach him. He just couldn’t get to him. He
was too slow. And I feel like that’s probably going to come back,
especially in the big cage.”

While Welch is preparing O’Malley for a five-rounder, deep inside
he doesn’t see the fight going the distance.

“I believe it’s going to be a viral knockout. But like I said, I’m
preparing Sean for a five-round war. I’m bringing the toughest
people I could find in to spar him, going tons of rounds, trying to
break him, trying to break his legs, kicking his legs, and we’re
preparing him for a five-[round] war, because Chito is really good
at taking shots. He’s very durable… So, we’re preparing him for
five rounds, but I do believe in my heart that he’s going to be
probably face-planted at the end of the fight.”

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