After winning the first two rounds, Sean O’Malley had to fight through the pain of an injured leg and survive takedown after takedown from Andre Soukhamthath en route to his second UFC win.
At UFC 222 on Saturday in Las Vegas, NV, the Sugar Show was in town. Depending on your point of view, this was either cause for jubilation, or possibly the worst thing to happen to the sport of MMA of late. Andre Soukhamthath believed the latter, as he hoped to put a stop to a fighter he called a “punk” and “bad for the sport” when we spoke to him ahead of the fight. Sean O’Malley, meanwhile, was hoping to maintain his undefeated record.
It was a battle that had the potential to be Fight of the Night on paper.
There was plenty of movement early on in Soukhamthath vs. O’Malley from both men, and while it was ‘The Asian Sensation’ landing a kick first, Sean O’Malley scored a leg kick of his own that seemed to at least temporarily injure Soukhamthath’s limb. He’d score with a left hand shortly after, letting O’Malley know he was in for a war. O’Malley unleashed a spinning back kick high, then kicked Soukhamthath’s legs out from under him. The low kicks for Sean O’Malley were definitely working early. Another high kick by O’Malley, to the side, followed. Soukhamthath was clipped with a kick while looking for a leg; he’d land on O’Malley next. In O’Malley’s bag of tricks, however, were frequent stance switches. That kept Soukhamthath guessing. O’Malley then scored a knockdown with a right hand, and while a rocked Andre Soukhamthath made it back up, he was definitely dazed to end the round.
In round two, Soukhamthath came out swinging, putting the pressure on early. He seemed to have recovered, but after that first flurry, found himself moving backward once more. O’Malley was able to get through Soukhamthath’s guard and land a punch, but Andre scored a takedown. However, O’Malley immediately threw up a triangle. That allowed him to score elbows from the bottom; he later went for an arm-bar, but that backfired. With Soukhamthath landing in side control, the momentum shifted in his favor. Just when it seemed Soukhamthath would finish the round in control, Sean O’Malley managed to sneak in a guillotine choke. Soukhamthath scrambled to fight his way out of it, but wound up on his back, eating a kick to the body, then got caught in a rear-naked choke. The bell, however, would come to the rescue.
Round three saw Andre Soukhamthath open with a grappling-heavy approach. However, unable to finish the takedown, it was back to the middle, with O’Malley sneaking punches through his defenses. Then, O’Malley launched a head kick. It was partially blocked, but he appeared to have injured the foot, either off the kick or on the way down. It was a callback to the first round when Soukhamthath’s own leg was injured. He attacked O’Malley’s leg with a few more strikes before taking him down. Soukhamthath threatened with a guillotine, but O’Malley made it back up. He could barely stand on his injured leg, but Soukhamthath took him down again. O’Malley then made it back up once more, and even landed a spinning back elbow before Soukhamthath dragged him back down. When the bell sounded, the biggest puzzle was why Soukhamthath didn’t quit the takedown approach and attack the leg, as the TKO was a strong possibility. O’Malley was clearly in pain afterward, and remained on his back when the scores were read. That said, he picked up the unanimous decision win.
Sean O’Malley def. Andre Soukhamthath by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)