Former UFC light heavyweight and PFL analyst Sean O’Connell proved he has plenty of fight left in him, as he earned a spot in the Professional Fighters League finale at PFL 9, picking up two wins including a big knockout of Smealinho Rama.
Long Beach, CA — If any one fighter stole the show on Saturday night at PFL 9, it was unquestionably Sean O’Connell. The former UFC slugger, something of a jack of all trades who serves as a PFL commentator, works for Sirius XM radio, and has even written a novel, picked up the two wins on the night necessary to send him to the PFL 2018 season finale in Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve. The second of those wins came via first round knockout, a big finish of former WSOF heavyweight champion Smealinho Rama.
“My fighting style is never real pretty or technical. Sometimes you gotta wear a little bit of damage, if you’re me, to get through it,” O’Connell said of the brief but entertaining war with Rama. “Smealinho’s a tough guy, very fast, young, tough striker. But everybody’s chin is the same, if you hit them hard enough.”
“Southpaws are tough. Had two of them tonight,” O’Connell added. Still, he got the job done. Looming ahead, however, is the tough-as-nails Vinny Magalhaes. A nightmare on the ground. How will O’Connell approach that fight, just two and a half months off? “You don’t try to catch up to Vinny Magalhaes’ grappling credentials in two and a half months, right?” he said of his opponent in the light heavyweight final. “You’ve got to find a way to stay away from him, stay off of him, keep him off of you. I feel like that’s a pretty simple game plan, obviously implementing that, he’s done a great job of closing distance, pushing guys up against the cage.”
“He pulled guard twice in high level MMA type fights tonight,” O’Connell observed. “He’s on a different level right now, took a couple arms home with him. He’s super, super dangerous. But no one has tested his chin this season. Jamie Abdallah came close to hitting him with a straight in their first fight.”
“It’s a tough puzzle to solve, we’ve got a hundred days or so to figure it out.”
After defeating Dan Spohn by majority decision to advance to the semifinals at PFL 9 on Saturday, O’Connell wound up in quite the battle with Smealinho Rama. “There were some nasty body shots there, I think I have some permanent liver damage,” he joked. “Smealinho mixing it up like that tells you what kind of advanced striker he is.” O’Connell feels his opponent was going to the body early hoping it would pay off later in the fight.
Asked what the chance to win it all means to him, meanwhile, O’Connell told Cageside Press that “as a mixed martial arts fighter, we all have these dreams that something big is going to happen, you’re going to make enough money to actually change your life a little bit, and make things better for your family. And the reality of mixed martial arts is, most of us, even at the top level, you make it to the big show, and you still don’t get that life changing money.” Now, things are a little different. “A million dollars is life changing money.”
Of course, Vinny Magalhaes awaits, himself a motivated fighter with a family to provide for. One last obstacle for Sean O’Connell to overcome. At the very least, the PFL’s 2018 season will end with a light heavyweight fight that simply cannot be missed.