O’Malley faced Yan in the featured bantamweight fight at UFC 280, winning a split decision after three hard-fought rounds. The win immediately drew criticism as a robbery, and while Vera doesn’t fully agree, he also doesn’t think O’Malley won the fight.
“A lot of people had 3-0 to Yan. I had 2-1 to Yan,” Vera said Monday on The MMA Hour. “The body language of O’Malley was a body language of, ‘I lost the fight.’ Then when they gave it to him, I thought it was a gift decision, but again, f*** it. The guy won the fight. Now he’s going to have a No. 1 next his name I guess, but I believe it was a gift. I believe he got the decision gifted, but we’ll see what happens with that. It was a close fight. Both guys hurt each other, and I think everything comes down to the takedowns and the control time.”
Vera and O’Malley have history together. “Chito” was the first man to hand O’Malley a loss, stopping him at UFC 252 in 2020. O’Malley has never admitted that the loss is legitimate, claiming the outcome was solely the result of an injury, and the two men have butted heads over the fight ever since. Even so, Vera says that the many people who downplayed O’Malley heading into his fight with Yan were way off the mark.
“For all the people that say he sucks and he’s all talk, I never thought that,” Vera said. “I always said before, the guy can fight, the guy is talented, the guy has tools. I think he’s the only one actually surprised that he can prove himself to everybody, because I actually think he can fight. I think he has power in his hands. He’s kind of a snake, but so are the rest of the division, so are the rest of the top 15. At that level, anybody can hang with anybody.
“The level of there is pretty much the same. It’s who prepared better, who did enough reps, who put more time into it, and who can stay longer and didn’t catch up. So the guy can fight, but so can the rest of the whole division.”
Not only was O’Malley’s win the biggest of his career, but it could present a seismic shakeup for the bantamweight division. Before the bout, O’Malley and Dana White both said that a win would likely garner him the next title shot; however, afterwards White suggested that former champion Henry Cejudo may be next in line instead. It would be a tough outcome for O’Malley, and one that Vera doesn’t agree with, even if he’d understand it.
“As a fight fan, anybody who beat the No. 1 contender should fight for the belt, right? That’s obvious,” Vera said. “O’Malley, it doesn’t matter what ranking he is, he beat No. 1, he should fight for the belt. But, the whole everybody thinks that was a gifted decision, everybody thinks he got a pass on that one, that can probably hurt what the UFC will do with him.
“It’s the same thing that happened with the Song Yadong fight. I got robbed, they gave me the O’Malley fight, then they gave me the [Jose] Aldo fight. I advanced after a loss. So O’Malley got the decision gifted, maybe they do the same thing, they probably hold him a little bit, make somebody else do it. But we’ll see. Again, that’s up Dana and the UFC. We’ll see what they want to do.”
And if O’Malley does somehow get skipped over, Vera would love to be the one to reap the benefits, if he had the choice.
“I’m a selfish prick so I will say myself,” Vera said when asked who deserves the next title shot. “Maybe [I will get it]. I said it before this fight, that decision is up to Dana White and the UFC. We can say whatever we want, I can go crazy, I can waste all my energy, but that’s up to the UFC. They’re the ones that will decide that. They’re the ones that will pick the next title contender. I’m ready though. If they call me, I’ll happily do it. If they call me for a No. 1 contender, I’ll also happily do it.
“I’m not tripping. I’m in great spirits. I’m just going to keep getting better. I’m using all this time to continue to improve, keep working, and by the time they call me, I’ll be ready to put on another performance, put another man out. I’m not chasing nothing. I’m not going after anything. The main goal is the belt, but in order to get the belt you’ve got to win, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”