For two years, Sean O'Malley waited to step back into the UFC Octagon. In his return at UFC 248, O'Malley looked like he hadn't missed a beat with a first-round finish of Jose Quinonez. After a highlight reel win on Dana White's Contender Series in July 2017, O'Malley rattled off two wins in the UFC before breaking his foot in the third round of a UFC 222 fight, all while building up considerable buzz as a bantamweight to watch. Then came multiple failed drug tests, all at weird levels that seemed to stem from a tainted supplement, though no one could track down what was causing the issue.
O'Malley (11-0) battered Quinonez in the final preliminary bout of the event from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, immediately putting himself back in the mix as a force at 135 pounds.
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Less than 10 seconds into the fight, O'Malley dropped Quinonez with a front kick to the body, immediately establishing the threat of his long limbs. Quinonez seemed bothered by the speed and length of O'Malley from that point forward and in an attempt to get inside with a lunging hook he was countered by a quicker, cleaner hook that sent him off balance into the cage. O'Malley quickly followed up with a head kick that hurt Quinonez and a follow-up flurry of strikes that led to the referee stoppage seconds later.
The win kept O'Malley undefeated and on the rise in the bantamweight division, but it was more than that to the 25-year-old.
"I felt great in there, it definitely doesn't feel like it's been two years, but it's good to be back," O'Malley said. "I've been through a lot to get here, I had two surgeries, two pulled fights, it was a lot. I didn't know how I would feel making that walk, I tried to picture it in my head so many times, but you never know until you are out there. I felt great, it felt right.
"I think I'm the best MMA striker out there. I know a lot of people won't agree with that because they haven't really got to see it, but I truly believe I am the best MMA striker. I can throw anything from either stance and I have so many tools, especially when I'm out there with people that I know I am way better than. I never had a consistent strength and conditioning coach in between camps, but I have that now and I feel way better. I've put on good muscle and I can really tell. I trained so hard and so much for this, it's hard to put into words just how much all of this means. I'd like to come back as quickly as possible now really, I'm not hurt, I'm in shape, so whatever they call with."