The Sugar Show: How far will top prospect Sean O'Malley go in the UFC?
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC / UFC / Getty

Judging by its pilot episode, it's worth getting excited about "The Sugar Show."

Its creator, top bantamweight prospect Sean O'Malley, will look to duplicate the success of that first installment - which wowed UFC president Dana White this summer - in his promotional debut opposite Terrion Ware at Friday's "The Ultimate Fighter 26" finale in Las Vegas.

Before the undefeated showman takes the Octagon, here's an appraisal of his strengths and flaws, as well as what may lie ahead for him in the world's preeminent fight factory.

Age: 23
Division: Bantamweight
Record: 8-0 (1-0 LFA, 1-0 DWTNCS)
Last Fight: 1st-round KO of Alfred Khashakyan in Week 2 of DWTNCS


The Montana native sharpens his sword alongside former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson, Bryan Barberena, and ex-UFC flyweight title challenger John Moraga - among other talents - at John Crouch's MMA Lab in Arizona.

O'Malley turned pro in early 2015 and cut his teeth on the regional circuit in his home state under Crouch's tutelage. Then he made the most of his first and only fight under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner this past May, capping a stunning striking sequence with a wheel kick that KO'd David Nuzzo in just over two minutes.

The 23-year-old parlayed the resulting buzz into a slot on the second bill of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he (literally) punched his ticket to the big show with a walk-off first-round KO of Alfred Khashakyan - punctuating his arrival with the words "Welcome to the Sugar Show."

He signed his UFC contract with a perfect 8-0 record, including seven victories inside the distance.

The tape

Don't let the KO-riddled resume fool you; O'Malley is no brawler.

Standing 5-foot-11 with a 72-inch reach - astounding measurables by bantamweight standards - the purebred striker has learned to optimize his physical gifts with sound shot selection and a firm grasp of range. Often alternating stances to keep foes guessing, O'Malley leans heavily on the one-two and rarely deviates from straight punches - with the exception of the odd spinning backfist or high kick - or forces a finish, a blunder often committed by fighters with knockout power.

Given his length and understanding of distance, the prospect rarely pays for keeping his hands low and leaving his chin untucked, relying on his defensive footwork to elude heavy leather.

Crouch cited O'Malley's defensive wrestling and ground game as the youngster's biggest weaknesses when he turned pro, and while his takedown defense has improved, the coach's assessment remains relevant ahead of his pupil's UFC debut.

In his only fight to go the distance, a three-round tilt with Mark Coates in November 2015, O'Malley was taken down on several occasions and offered little off his back other than posture control and a fruitless triangle choke attempt. The 23-year-old's grappling has gone largely untested in four fights since. If he aims to renew "The Sugar Show" with any regularity in a division boasting solid wrestlers and submission artists such as Pedro Munhoz, Bryan Caraway, Cody Stamann, and Marlon Vera, though, he should aim to be as deadly on the mat as he is on his feet.

As for his standup, O'Malley would be wise to follow the golden rule of defense and keep his chin tucked. While the comparatively unrefined strikers he's faced to date have struggled to get inside and exploit the habit, the technically proficient bantamweight bangers in the UFC won't be so easily deterred by O'Malley's long limbs.

The debut

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

O'Malley should be obliged with a striking duel in his maiden voyage to the Octagon, as Ware - whose reach falls just one inch short of the newcomer's - will likely aim to keep the fight at boxing range.

In his promotional debut at UFC 213, the well-traveled Ware rode an active jab and kept uncorking combinations on Stamann when the action was upright. In what will prove his stiffest test yet, O'Malley needs to rein in the wild side that dispatched Khashakyan, keep his own lead hand busy, switch stances consistently, and make Ware think twice about stepping in to strike with a steady stream of front kicks.

Projection: O'Malley edges Ware in a rare trip to the scorecards and soon cracks the divisional top 15 thanks to some favorable stylistic matchups from the UFC matchmakers. However, his grappling deficiencies keep him from joining a crowded contenders' table.

The Sugar Show: How far will top prospect Sean O'Malley go in the UFC?
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