One of the brightest young stars on the UFC roster, O’Malley has used a pair of appearances in 2020 to show that his two years away from the Octagon following his breakout rookie campaign accelerated his ascent towards the top of the bantamweight division.

Back in March, the 25-year-old Montana native ended a 735-day stretch between fights with a blistering first-round stoppage win over Jose Quinonez at UFC 248, pushing his record to 11-0 in the process. It was a sharp reminder of the promise O’Malley showed as one of the breakout fighters from the first season of the Contender Series and once again made people eager to tune in to “The Sugar Show.”

Three months later at UFC 250, O’Malley registered the most impressive victory of his young career, felling veteran Eddie Wineland with a sniper shot of a right hand less than two minutes into their main card clash. Like his victory over Quinonez earlier in the year, O’Malley’s win over Wineland showcased his maturation as a fighter and the technical advancements he’s made since bursting onto the scene in the summer of 2017.

His quest for a third 2020 victory brings him to UFC 252 and a showdown with fellow emerging threat Marlon “Chito” Vera. The 27-year-old former TUF Latin America competitor has shown tremendous improvement and growth since joining Team Oyama but had his five-fight winning streak snapped last time out when he landed on the wrong side of a hotly debated split decision verdict in his bout against Song Yadong.

Just as Quinonez and Wineland were obvious hurdles O’Malley needed to clear to further his climb up the divisional ranks, so too is Vera, who would like nothing more than to get back into the win column by knocking off one of the mostly highly regarded prospects to arrive in the UFC over the last decade.

O’Malley feels like a special talent and has looked the part thus far in his career, especially of late. Although the bantamweight division has never boasted as much depth and talent as it does now, if “Sugar” continues laying out quality opponents with relative ease, it will become increasingly difficult to deny him an opportunity to climb the ranks and face some of the top names in the 135-pound ranks.