MIAMI, FL (March 9th, 2024) (AP) — Nearly four years ago, Sean O’Malley was an undefeated rising star with several viral knockouts under his belt entering UFC 252. His opponent, Marlon “Chito” Vera, was a veteran in the sport by comparison, but hadn’t yet broken out with a signature win.

With a leg kick that completely numbed O’Malley’s right foot and sent him to the canvas, Vera scored a TKO victory in the first round of the bout, which remains the only loss on O’Malley’s resume.

O’Malley (17-1) has said in the past that the loss doesn’t exist in his mind. But this week, as he prepares to defend his bantamweight championship belt against the only fighter that has ever defeated him, O’Malley said he’s actually grateful that it happened.

“Look where I’m at now,” O’Malley said. “That fight plays out a different way, I win that fight, maybe the next fight I fight somebody that I wasn’t ready for, and I lose. My career completely plays out different.”

Vera and O’Malley will meet for the second time in the main event of UFC 299 Saturday in Miami. Vera (23-8-1), has won five of his past six fights and will get his first shot at a UFC championship. It’ll be O’Malley’s first defense of his bantamweight title after stopping former champion Aljamain Sterling just 51 seconds into the second round at UFC 292 in August.

Main card (ESPN+PPV at 10 p.m. ET)

Sean O’Malley (135) vs. Marlon Vera (135)

Backup fighter: Merab Dvalishvili (135)

Dustin Poirier (156) vs. Benoit Saint Denis (155)

Kevin Holland (170) vs. Michael Page (170)

Gilbert Burns (171) vs. Jack Della Maddalena (170)

Petr Yan (135) vs. Song Yadong (136)

Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET)

Curtis Blaydes (257) vs. Jailton Almeida (241)

Katlyn Cerminara (125) vs. Maycee Barber (125)

Mateusz Gamrot (156) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (156)

Pedro Munhoz (135) vs. Kyler Phillips (135)

Early Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET)

Ion Cutelaba (205) vs. Philipe Lins (206)

Michel Pereira (186) vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (185)

Robelis Despaigne (261) vs. Josh Parisian (266)

CJ Vergara (127)* vs. Assu Almabayev (126)

Joanne Wood (125) vs. Maryna Moroz (126)

UFC 299 Average Betting Odds: