BUTTE — Helena native Sean O'Malley landed 79.5% of the significant strikes he threw en route to a third-round TKO of Kris Moutinho on Saturday night at UFC 264 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
After Moutinho absorbed 249 significant strikes, 200 to the head, over the course of two-and-a-half-rounds, some were surprised when veteran referee Herb Dean stopped the fight during O'Malley's final flurry of punches.
"What that guy did for three rounds, you've got to let him finish," said ringside announcer Joe Rogan. "I just don't understand. I'm just stunned that Herb Dean, the best referee in the business in my opinion, decided it needed to stop."
Moutinho was still standing when the fight was called, but it's hard to say how much longer that would have been the case.
"I was (surprised) and I wasn't. That was a lot of head damage," O'Malley said during his post-fight interview. "He might not have liked the stoppage but that probably saved him a couple years on his life."
O'Malley (14-1) was originally scheduled to fight Louis Smolka, who was forced to pull out due to a staph infection. Moutinho took the fight on less than two weeks notice.
"Kris is a tough (expletive)," O'Malley exclaimed. "He took the fight on 11 days notice. Kris is a tough (expletive)!"
If you watched the first 20 seconds of the fight, you basically saw the entire fight. But you had to watch the entire fight to understand how tough Moutinho (9-5) is.
During the first round, Moutinho came right at O'Malley. He hardly threw any faints and almost immediately started taking clean punches, but he never stopped trying to close the distance. The 5-foot-11 O'Malley, kept the 5-foot-7 Moutinho at a distance with kicks to the midsection when he wasn't throwing punches.
Moutinho looked hurt about midway through the first round. He stopped bending his legs, and was unable to stay an athletic stance. O'Malley knocked Moutinho down at the end of the first round, but the round ended before more damage could be inflicted while Moutinho was on the ground. When he got to his feet, his eyes were glazed over and he did not look like he was in good shape.
O'Malley landed 89 significant strikes in the first round, which is a new UFC bantamweight record.
The second round was all O'Malley again but Moutinho took everything, smiling through the blood dripping down his face.
During much of the third round, O'Malley's goal shifted to keeping Moutinho away form him as he was winning by such a large margin. But with 27 seconds left in the bout, which was scheduled for a maximum of three rounds, O'Malley saw an opportunity and started to unload. Dean eventually stepped in and called for the match to stop.