Top 5 ranked Lauren Murphy welcomes Liliya Shakirova to the UFC. Can she hold her off or will we see the emergence of a new 125lbs contender?
Lauren Murphy (13-4) is the former Invicta FC bantamweight champion and has also held the featherweight title in the Alaska Cage Fighting and Alaska FC promotions. Joining the UFC as a bantamweight, Murphy was signed as an 8-0 prospect in 2014 but has been competing at 125lbs since 2017.
Now 5-4 in the organization, “Lucky” has won her last three fights, most recently a unanimous decision victory over Roxanne Modafferi in June. Murphy has two finishes on her UFC record, both final-round TKO wins, and three victories by decision.
The American uses her boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills in the Octagon although she has never won by submission. Murphy has also never been finished in her professional career and will be keen to keep her place towards the top of the flyweight rankings after what will be her third fight of the year.
Taking a fight against an unranked opponent on short notice having prepared for #4 ranked Cynthia Calvillo is a huge risk for Murphy. At 37 years old, she will hope that a couple more victories will see her move into title contention for her first chance at UFC gold.
Liliya Shakirova (8-1) is the former Gorilla FC flyweight champion and makes her UFC debut tonight against a top 5 ranked opponent. Having accepted the fight on nine days notice this represents the toughest challenge she has faced in her career to date.
Shakirova’s last bout was the Gorilla FC flyweight title fight at GFC 18 just over a year ago where she beat Aygul Kuzu Abduvakhid by TKO with 51 seconds remaining of the second round to claim the belt and increase her win streak to three fights. Her only professional loss came via the judges as she was beaten by unanimous decision.
Having turned 29 earlier this week, the Uzbekistani fighter is over eight years younger than her opponent and I think she will try and stand with Murphy initially, perhaps trying to take the fight to the ground if she is struggling on the feet. This is a huge opportunity for Shakirova as a win immediately sees her elevated towards the top of the divisional rankings and eyeing matchups with other highly-ranked adversaries.
Prediction: Murphy by decision
Follow Rob Bartle on Twitter
Other articles by Rob Bartle via his Medium page