In the co-main event of UFC 266, Lauren Murphy will look to do what no women’s flyweight has done before, defeat and dethrone champion Valentina Shevchenko.
“Lucky” will enter the Octagon riding a five-fight win streak and holding the No. 3-ranked spot in the division. On the other end, Shevchenko is on a seven-fight victory stretch, which includes five consecutive 125-pound title defenses.
And on fight night, Murphy will be a massive underdog. At the time of this writing, DraftKings has Lucky as a +800 underdog and “Bullet” as a -1375 favorite. Bet 365 has Murphy sitting at +700 and Shevchenko at -1408.
Although Murphy has earned the title fight by defeating fellow top-ranked 125 pounders like Joanne Calderwood and Roxanne Modafferi, Shevchenko is as dominant of a champion as they come. The only fighter Bullet has lost to in the UFC is consensus women’s GOAT, Amanda Nunes. She has wins over several other greats, including former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk and ex-bantamweight champion Holly Holm.
In her last outing, Shevchenko dismantled former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade via second-round TKO during UFC 261 in April 2021.
But like a true fighter, Murphy is prepared to embrace the challenge with the confidence, experience and skill she has built through her 19-fight professional MMA career.
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Murphy Has 8 Wins By KO/TKO & Is an 11-Fight Veteran in the UFC
Murphy has established herself as the rightful next contender to take on Shevchenko inside the cage. The two fighters ranked ahead of Murphy, No. 1 Jessica Andrade and No. 2 Katlyn Chookagian, both have had a shot at Shevchenko recently and lost.
Although Murphy had a rough start to her UFC career, which began in 2015, she turned things around emphatically. Lucky, who is the former Invicta FC bantamweight champion, fought her first four fights in the promotion at 135 pounds, going 1-3.
She debuted at flyweight in 2017 and defeated Barb Honchak by split decision. Lucky dropped her next fight to Sijara Eubanks via unanimous decision in what was the last loss of her career up to this point.
As mentioned earlier, Murphy has rattled off five victories in a row, which includes two finishes. She finished Mara Romero Borella by third-round TKO in 2019 to bounce back from her loss to Eubanks. She went on to win three fights in 2020, beating Andrea Lee by split decision, Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision and Liliya Shakirova by second-round submission.
In her last trip to the Octagon, Lucky defeated Joanne Calderwood via split decision at UFC 263 in June 2021. Murphy has a professional MMA record of 15-4 with eight wins by KO/TKO and one by submission.
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Murphy Said That She Has ‘Earned the Title Shot,’ No Top-Contender’s Current Run Stacks Up to Hers
Speaking with MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck after her big win over Calderwood, Murphy made it known that she believes she’s the woman to defeat Shevchenko, pointing out her impressive resume.
She said via the outlet:
One hundred percent I’ve earned the title shot. Who can deny that? Nobody in the division has anything even close to the same resume that I have. Nobody in that division has five straight wins over all ranked opponents. None of my opponents have been a gimme. It’s either been people in the top-10—or one short-notice fight that was totally out of my control, but it was a short-notice fighter, she was tough, she was champion of another promotion and I took her on in a week’s notice—I’ve never been finished. I’ve never even been close to getting finished. Every loss that I have is to either a former champion or a UFC title contender.
The losses that I have are so f****** close, it’s ridiculous. I could easily be 17-2, 18-1, something like that, I could be 9-1 in the UFC or 10-1, I don’t even know what my record is right now. But it’s something close to those numbers. Nobody else has even anywhere near the resume that I have. Nobody’s even discussed a 10-8 round when I’m fighting, nobody’s ever done that to me. For me to go out and do it to these other girls is incredible, especially considering I never even had a background in athletics before I started this sport. I think when you take my whole story together, it’s crazy what I’ve done in this division, the resume that I’ve built up around myself over time is absolutely f****** incredible and I’m excited to take all of that together and go put it on the line for the championship. I feel I’ve earned it. I know I deserve it.
Murphy Said She Is ‘Tough Enough’ To Defeat Shevchenko, Has the ‘Biggest Heart’
One thing is for certain, Murphy and her team have studied tape on Shevchenko extensively and the fighter believes she is prepared to expose holes in the dominant champion’s game. And it won’t just be a gameplan that Murphy will rely on to dethrone Bullet. She will enter the UFC 266 co-main event armed with her patented grit.
“I really do believe in my coaches and they believe in me,” Murphy said. “I think we can find holes in Valentina’s game and I think I’m strong enough to exploit them. I think I’m tough enough to get to where I need to go with her. She hasn’t faced anybody as tough as me. She hasn’t faced anybody that can grind like I can grind.
“Seriously. I mean, look at my resume and look at my past fights. I have the biggest heart, I’m one of the toughest girls ever. Not just in the division, I’m one of the toughest girls ever. I’m the strongest girl in the division. I’m a huge flyweight. And I think my top game in jiu-jitsu is second to none.”