The crown jewel of this second Fight Island run, UFC 254 goes down this weekend in Abu Dhabi. The card is headlined by the reigning lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov going against the number one contender/interim champ Justin Gaethje. Also on the card is Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier — a possible number one contender fight for middleweight champ Israel Adesanya. In a flyweight bout Lauren Murphy (13-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) was supposed to fight Cynthia Calvillo. Now that Calvillo is out, veteran Murphy will welcome Liliya Shakirova to the UFC.
Buka, Toshkent, Uzbekistan
How will Shakirova fare in the UFC:
Shakirova has had a few opponents that were rather low-level. On the flip side, she has some wins against good fighters like Bo Meng and Na Liang. A mixed bag, really.
On the feet, Shakirova is a bit one dimensional. She will stay heavily active on that lunging right/overhand. While she does find success if you just circle to her left it’s going to be difficult for her to hit the target. Her wrestling isn’t particularly high level but does produce some emphatic takedowns. The ground and pound may be the best tool in her toolbox. Her grappling is non-existent as you hardly ever see her transition or even put in hooks when having the opening to take the back. Defensively she has struggled with takedown defense many times in her career. She is still pretty young so can improve but right now just don’t expect much.
How she matches up with Murphy:
Murphy is a veteran who has looked at her best recently. Since 2019, Murphy is currently on a three-fight win streak. I see this as a complete mismatch in the favor of Murphy. Yeah, Shakirova is nine years younger but fight experience is huge here. Murphy is better everywhere and she should cruise here.