UFC 254 was supposed to be a chance for either Lauren Murphy or Cynthia Calvillo to claim a title shot in the increasingly competitive flyweight division. Yes, Jessica Andrade had just arrived, and blown everyone away with her performance against Katlyn Chookagian. But putting the time in has to count for something, right? So a second big win at 125lbs for Calvillo, or a fourth-straight for the resurgent Murphy, felt like it might have the edge.
With Calvillo forced out of the fight, however, Murphy was left with a very different match-up, against newcomer Liliya Shakirova. Whether a win over the little-known fighter from Uzbekistan would put her in the title picture remained to be seen, especially with Jennifer Maia having the next shot, and the presence of former strawweight champ Andrade.
And, of course, Shakirova was likely to have something to say about all that. In front of her was a huge opportunity to make a big first impression.
Two things were clear from the outset of Murphy vs. Shakirova: one, Murphy was the more patient, measured fighter. Two, Shakirova was expending a lot of energy in her movement and punches. How that would work out for her as the fight wore on was a question. It was Shakirova who shot in for a takedown first, but that was stuffed quite easily by Murphy, who held center and kept her opponent on the outside. A second takedown attempt later in the round would be fended off again by Murphy, who added in some nasty looking elbows for good measure.
Not surprisingly, given the exhausting style Shakirova employed in the opening minutes of the fight, by the end of the round, her hands had dropped. She was clearly tiring, with two rounds to go.
In the second, Murphy continued to work at a steady pace, walking down Shakirova seemingly at will. At the midway point of the round, Murphy clinched and was able to get her opponent to the ground. That let Murphy go to work in guard; Shakirova eventually gave up her back, and Murphy quickly sunk in a rear-naked choke!
Make it 4️⃣ in a row!
🍀 @LaurenMurphyMMA stating her case at the top of the division!
— UFC (@ufc) October 24, 2020
That’s four straight wins for Lauren Murphy. And while Shakirova was in her debut, Murphy did exactly what she needed to do — win, and finish.
Following the fight, Murphy promised that the next time she fought, it would be for a title. And that the next time she exited the octagon, she’d be wearing the belt. It’s not a done deal by any means, but Murphy is very much on her way to title contention.
Official Result: Lauren Murphy def. Liliya Shakirova by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2, 3:31