UFC Vegas 80: Kanako Murata Ends Lengthy Layoff, Loses Decision to Vanessa Demopoulos

Vanessa Demopoulos and Kanako Murata, UFC Vegas 80
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 07: (R-L) Vanessa Demopoulos kicks Kanako Murata of Japan in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on October 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Stripper turned scrapper Vanessa Demopoulos brought her jiu-jitsu skills with her opposite Japan’s Kanako Murata on Saturday at UFC Vegas 80.

Should Murata’s wrestling and judo skills cancel out Demopoulos on the floor, “Lil Monster” had proven in the past that she was game to throw. Murata, meanwhile, was fighting for the first time since 2021.

With a noticeable size advantage, Vanessa Demopoulos held center early in the fight, catching a kick just over a minute in. That allowed for a clinch, and a very active battle along the cage with knees exchanged and positions reversed. And it was Murata who finally got the fight down with a trip, leaving Demopoulos seated, back against the fence.

Demopoulos didn’t stay down for long, and returned to her feet with a full two minutes on the clock. She fired a head kick; a body kick came later, while Murata found success with her hands but slipped briefly. Moments later, a Demopoulos punch put Murata off-balance. But it was Murata catching a kick towards the end of the round, allowing for a second takedown, with Demopoulos attacking with elbows off her back.

After a strong opening frame, Demopoulos went right on the attack in round two, and continued to fire head kicks. She was light on her feet, and Murata again closed the distance, earning a quick trip takedown. Demopoulos caught her in half-guard, but had to endure some hammerfists and elbows to the head. Demopoulos then isolated an arm briefly, and snaked her leg up Murata’s back, hunting for submissions. Murata then appeared to get her fingers in Demopoulos’ mouth, leading to Demopoulos looking at the ref. Murata, meanwhile, dropped hammerfists.

The second was a much stronger round for Kanako Murata, who spent the bulk of the frame on top and managed to score some damage. In the final minute, Demopoulos went looking for a triangle, while Murata smashed with double hammerfists.

It was straight to the ground again in round three, Murata on top and Demopoulos showing some impressive flexibility. With no opening, however, Demopoulos resorted to throwing punches off her back— while Murata fired more effective blows from the top. The more time Demopoulos spent on her back, the less likely it was that she’d win the round. The double hammerfists returned for Kanako Murata, whose top control in rounds two and three became a key factor in the fight. A late arm-bar attempt was too little, too late for “Lil Monster,” and by the time she escaped to her feet there was only 15 seconds left in the round — and she was slammed back down anyway. However, with the scorecards announced, it was Demopoulos coming away with the unanimous decision win.

Afterwards, an overjoyed Vanessa Demopoulos said that while Murata had controlled top position, she had controlled the fight.

Official Result: Vanessa Demopoulos def. Kanako Murata by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)