Rivalries: Lauren Murphy

By Brian Knapp Sep 23, 2021

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Lauren Murphy needs every ounce of her self-belief, and it still might not be enough.

Murphy will challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s flyweight title in the UFC 266 co-main event on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The 38-year-old Houston-based contender enters the cage on the strength of a five-fight winning streak that has taken her from divisional afterthought to primetime player. Murphy owns a 7-4 record in 11 appearances inside the Octagon. She has not suffered a defeat since losing a decision to Sijara Eubanks more than three years ago.

As Murphy makes final preparations for her most significant opportunity to date, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape her career:

Sara McMann

The 2004 Olympic silver medalist leaned on takedowns and an oppressive top game, as she eked out a split decision over the previously unbeaten Murphy in their UFC Fight Night 47 bantamweight prelim on Aug. 16, 2014 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Lars Borssen and William McKinnon for McMann, Chris Lee for Murphy. The Alaskan gave McMann fits with her defensive guard and fought effectively from her back, letting loose with a steady stream of elbows and punches. However, Murphy afforded her counterpart too much time in top position across the 15-minute encounter. Though McMann’s ground-and-pound was mild at best and her guard passing largely non-existent, she did enough to get by on two of the three scorecards and spoiled the MMA Lab representative’s promotional debut.

Katlyn Chookagian

It did not take long for the Mark Henry protégé to prove she belonged in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. She utilized a punishing jab, smooth lateral movement and occasional knees and kicks to capture a unanimous verdict over Murphy in the featured UFC Fight Night 91 prelim on July 13, 2016 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The undefeated Chookagian swept the scorecards with matching 29-28 marks from the cageside judges. Her jab was the story, as the former two-division Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder met the oncoming Murphy with it over and over again during the 15-minute affair. Still, it was far from a flawless performance for the Octagon newcomer. Chookagian had to overcome a near-disastrous second round, where she was taken down and force-fed ground-and-pound for more than three minutes. Murphy tried and failed to get it to the mat again in the third. Stuck on the feet, she could not match Chookagian’s skills.

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Mara Romero Borella

Murphy put away the American Top Team export with a knee strike and follow-up elbows in the third round of their UFC on ESPN 5 prelim on Aug. 3, 2019 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder slammed the door 1:46 into Round 3. Borella zeroed in on the lead leg with kicks and paired them with crisp jabs to the face, but the pressure with which she was met took its toll. Murphy marched forward with no regard for her own well-being and waited for her opportunity. She clipped Borella with a right uppercut in the third round, stuffed an attempted takedown and blasted the Italian with a knee on the break. Murphy gave chase when the dazed judo black belt fell backward and mopped up the rest with a volley of elbows. The finish was her first in more than three years.

Joanne Calderwood

“Lucky Lauren” took her final step to title contention and cemented herself as the No. 1 contender at 125 pounds with a split decision over Calderwood in their pivotal UFC 236 prelim on June 12, 2021 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Derek Cleary for Calderwood, Junichiro Kamijo and Dennis O’Connell for Murphy. It was contentious by all accounts. Calderwood outlanded the Anchorage, Alaska, native in significant strikes (123-80) and total strikes (153-121) but failed to maintain momentum. Murphy snapped back the Scotswoman’s head with a crisp combination in the first round and made her move in the second, where she took down the Syndicate MMA representative, climbed to full mount and applied her ground-and-pound. Calderwood answered in the third—she threw more often and connected at a higher rate—but failed to sway the opinions of the two men who mattered most: Kamijo and O’Connell. Advertisement
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