One of the greatest fighters pound for pound in the world today is Valentina Schevchenko, and on Saturday she looks to add another name to the growing list of victims when she faces the determined Lauren Murphy.
Schevchenko enters Saturday’s bout coming off arguably the greatest performance of her career against Jessica Andrade at UFC 261 in a bout many saw as her first true test as the champion of the flyweight division. Andrade had the boxing and ground game to pose a threat but after one round it was clear that Shevchenko was on another level.
In the second round, she took her down and got Andrade in a mounted crucifix and stopped the fight shortly after, a dominant performance that left many wondering where her next challenge would come from.
Lauren Murphy knew what was next for her whether she knew it or not.
Murphy comes into Saturday’s fight against the champion with a five-fight winning streak, with two stoppages coming with those wins. She most recently edged out Joanne Calderwood via split decision to earn her title shot, but it was her performances before that put her in the position she now sits with history awaiting her with a win against Shevchenko.
Her dominant wins over Roxanne Modafferi and Andrea Lee are what really gained her traction in the title conversation, both wins came by decision, but she looked good with her well-rounded game throughout both.
Keys to Victory for Lauren Murphy
Not going to sugarcoat things, it’s hard to see a path for Murphy where she is able to pull out a win here.
She does everything in her MMA arsenal well, but she doesn’t do anything great, whereas Shevchenko does almost everything at an elite level. Her best chance is to stick and move as much as she can and try to point fight on the feet and try her best to control the ground to score favor with the judges.
A game plan similar to that of Chael Sonnen’s against Anderson Silva in their first fight may serve best. Sonnen used his wrestling to get in a position to land punches and score points but when he got greedy though is when he got caught in a submission. If Murphy can stay level-headed in this approach, she may just have a chance at pulling the upset like she has so many times before.
Keys to Victory for Valentina Shevchenko
This fight is Shevchenko’s to finish and handle anyway she sees fit. Valentina Shevchenko is an elite-level striker and grappler at this point, with the latter being confirmed after her last fight. In the women’s flyweight division, it is going to be tough to find many women who can truly push her in ways she hasn’t been before. Dana White is already talking about a trilogy fight with her and Amanda Nunes and, to be honest, that is about all that is left for either fighter.
Back to Lauren Murphy though, this fight for Valentina Shevchenko will most likely play out similar to that of the Jessica Eye fight. Eye came out with a full blitzkrieg approach and with that she caught a head kick that will be played on highlight loops for the next twenty years.
Expect Murphy to not last all five rounds unless she stays calm, but when women go in there against Shevchenko, they tend to find themselves overwhelmed after round one. This is because as soon as they sit on that stool and they have a moment to reflect, they realize they are in their with an absolute lion and they are the lamb.
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