Apr 24, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Valentina Shevchenko (Red Gloves) fights Jessica Andrade (Blue Gloves) during UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
UFC 266: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy preview and prediction.
UFC 266 is nearly upon us and features a flyweight co-main event between the defending champion Valentina Shevchenko against the surging contender Lauren Murphy.
Shevchenko has been one of the most dominant champions in UFC history with five straight successful defenses, including a nearly flawless TKO win over Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. She earned the vacant belt after defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 in a unanimous decision win.
Not a lot has gone wrong for Shevchenko during her title reign, as she has put on a series of masterclasses in the octagon. Outside of Amanda Nunes, no one in the UFC has been able to get the upper hand of Shevchenko due to her well-rounded style that continues to evolve.
Up next for Shevchenko is Murphy, who earned the title shot after getting a split-decision win over the highly-favored Joanne Calderwood. Murphy has won five straight bouts and has looked impressive since her time on The Ultimate Fighter: Season 26.
What makes Murphy dangerous is she can win a fight in any aspect; especially when it comes to the grappling game. She is a former world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has overwhelmed her opponents with her quick transitions.
Shevchenko will also have to worry about Murphy’s striking which has vastly improved since her debut. The former Invicta FC bantamweight champion can also throw hard elbows from the clinch to stun her opponents.
Who will win at UFC 266: Valentina Shevchenko or Lauren Murphy?Shevchenko is easily the biggest favorite out of the two title fights on the UFC 266 card due to her recent string of dominant outings. The aura surrounding Shevchenko continues to evolve as she moves closer to moving into Demetrious Johnson-territory when it comes to her defenses.
This will be Murphy’s first career title shot in the UFC but not in her MMA career overall. She’s showed the toughness and grit to be able to survive power punchers and hard ground-and-pound.
If she wants to stand a chance against Shevchenko, she’ll need to be patient in the opening rounds and pick her spots. Shevchenko will look to control the pace of the fight from the opening seconds and possibly even surprise Murphy by getting the action to the ground.
On the feet is where Shevchenko continues to be the most dominant. She holds a nearly three-strikes advantage in strikes-absorbed per minute, while Murphy tends to get hit with nearly five significant strikes in that same period.
Murphy will need to begin patiently in the opening rounds but may opt to push the pace and not let Shevchenko gain control. This could be a huge mistake as Shevchenko tends to throw a ton of combinations off of counters.
The aspect that may be the telling tale is what happens when Shevchenko and Murphy attempt to move the fight to the ground. This is an area of fighting in which Shevchenko has improved more and more over her last few fights, especially in her last win over Andrade.
Shevchenko will look to pour it on with her striking and get the fight to the ground to wear out Murphy. Shevchenko will unleash some brutal ground-and-pound halfway through the bout to finish the fight.
Prediction: Shevchenko by TKO in Round 3
UFC 266 takes place on Saturday, Sept. 23, live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided MMA who will be on-site for all your news and highlights.