Lauren Murphy made her case inside the octagon, outside the octagon, and after climbing onto the octagon fence Saturday at UFC 254.
“Stop overlooking me!” she shouted to press row from the fence after earning her fourth straight UFC victory. “I’m the true No. 1 contender!”
Murphy, the 37-year-old from Anchorage, made her most forceful statement by annihilating her late-notice opponent, UFC newcomer Liliya Shakirova of Uzbekistan. Using a height and reach advantage to dominate, Murphy ended the bout with a second-round, rear-naked chokehold.
It was the first time Murphy has won a fight by submission, and it improved her mixed martial arts record to 14-4 (6-4 in UFC fights).
Murphy appeared on the main card of UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The co-main event featured another fighter whose career was launched at the Alaska Fighting Championship (AFC) promotion. Jared Cannonier lost a unanimous decision to Robert Whittaker in a lively middleweight bout.
Cannonier, who lived in Anchorage for eight years and still calls the city his hometown, dropped to 13-5 (6-5 UFC). Before moving to Arizona in 2017 to train and fight, he worked in Alaska for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Murphy, who grew up in Eagle River, still considers herself an Alaskan even though she lives and trains in Texas now. She gave a shoutout to her home state after her victory.
She’s 5-1 since dropping down to the 125-pound flyweight division nearly two years ago, and on Saturday she made it clear she believes she deserves a title shot.
“Listen to me,” Murphy said in the octagon after the fight. “The next time I step into this cage, it will be to fight for the UFC belt. The next time I step out of it, I will be wearing it. I promise.”
At a post-fight press conference, she said she’s better than her No. 5 ranking and made a convincing case why she is a more worthy contender than nearly everyone ranked ahead of her.
“It’s a joke,” she said of her ranking. “It’s insane.”
Murphy was supposed to fight sixth-ranked Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 254, but Calvillo had to pull out about a week ago after testing positive for COVID-19. Shakirova took the fight on late notice and was clearly outmatched.
At a Friday promotional meeting between the two fighters, Shakirova (8-2 overall, 0-1 UFC) showed up wearing a Uzbekistan flag as a cape. With UFC president Dana White overseeing the meeting, the two women went into fighting stances as photographers took pictures.
After a long moment, Shakirova juked in an effort to unsettle Murphy. White flinched, but Murphy didn’t move a muscle. As Shakirova turned to leave, Murphy telegraphed “whatever” with her body language and gave her opponent the middle finger.
In the Cannonier-Whittaker fight, Cannonier landed a lot of kicks but Whittaker (23-5) garnered a three-round unanimous decision.
In the main event, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov beat Justin Gaethje by submission with a triangle choke to run his record to 29-0 and then emotionally announced his retirement.
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