World champ brutalizes Alaska fighter Lauren Murphy in UFC title bout

Eagle River’s Lauren Murphy got the fight she wanted, and it ended in brutality and disappointment Saturday night in Las Vegas.

World champion Valentina Shevchenko demolished Murphy in the fourth round of their UFC 266 featherweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena.

Shevchenko kept her championship belt in vicious fashion, ending it with a kick to Murphy’s face followed by a barrage of rapid-fire strikes that backed a defenseless Murphy into the ropes.

After successfully defending her title for the sixth time, the 33-year-old Shevchenko flipped the switch from savage beast to ballerina. She danced and pirouetted in the center of the octagon as Murphy, 38, watched while sitting at the edge of the ring.

Murphy grew up in Eagle River and got her start as a mixed martial artist 11 years ago at the Alaska Fighting Championships. She trains in Houston, Texas, where she lives with her husband, coach Joe Murphy.

Shevchenko, from Kyrgyzstan, has been fighting since she was a youngster and turned pro at age 15. The win over Murphy was her eighth straight and gives her a 22-3 record. She’s been the UFC champion since December 2018, and she has dominated all six of her title defenses.

Murphy was coming off five straight wins in the 125-pound flyweight division. She came into the fight as a huge underdog, and did little to mount a challenge while falling to 15-5 all-time, 7-5 in UFC fights.

Murphy has been demanding a shot at Shevchenko for more than a year. “Stop overlooking me!” she shouted after a win by submission in October 2020. She won again in June of this year, and got the offer to face Shevchenko — the fight she wanted — soon after.

The fight was the co-main event, and one of two title fights, at UFC 266.

In the other main event, Alexander Volkanovski defeated Brian Ortega by unanimous decision to hold onto the men’s featherweight title.

In another big draw on the card, fan favorite Nick Diaz returned to the octagon after an absence of more than six years only to lose to Robbie Lawler in the third round of a middleweight bout.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.