This Saturday, October 24, the world will see two elite lightweights face off. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje will look to go to war against one another. They aren’t the only two on the card, however. UFC 254 features several big matchups across all divisions.
One of the most intriguing fights on the card had to be altered at the last minute. Cynthia Calvillo had to back out of her fight with Lauren Murphy after testing positive for COVID-19. In her place will be Liliya Shakirova. While the opponent is different, the goal is still the same for Murphy; the quest for gold. Is she ready for a fighter like Shakirova, however?
With the fight card expecting to do big numbers, all eyes will be on not just the main event, but these two women. Even with an opponent change, this is one fight to keep an eye on. The reason is not just to see a potential new contenders at flyweight emerge, but for the unpredictability factor.
Murphy (13-4) is currently on a three-fight win streak. She is also looking for her third win of 2020. In a wide-open division, Murphy has beaten ranked opponents in Andrea Lee (February) and Roxanne Modafferi (June). Both fights she won via decision, with Murphy finding the advantage every step of the way.
Ranked fifth in the UFC’s flyweight rankings, Murphy vs. Calvillo (#4) could have easily been a fight to remember. The other fighters ahead of Murphy are in an interesting position right now. Katlyn Chookagian is 2-2 in her last four fights and lost her last bout to Jessica Andrade. Jennifer Maia is 3-1 in her last four fights and holds an upset win over would-be-contender Joanne Calderwood back in August. Although Andrade has managed to enter the top of the standings, a Murphy win against either Calvillo or Shakirova could be the one fight she needs to show she is ready. That is especially true if Murphy does something incredible inside the octagon to impress Dana White.
Her opponent, however, is not someone she can easily take down. Shakirova (8-1) is also on a three-fight win streak, her last fight coming in October 2019. The Uzbekistan-born fighter (the first in the UFC when it comes to women) is ranked in the top ten in China, according to Tapology.
With three wins via knockout and one via submission, Shakirova is looking to make a big impression in her UFC debut. Even unranked, the 29-year-old GFC flyweight champion has what it takes to show a global audience why she is involved in this fight.
Will this end up being the fight of the night? Could the winner, regardless of who it is, end up facing Valentina Shevchenko?