While the signings of Thomas Almeida and Scott Askham made big news last week, the UFC has also recently picked up one of the best women's bantamweight talents in the world today. Undefeated Invicta FC champion Lauren Murphy has been signed to take on former UFC title challenger Sara McMann at UFC Fight Night Bangor. The UFC made the fight official on Thursday. Murphy had been quietly campaigning for her release from her Invicta contract, to make her way to the UFC. And given that Invicta hasn't held an event in over six months, it has to be a big moment of relief for the champion to just get an opportunity to fight again.
Who is Lauren Murphy?
Coming through the Invicta ranks, Murphy had something of a trial by fire. To be perfectly frank, her pre-Invicta record was extremely thin, fighting on the Alaska regional circuit, and then for Legacy FC. Murphy's first five opponents had a combined record of 7-11. Thus, even as a 5-0 hot prospect, getting thrown into a fight with Kaitlin Young for her Invicta FC debut was a huge step up. Wins over Sarah D'Alelio and Miriam Nakamoto saw Murphy firmly planted in underdog status as well. Essentially, her three fight stint in Invicta leaves the 30-year old Murphy with a fairly battle tested 8-0 record. S
he trains out of Gracie Barra Katy, a Texas based camp for which she is the only notable fighter.
Minor Update: I've been informed that Murphy moved to the MMA Lab back in May, home camp to Benson Henderson, among many others. It's a very good move for Murphy and hopefully should lead to some significant improvement in her overall game.
What you should expect:
Athleticism and ground and grinding top control, to put it bluntly. Murphy's striking has been a work in progress and the fact that she's probably a better pure athlete than 99% of her competition means that she can have a little pop in her hands when she's putting them together well. But, at the moment, she remains a pretty mechanical striker without a lot of striking tools or polished technique. She has a hell of a chin though and a great general ability to soak up punishment while coming forward. In a division notable for it's lack of big power strikers, the ability to eat a few shots to get inside can take a lot of steam off fighters hoping to stick and move at range. Once inside her surprising, speed and strength really takes over and, coupled with her tenacity, helps her drag, trip, single and double leg her opponents to the ground where she has very solid top control, consistent, heavy ground and pound, and an inexhaustible ability to grind opponents down. Because much of her technique is very rough, it's easy to overlook that Murphy is probably one of the best pure athletes in the division, and as such presents real problems for everyone she faces.
What this means for her debut?
Of course, Sara McMann is the wall against which raw athletic ability gets tested for women's bantamweight. If there were any one woman at 135 that I would peg as being perhaps faster and stronger, it's McMann. Given that McMann is also, unquestionably, the superior wrestler and takedown artist, it's hard to see a way through for Murphy. McMann's boxing looks promisingly evolved and despite a TKO loss to Rousey last year, she's looking like a better overall fighter than ever. I think Murphy has the ability to be a top 5 fighter at bantamweight, but she may be about to face off against the one woman who can match her skill for skill and shut down her game entirely.
To get us better acquainted, here's Murphy's fight with Sara D'Alelio from Invicta FC 6: