There is a slight uptick in quality from the early prelims to the televised prelims of UFC 247, but there still isn’t a name casual fans will recognize. There is one fight that could shape the title picture at women’s flyweight between Andrea Lee and Lauren Murphy. Then again, given how muddled that division is beneath its dominant champion, any fight could shape who gets the next opportunity to dethrone Valentina Shevchenko. To be fair, it looked far stronger before Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Vera was canceled following an injury to Rivera. It may not be a severe punishment from the MMA Gods, but it is nonetheless a punishment that is being felt.
The ESPN prelims begin at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Lauren Murphy (11-4) vs. Andrea Lee (11-3), Women’s Flyweight
It’s plausible – plausible, not likely — each of these women were a victory away from a title shot over the last two years, but they came up short in their opportunities. Given the lack of transparency in the divisional hierarchy, a strong victory here could award a title shot. I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible.
Murphy would be more likely to be rewarded with a title shot given she is coming off a win over Mara Romero Borella. Confidence is the biggest key to Murphy’s performance. When she’s riding high, Murphy looks every bit a title contender. However, when her confidence is low, she can be paralyzed by inactivity, an issue that has been responsible for several decision losses. There’s been times when both versions of Murphy have been seen in the same contest. Fortunately, her good side has been shining through more often as of late as she’s benefitted from the creation of the flyweight division, allowing her to fight women closer to her size. Not that she was ever seriously overpowered, but it has contributed to her improved confidence.
Lee has long had a large swath of fans that have seen her as a future title contender. As time has gone on, it looks more and more like her supporter are right. Sure, she is coming off a loss to Joanne Calderwood, but it was also in the humid heat of Abu Dhabi and she was hardly the only combatant that struggled with their energy level at UFC 242. Though Lee has an extensive Muay Thai background, she has become increasingly more reliant on a still improving wrestling game. It could be argued she has overutilized her wrestling at times, but the allowance for her to go to the mat if she’s struggling on the feet has been noticeable. Plus, her ability to scramble with Montana De la Rosa caught more than a few observers by surprise.
It’s still hard to know what Murphy is going to provide in any given contest. When her head is on right, she’s aggressive, hard to take down, and puts together solid punching combinations. However, Lee has consistently been aggressive, whether it’s peppering her opponent with punch-kick combinations or attempts to get the fight to the mat. There will be zero surprise should Murphy emerge victorious, but it’s hard to pick her up-and-down nature against someone who has shown steady improvement. Lee via decision
- I don’t know what to make of Trevin Giles. Not that long ago, the 27-year old looked like one of the better prospects in the middleweight division. A couple of losses later and it looks like he’s on the verge of losing his employment. His last loss was the most egregious, opting to grapple with submission specialist Gerald Meerschaert rather than utilize his athletic ability on the feet. It looked like he lost confidence in his standup after being cracked by Zak Cummings. Nonetheless, Giles is a plus athlete with good punching combinations. Tentativeness appeared to be the same issue for Antonio Arroyo, a DWCS alum who fell short in his debut against Andre Muniz. Arroyo is typically an aggressive kickboxer with a large frame with good durability and excellent finishing instincts. Giles isn’t as tall, but he does have a longer reach and better defensive fundamentals. I’ll take the more technical striker in this one. Giles via decision
- It took me a while, but I’ve warmed up to the prospects of Alex Morono having a noteworthy UFC career as opposed to just being a footnote. At one point, he was a tough, durable, and voluminous scrapper. While those characteristics still describe him, he’s become far more attentive to defense in addition to improving his striking technique, particularly his timing and knowing when to sit down on his punches, making him a finishing threat. He was set to face Dhiego Lima before an injury knocked out Lima and allowed Khaos Williams to step in on short notice. Williams is the superior athlete with a dangerous outside game, but he can also fall prey to long bouts of inactivity and doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this contest. Fortis MMA, Morono’s camp which is largely responsible for his recent improvement, is great at creating a winning game plan. Expect them to do that and lead Morono to his fourth consecutive victory. Morono via TKO of RD3