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UFC 266: Shevchenko vs. Murphy Breakdown

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Summer’s over but just because the temperatures are beginning to cool down outdoors, the action inside the famed UFC Octagon is red-hot, and this Saturday’s UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is no exception.

Barring any late postponements for any reason, UFC 266 on Saturday night will feature 14 MMA fights and a championship doubleheader starting with the UFC 266 co-main event. In the UFC 266 co-main event on Saturday evening, it’ll be a battle for supremacy at women’s flyweight as incumbent champion Valentina Shevchenko (21-3 MMA, 9-4 UFC) does battle against No. 3 contender Lauren Murphy (15-4 MMA, 5-1 UFC.) As with all championship fights, this UFC 266 co-main event will be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round.

UFC 266 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison

Heading into the UFC 266 co-main event on Saturday night, the tale of the tape is a dead heat. Both women stand level in height (5-foot-5), have an identical reach (67 inches apiece), and leg reach (38 inches apiece).

In addition, both Shevchenko and Murphy enter UFC 266 coming off of wins in their respective last fights. Thus, it’s safe to say that Valentina Shevchenko and Lauren Murphy will leave everything in the cage during the UFC 266 co-main event on Saturday.

Valentina Shevchenko Looks to Deliver Another Highlight Reel Performance in UFC 266 Co-Main Event

Valentina Shevchenko enters the UFC 266 co-main event having gone 5-0 in her last five MMA appearances as part of an ongoing seven-fight winning streak. Most recently, the champion scored a second-round knockout due to elbow strikes from the crucifix position against Jessica Andrade in the UFC 261 co-main event back in April.

This was the fifth successive defense of the 125-lb. strap by Shevchenko in a championship reign that’s spanned more than 1,000 days. After her highlight-reel knockout, the victorious Shevchenko talked with Joe Rogan.

“My plan was come, enter into the Octagon and destroy my opponent,” Shevchenko said. “Sorry, Jessica, but it was my plan.”

During the interview, Rogan alluded to there not being a legitimate contender for Shevchenko’s title.

“Here I am, I’m ready for anyone,” Shevchenko said. “Everyone is asking to fight me. Here I am.”

A key storyline heading into the UFC 266 co-main event is whether or not Shevchenko is going to be truly be tested against Lauren Murphy on Saturday. If Shevchenko has trained effectively in the run-up to the UFC 266 co-main event, she’ll be no match for Lauren Murphy in this one.

Lauren Murphy Looks to End Shevchenko’s Lengthy Reign as Champ in UFC 266 Co-Main Event

In the other corner stands Lauren Murphy, who looks to halt Shevchenko’s run as champion and stop a sixth defense by the titleholder in the UFC 266 co-main event on Saturday night.

The challenger has posted a mark of 5-0 in her last five UFC appearances, most recently scoring a split decision victory against Joanne Calderwood in UFC 263 last June. For Murphy, her key plot is going to be the age difference between her and Shevchenko.

Back in July, Lauren Murphy turned 38 years of age, five years the elder of 33-year-old Valentina Shevchenko. Can Lauren Murphy prove the old adage “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number” true on Saturday night, or will Valentina Shevchenko dominate in the UFC 266 co-main event again and defend her title for the sixth time in a row? Only time will tell.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC 266 co-main event on Saturday night looks to favor champion, Valentina Shevchenko, a second-dan black belt and Master of Sports in Taekwondo, an International Master of Sports in Muay-Thai, and a Master of Sports in boxing, kickboxing, and judo, where she also holds a black belt, compared to challenger Lauren Murphy’s brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Watch Out for Valentina Shevchenko’s Ground Game

One aspect of Valentina Shevchenko’s fighting prowess that jumps out on film heading into the UFC 266 co-main event is that of her ground game. It’s evident when looking at the tape of her most recent fight against Andrade.

That night, Shevchenko took Andrade down twice inside the opening round’s first few minutes, the second of which resulted in a clinch. Later that same round, Shevchenko and Andrade returned to the clinch, where the champion took her down for the third time and nearly ended Andrade with a submission attempt before she fought it off.

In round two, Shevchenko built off her five takedowns from the opening period with her sixth successive takedown of Andrade– returning to the clinch a few minutes later before finishing it off in the crucifix position, raining elbows down on Andrade to end the fight. All Valentina Shevchenko needs to take the UFC 266 co-main event is one takedown. As she’s shown on tape, she can do serious damage against any opponent on the ground.

Lauren Murphy’s Uppercuts Could Spell Doom for Shevchenko

In the other corner, Lauren Murphy will likely need to come from behind if she is to have any chance against Valentina Shevchenko, just as she did against Mara Romero Borella. That night, Murphy went to the third round before scoring with a nasty uppercut, giving her the opening she needed to take Borella to the clinch and land a knee to knock her down, ending things with some nasty ground and pound shots to score the TKO late in the fight.

If Murphy can land the uppercut shots here in the UFC 266 co-main event as she did against Borella, it could turn the tide and we could be looking at a new champion at 125 lbs. on Sunday morning.

Final Thoughts

In closing, the UFC 266 co-main event could be over in a hurry, so don’t make that fridge run during the fight. With a win here, Valentina Shevchenko could very well become one of MMA’s greats, so don’t miss this fight.

Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko by Unanimous Decision.

Follow me on Twitter at @DrewZuhosky to see my latest work. Follow us on social media at @OTHeroicsMMA to stay tuned in with our content! Please visit our web page to keep up with everything MMA!

Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images and Embed from Getty Images

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.