High on top of the mountain of the UFC’s female flyweight division is Valentina Shevchenko. Taking down almost every fighter within the division, the champion is looking for her next meal. While Cynthia Calvillo made her name known in the division, and Katlyn Chookagian is looking to avenge a loss against “The Bullet”, two fighters are preparing to be one step closer to contendership.
Ranked right next to one another in the UFC’s flyweight rankings, Roxanne Modafferi (#6) and Lauren Murphy (#7) are set to compete on UFC on ESPN 11. One of the first bouts of the prelims, it has a chance to be overshadowed by the nine bouts after it. According to Modafferi, however, this bout could be a fight to remember.
“She is well-rounded,” Modafferi said about Murphy to MMANews. “But, we are going to smash each other a lot and I’ll come out with the win,” she explained. “I’m hoping for Fight of the Night. But, I wouldn’t mind knocking her out or submitting her as long as I get the win.”
On the latest “Why Should I Care“, FIGHT SPORTS looks into the flyweight bout this weekend, June 20, featuring Roxanne Modafferi and Lauren Murphy.
Modafferi (24-16) is a true veteran in the fight game. Making her professional debut in 2003, “The Happy Warrior” gained recognition following her run on The Ultimate Fighter in 2017. While she lost in the finals of the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship tournament to Nicco Montano, she gained recognition for her competitive nature. Her personality has also shown through, especially with a 3-2 record. She has taken out young prospects in Antonina Shevchenko and Maycee Barber, the latter back in January.
Although she is ranked high in the flyweight rankings, she is not ranked high on the UFC’s fight card. While it bothers her, she understands that her actions speak louder. Her cosplay may not intimidate fighters, but it is a way for her to let loose on her way back to fighting for a title. So close to gold, Modafferi wants that feeling again. An early night will also give her a chance to reflect and relax compared to most fighters.
“I’m not on any media day. I don’t have any interviews. I don’t really feel that important. But I’m kind of used to it,” Modafferi told MMA Junkie. “I’m not a super cute, young, up-and-comer star. I think I’m going to have a hard path back up to the title. Lauren’s probably about the same. We’re both veterans. I don’t know. I’m just going to operate in the UFC system and take what fights and cards that they offer me, and since I’m early, I’ll be able to get out early and go eat Mexican food with my team. Fiesta Mexicana, here I come.”
“I think every win is huge at this point for me,” Modafferi said. “I don’t know. It’s very interesting how people’s perspectives are different. It felt like a good win, I’ll say that… I just want to keep winning and keep beating up other ladies in my division.”
Training under Syndicate MMA, Modafferi has been able to properly train following COVID-19 shutting gyms down. Quarantine has gotten her to focus on various aspects of her game, including her strength and ground game.
Personable and always ready to go, Modafferi’s desire to compete is back.
Modafferi will look to stop the momentum of another TUF alum in Lauren Murphy. “Lucky” Lauren (12-4) is on a two-fight win streak and is 3-1 in her last four fights. She beat Mara Romero Borella via TKO back in August 2019 and last fought in February, beating Andrea Lee at UFC 247.
Making her MMA debut in 2010, Murphy is excited to fight a veteran in Modafferi. It is something of a dream fight to her.
“She (Modafferi) was already in the game for quite a while when I first started. She was one of the women I really, really looked up to,” Murphy stated to the UFC. “When I first started fighting, Roxanne was fighting for the Strikeforce title, so she’s been around a lot longer than me. She has four or five times as many fights as me; something crazy like that.”
Now that she is in the thick of things within the flyweight division, Murphy, a former Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion, is hoping to prove she can hang with the very best. A jiu-jitsu specialist, Murphy has eight wins via knockout. She was able to train with her husband during quarantine, who happens to be a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Just like Modafferi, Murphy is looking to use whatever she picked up towards her advantage.
At first high in the rankings, Murphy had to watch everyone come in and learn how to be a flyweight from scratch. Now, she is hoping to regain her position as the top dog.
“I started off really high in the rankings and then the division kind of developed a little bit,” Murphy went on to say. “I had an injury, I was out for a while, and now I feel like I’ve really earned my way back to the top, which feels really good, rather than having the rankings decided off of a reality show”
With the flyweight division still growing, two fighters have managed to quietly make their presence felt within it. Could a win this weekend propel them to the top, perhaps even giving Valentina Shevchenko someone to worry about?
The prelims for UFC on ESPN 11 start at 5 p.m. ET, while the main card will start at 8 p.m. ET. Both will air on ESPN/ESPN+.