In an age of mized martial arts where competitors bring more athleticism and technique than their predecessors, it stands to reason why fans find excitement in the stars of tomorrow. That crop represents not only a new generation of athletes in the mixed martial arts world, but also a new and more evolved breed of mixed martial artists. A number of them will impress someone from a major organization, but what happens when an impressive prospect gets passed up for someone just starting out, or even someone who fought one division below them prior to their call-up?

The UFC, aiming to sign the stars of tomorrow, snagged a number of beautiful yet deadly 125-pounders, including Alexandra Albu and Jessica Eye. Albu, despite a lack of experience, represents the talent of tomorrow in the women’s MMA scene, and Eye proved a no-brainer as a signee, especially in the wake of Bellator MMA choosing to discontinue its venture into women’s MMA. Yet, when all is said and done, fans find themselves asking about one important name in the women’s bantamweight division that has seemingly gone unnoticed and overlooked by the UFC. That would be undefeated Invicta bantamweight champion Lauren Murphy. Specifically, the question rests in whether the UFC really needed to pass up Murphy in the process of acquiring the likes of Albu and Eye.

Any number of things could factor into the reason why Albu and Eye got called up before Murphy. Some would suggest that Murphy’s undefeated record leaves something to be desired. Others would suggest that Murphy’s stature as Invicta bantamweight champion stands between her and her proverbial graduation from the game-changing women’s MMA force. Even another portion feels that Albu and Eye represent an unfamiliar name that could evolve into another UFC machine, whereas nothing about Murphy stands out, aside from her record.

First of all, we must dispel the notion that Murphy’s current 8-0 record lacks whatever it needs to get her noticed by the UFC. In the past, undefeated athletes have made it to the roster with as many as nine pro wins, and in some cases as little as four, all without many “name” foes on their resume. Eye’s biggest wins came against Zoila Gurgel and Carina Damm, and although Albu remains confident in her ability to become a major world champion, the 23-year-old Russian comes in with a lack of experience (only one pro fight) to her name. In contrast, Murphy shut down Kaitlyn Young and Sarah D’Alelio before mounting a comeback to score a big win over touted bantamweight Miriam Nakamoto. Though Invicta does feature the next generation of women’s MMA athletes, its bantamweight roster unfortunately lacks depth, so outside of Marloes Coenen dropping back down to bantamweight or someone notable moving up in weight to fight Murphy, who else would she need to beat to make some more noise?

Remember, in referring to Murphy as Invicta bantamweight champion, the word champion stands out as key. This means that Murphy represents the alpha of Invicta’s 135-pound division, and until she finds herself no longer in possession of the belt, it seems she will remain with Invicta. That makes complete sense, but then we remember vividly that people spoke the same things about now-former Invicta strawweight champion Carla Esparza, and yet when news broke of the strawweights debuting on The Ultimate Fighter 20, Esparza came as part of the package. Also, UFC President Dana White did strike some sort of a sweet deal with Invicta FC owner Shannon Knapp to acquire Cat Zingano and Sara McMann, both of whom fought once in Invicta, won their fight, and then jumped to the UFC almost immediately after. Even if White does not experience the same luck with acquiring Murphy, nothing seems to prevent the UFC boss from at least trying to get Murphy, even if she current holds a belt in the premier women’s MMA promotion in the world.

Nothing will stop White from promoting Albu as the future of the women’s MMA scene either, and if history tells us anything, it tells us that White will do anything he can to draw the attention of casual observers to “Stitch.” No issue appears in that regard at first, but for everywhere that Albu can make a statement, everything will find a way back to the fact that Albu still holds the least experience of any athlete on the UFC roster, let alone in the women’s bantamweight division. Yes, she can bring the sport to new heights if she keeps working hard and winning fights, but nothing promises that she will ascend to the heights of anything apart from just another watchable fighter.

As for Eye, who certainly proved herself as a woman to watch with her upset win over Gurgel, the former flyweight looked impressive to a number of fans when she stepped into UFC 166 to make her bantamweight debut against Sarah Kaufman. But some debate whether or not Eye really won the fight against Kaufman, who seemed to get the better of the exchanges on the feet. Despite having topped one of the top-five best bantamweights in the current women’s MMA scene, Eye still must answer a few more questions about what she can do against women who will intend to expose her as a young lady whose talents will suit her better back at 125 pounds than they could at 135.

Meanwhile, the doubts around Murphy surround whether or not she herself can handle the level of competition that the UFC women’s bantamweight division provides. But such doubts always fall in line with the case most prospects face when hailed as “the best outside of the UFC.”  Although she may not have fought a Shayna Baszler or the like while in Invicta, it stands to reason that, as a top-10 bantamweight, Murphy earned the right to prove herself as one of the top 135ers on the planet. Regardless of the reason why the UFC has yet to grant her the opportunity, the promotion would benefit greatly from at least keeping one good eye on her. She went on a tear from the beginning of her career, finished the brunt of her competition, and brought serious drama in rebounding from tough first rounds to rally her way towards the only two decision wins of her career. If she can do that to some of the best in the world outside of the UFC, imagine what she will do when she sets foot inside the Octagon.

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.

  • Fan Of Objective Writing

    Come from behind win against Miriam Nakamoto? What fight were you watching? Nakamoto was clearly winning that fight and only lost due to injury and I’m sure the fact that your “Straight Outta Texas” has nothing to do with your obvious bias towards Murphy trains in Texas.

    • BrewDog

      / This. I liked how Murphy bases her idea that she would have won on 2 rounds that never happened, I’d rather make my predictions about who would have won on the rounds that we did see and Miriam was winning the fight. In all honesty I’d say after watching it again, Murphy only won 1:18 of 1 round, hardly enough to call for her in the UFC.