This past Saturday December 7th, 2013, professional MMA fighter Miriam Nakamoto took on Lauren Murphy for the InvictaFC7 inaugural bantam weight championship belt. In this five round championship bout, Nakamoto not only looked like she bulked up on strength more than ever before, but she also clearly dominated the first and second rounds, allowing very few of Murphy’s strikes to get in, controlling the fight, and keeping it mostly stand up, which is where she dominates. She also got some pretty sweet throws on Murphy. Just look at the guns on Nakamoto as she strikes Murphy.
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Nakamoto looked like she was clearly going to win this one and take home that belt. Murphy is a little tank of a fighter, but Nakamoto just had an advantage in strength, skill, and experience. She is after all a multiple championship winning Muay Thai fighter who only recently joined the ranks of MMA.
She started out the third round dominating again, but somewhere in the third round, her knee was injured, and she trooped through the injury, as her limping and the expressions of intense pain on her face were becoming more and more obvious to viewers. Murphy began to get some strikes in as Nakamoto faltered, and Murphy was finally able to take Nakamoto down to the ground. Still looking like she’s in quite a lot of pain, she was able to fight off submission attempt after submission attempt, expertly getting out of Murphy’s holds again and again–a herculean accomplishment considering the knee injury she had sustained. At the end of round three, she was clearly limping to her corner and seemed to be asserting that she’s alright and can keep going.
Finally, in the fourth round, Nakamoto, within seconds, without even a jab from Murphy, took a simple step back that caused Nakamoto’s knee to buckle like a broken twig under her, and she fell to the ground with an excruciating expression of pain across her face. The ref stopped the fight, and Murphy was awarded the first InvictaFC7 bantamweight championship belt by technical TKO through an injury, while Nakamoto was on the ground with a big bag of ice on her knee.
When news of the results and what happened reached me, I was stunned. Obviously, I had my money on Nakamoto to win this one, and not just because she inspires me as a female American MMA fighter of Asian heritage. I had checked out Murphy’s fights, and though Murphy is a force to be reckoned with in her own right, it really seemed Nakamoto was going to be the one with the upper hand in this one. Of course, this just proves, ANYTHING can happen in a fight.
In a press conference interview after the fight (at 1:50), Nakamoto’s opponent Murphy stated that she felt like she was gaining momentum in the third round that she could keep building on after that in the last two rounds, but anyone who views the fight can see that that momentum advantage came from Nakamoto’s injury, and it was just amazing that Nakamoto was still able to fight the way she did despite losing use of a knee.
As Murphy said right after the fight and she was announced champion, this wasn’t the way anyone wanted to see the fight end, and she said clearly that she would welcome a rematch with Nakamoto at any time. As much as I felt brokenhearted for Nakamoto’s loss and the injury she sustained that might keep her out of the ring and cage for a while, I also felt for Murphy who has the belt, but doesn’t quite *have it* at the same time. She put up a good fight, but what an unsatisfying way to win, especially a title fight.
Murphy’s greatest defender in this fight is Nakamoto, who tweeted:
“Lauren did nothing wrong. She came & fought her <3 out, & literally, she was the last 1 standing. She deserves 2 enjoy her moment in peace."
For Nakamoto, my heart really goes out to her. This isn’t her first knee injury, and her last one kept her out of fighting for an entire year. As a fan, I’m definitely going to have an unhappy 2014 with no Nakamoto fights to look forward to. As an active Asian American woman with bad knees, although I can’t imagine the level of heartbreak she must be going through, in my own small way, I can feel that frustration of being limited physically by an injury.
I’ve heard Nakamoto state that she may only be interested in fighting for only another three years. Currently 37, that’s retirement at 40, which sounds pretty reasonable, considering she’s already had a long and illustrious fight career. Julie Kedzie just announced her retirement at 33. Nevertheless, I hope Nakamoto doesn’t retire, as MMA athletes can still be very active and successful even up to 45 years old. Also, kickboxing legend Kathy Long is going to be fighting her second MMA bout soon at the age of 49, and she looks like she’s planning a whole MMA career over the next decade. Long has already won her first MMA bout in 2009 at the age of 45.
So, if Nakamoto’s willing, she could have another 20 years of professional fighting ahead of her. And that would make a fan like me very, very happy indeed. Fifty is the new thirty!
With Cris Cyborg fighting in both Muay Thai and MMA, I’m down for a Nakamoto vs. Cyborg any time, any day, any place!
The entire Invicta FC7 fight event is free online, with Nakamoto’s bout with Murphy starting at 2:53:00.