Josh Culibao scores a UFC victory (Zuffa LLC)

Opening up the main card of UFC London this Saturday is a matchup between two highly-touted featherweight prospects in Lerone Murphy and Josh Culibao.

Murphy will have the crowd behind him as he’ll be fighting at home for the second time in the UFC. Winning this one will put either man in prime position for a shot at the rankings before the year’s end.

Murphy, 12-0-1, and Culibao, 11-1-1, share nearly identical records and are known for putting on entertaining performances. Barring some surprise takedown attempts, we should be treated to a war between two high-level strikers looking to break into the top 15.

Betting Odds

The odds favor Lerone Murphy; being the hometown fight and the more athletic fighter, it’s not surprising to see him favored slightly over the Aussie:

  • Josh Culibao: +105 (BetUS)
  • Lerone Murphy: -135 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Josh Culibao is 11-1-1 and riding a three-fight win streak coming into Saturday. He’s a slick, technical striker with good footwork and defense. Like Murphy, he uses a lot of feints and stance switches to get different reads before letting go with his offense. Culibao likes to draw out reactions and strikes from his opponents so he can evade and counter while closing distance. He leads with the jab often but will switch stances and throw the left hand from the power side as well. He has sharp boxing in tight while keeping his composure and is always ready to defend the counters before leading back in with his own offense.

Culibao is very smart with his striking and is always looking to land solid calf/thigh kicks himself. He’ll switch stances and he’ll throw powerful kicks from either side that mainly work the front leg of his opponent to cut down on their ability to move. His boxing is crisp and well-timed for the most part; he will get a bit too eager to enter at times and won’t adequately hide the attempt which leaves him open to get caught on the way in. When he’s on though, he puts together good combos from multiple angles to ensure he lands in the flurries.

Culibao’s biggest plus is his defense. He has great reactions and footwork to get out of range of shots when opponents try to enter. His head movement and guard is also impressive as he’s difficult to track down with punches. With this foot and head movement comes the risk of getting kicked which has proven to be a successful counter to the defenses of Josh. He also gets caught with strikes when pressured heavily. He’s a very good counter striker off his back foot and rarely panics, but quick boxing combos can land when his feet aren’t set.

Though Josh’s takedown defense in the UFC is 82%, we haven’t seen him tested in this department (in his own weight division) outside of the Neurdanbieke fight where he handled the wrestling pressure well. He’s shown some offensive ability on the ground and was able to earn his first pro win by submission in February of 2023.

His opponent, Lerone Murphy, comes into this fight undefeated at 12-0-1 with his last fight being a controversial decision win over Gabriel Santos. He’s a high-level striker from both southpaw and orthodox with crisp, technical boxing. He has fast feet to move in and out of range to land his combos as well as exit before taking too much damage. He uses feints effectively throughout the fight to make reads and find openings to attack. He has an excellent motor and his striking holds up over three rounds, even in grinding fights with him being taken down multiple times.

He likes to work behind the jab and follow it up with the backhand straight from either stance – though he favors boxing from southpaw. He works multiple levels with his punches, regularly targeting the body to sap the energy from his opponent’s gas tank. He has knockout power in both his hands and kicks (as well as knees as he showed against Amirkhani). His kicks are used well to attack the calf as well as the head to help keep his opponents from using slips/dips as their main defense against his straight-shot oriented boxing.

Though he’s normally sound defensively, he has a tendency to overthrow with the right hand and he’ll get too heavy over his front foot while also leaving his hands low. He’ll eat counters in these situations, especially when he doesn’t make contact with his first shot. Against Gabriel Santos, he didn’t lead with the left hand at all; if he started southpaw, he started every entry/combination with at least one jab. When he would switch to orthodox, he favored the right straight or right kick in almost every situation to start his combo. This constant use of the jab/right hand can be used by his opponent to time entries and counters off the less powerful strike. Against Santos, Murphy was caught in these positions quite a lot as Santos was able to land big shots off his jab and get under the straight shots to attack the hips.

He defends well in space, but on the fence is where he can struggle. Given his reliance on footwork and a high guard to prevent himself from taking damage, you’ll start to find holes once he is on the cage as it leaves him square with the body open and a guard that is much less effective at defending hooks/looping shots.

He’s been taken down with relative ease in the open mat and on the fence with almost every version of a takedown thus far in the UFC. Though his takedown defense is still lacking, he is surprisingly good at defending off his back. He hasn’t taken a lot of damage nor been on the wrong side of any serious submission threats and excels at utilizing the cage to work his way back to his feet.


This one’s likely to be a striking war between two of the best unranked featherweights in the world. With a win, either Culibao or Murphy will be poised for a shot at the top 15. Murphy is fighting at home in England and is the more athletic fighter which has put him as the slight favorite, though the line’s rightfully tight. Murphy has shown a reliance on the jab and has been the faster striker to this point in the UFC. Though he’s the more athletic fighter, Josh’s technique and speed may be a match for the Englishman.

I think Josh will work in the takedowns as they have shown to be essential in disrupting the timing and entries of Murphy; even if Lerone is able to quickly get back to his feet, it’ll likely be an important part of the game plan to make Murphy worry about defending all levels.

For Lerone, he needs to be first and he needs to utilize his kicks. Josh is defensively sound in almost all scenarios on the feet but digging kicks to the leg, body and head have shown to be effective against him and Murphy has flashed good, yet under-utilized kicks throughout his time in the UFC. These kicks are one of the keys I see dictating the winner of this one.

Another key will be the battle for front hand control. Both Murphy and Culbiao like to work the jab from their natural stance (Southpaw for Murphy, Orthodox for Culibao) though they will both switch stances and like to lead with that same hand from the power side. Culibao will paw at the front hand of his opponent and thwart its use. Given Murphy’s reliance on the jab, it could be a pivotal part of Josh’s game to control this hand and keep Lerone’s timing off.

For Murphy, if he can keep the front hand free to time Culibao as he enters and also establish an effective, consistent kicking attack, he’ll be able to prevent Culibao from mounting his own offense. Though Josh is an exciting fighter when the situation calls for it, he’ll first look to use his movement, defense and feints to draw out strikes and counter so Murphy will need to pressure him and control the center. I like Josh’s chances as the slight underdog to avoid damage and disrupt Murphy’s timing by taking away the front hand. Culibao knows when his opponents are susceptible to leg kicks and if they can land, it’ll put Murphy at even more of a disadvantage over a full three rounds.

Best Bet: Josh Culibao to win (+105)

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