The unbeaten Aspen Ladd will look to continue her climb on the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight ladder when she tackles Sijara Eubanks at UFC Fight Night 152 on Saturday in Rochester, New York. Back-to-back wins in the UFC have placed the 24-year-old firmly in the Top 10 at 135 pounds.
Ladd steps into the spotlight in this edition of The Film Room.
Most casual fans did not know much about Ladd before her UFC debut, but her first fight inside the Octagon proved she could dominate opponents on the mat and finish them with relentless ground-and-pound. Ladd’s game is rather simple, and she has taken the same approach in every one of her fights: get the opponent to the ground, pass to mount and unload with strikes until the referee steps in. It is a simple but effective approach, especially since there are not many female fighters with this style. Be aware of her wide variety of takedowns. She can shoot for double-legs, duck under opponents’ strikes for a counter takedown and use trips and throws in the clinch. Younger fighters tend to rely on their favorite techniques, so it is promising to see that Ladd already has a variety of takedowns from which to choose just four years into her professional career.
Ladd likes to make fights dirty and grind out opponents in the clinch and on the ground. To achieve the clinch, she simply rushes forward with lead hooks and uses the lead hand to grab the head and drive the opponent to the cage. This is a simple but effective technique upon which fighters like Daniel Cormier have built their careers.
Although she is an aggressive ground striker, Ladd looks to pass to mount first before unloading. There is nothing special about her guard passing game, but her transitional grappling has been quite impressive. Just when it seems the opponent is about to break free, Ladd will float her hips over to keep control or reverse into a dominant position.
All but one of Ladd’s seven wins have come on the ground, with five of those victories resulting in TKOs via ground-and-pound. Once she moves to a dominant position or hurts an opponent, Ladd will posture up and throw wildly until the finish. Not many female fighters with this style, and she reminds some observers of a far less polished but more aggressive Khabib Nurmagomedov, even on the feet. She will never be as skilled as Nurmagomedov on the ground, but her guard passing, aggression and ability to keep control are reminiscent of the UFC lightweight champion.
Ladd’s striking is far from elite and she will not be able to hold her own on the feet against the top fighters in the division, but just like Nurmagomedov, her striking exists to set up grappling exchanges. She has a nice pumping jab that she uses to stifle the opponents’ leading attacks and to back them to the cage, at which point she can initiate the clinch.
Ladd’s striking is simple, and while it lacks technique, she has held her own thus far. She is almost always the leading attacker and likes to simply walk forward with one-twos and lead hooks to back down the opponent and set up grappling exchanges. The UFC appears intent on developing Ladd as a potential star by providing her with favorable matchups. She remains young, and if the company throws her to the wolves right now, the holes in her striking game will get exposed. With that said, she has the look of a future contender at 135 pounds.