Aspen Ladd, one of the fastest rising prospects in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, returns to the Octagon for the second time in two months to take on former champion Germaine de Randamie in the main event of UFC Fight Night 155. Ladd has had an unbelievably quick rise to the top of the division, and a win over de Randamie in just her fourth fight with the company could earn the 24-year-old the next shot at the title.
Most fans had no idea who Ladd was before her UFC debut, but in her first fight with the company she proved that she can dominate opponents on the mat and finish them with relentless ground and pound. Ladd’s game is rather simple but effective: Get the opponent to the ground, pass to mount, and unload with strikes until the referee steps in. This is particularly effective for Ladd because so few female fighters possess this grinding grappling style. Additionally, most young fighters tend to rely on their favorite technique, but Ladd has a wide variety of takedowns from which to choose. She can shoot for double-legs, duck under opponents’ strikes for counter takedowns and use trips and throws in the clinch. I would like to see her work on her takedown entries, as she usually relies on brute force instead of clever setups, but to this point she has been able to take down every one of her UFC opponents.
Ladd likes a dirty fight and is always trying to grind out her opponents in the clinch or on the ground. To get 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. Again, this brings us back to her not having the best setups for her grappling, but this technique is something Daniel Cormier has built his career on and it has worked wonders for her so far.
Ladd is an aggressive striker on the ground, but she also realizes the importance of keeping position; she generally looks to pass to mount and secure a dominant position before she unloads. There is nothing special about her guard-passing game, but her transitional grappling has been quite impressive. Just when it seems like the opponent is about to break free, Ladd will float her hips over to keep control or reverse into a dominant position.
All but two of Ladd’s eight 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 have 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. The comparison might sound ridiculous but there is truly nobody else in the division that possesses this style.
Ladd’s striking is far from elite. 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 opponent’s lead attacks and to back them to the cage, at which point she can initiate the clinch. She often relies on her lead hand a little too much, especially in her most recent fight with Sijara Eubanks, and she needs to learn how to set up her right hand with her active jab.
Ladd’s lead attacks are simple, and since she is almost always the aggressor she rarely works on the counter. She likes to walk forward with jabs, lead hooks and the occasional right hand to back the opponent to the cage and set up grappling exchanges. But, again, she relies on her lead hand far too often and needs to learn how to be more urgent with her rear hand strikes. Ladd has been thrown to the wolves so far in her UFC career and surprisingly she continues to roll past whoever the UFC puts in front of her. Although de Randamie is the much better striker, this is actually a good matchup for Ladd. De Randamie has struggled with grapplers in the past and has pretty bad takedown defense, so I expect Ladd to be shooting for the hips early and often. But if she hangs around on the feet with the much larger de Randamie then she will be in for a long night.