Talented grappler, Aspen Ladd, will duel with former Muay Thai champion, Germaine de Randamie, this Saturday (July 13, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 155 from inside Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
A decorated amateur while still in her teens, Ladd has done nothing but win so far in eight professional fights. Really, her only struggles so far have been making the 135-pound limit, as she’s been quite dominant once inside the cage. Three wins inside the Octagon is certainly impressive — particularly at 24 years of age! — but it’s unusual for a fighter to headline so soon, which is a sign of how desperate UFC is to create contenders for Amanda Nunes.
Either way, let’s take a closer look at her skill set:
Ladd is an active and effective striker, if not a particularly complicated one. In truth, a great deal of Ladd’s success has to do with her deep gas tank, which is particularly important on the feet. In her last bout with Sijara Eubanks, Ladd went toe-to-toe with the superior boxer for the final five minutes, but she was still able to steal the round with simple activity and toughness.
Ladd’s movement and hand position offer no surprises. With her right hand glued to her face, Ladd bounces up-and-down as she walks toward her opponent. I’m not sure I quite understand why she bounces so much — she’s not looking to take angles or feint all that much. Generally, she attacks at a consistent speed on a straight line.
To her credit, Ladd does a nice job with her actual punches. She tends to open fights with a stiff jab and quick kicks, either to the inside of the leg or mid-section. All of these strikes could be set up better — Ladd does leave herself somewhat open to counters — but are thrown with bad intentions.
Ladd is not one to hang out in the kickboxing range, as she’s trying to close distance into the pocket and eventually wrestle. Once in the pocket, Ladd’s favorite punch is the left hook (GIF). She does a nice job of varying how she delivers the punch, sometimes firing direct from her chin and other times rolling into the shot.
Very often, Ladd relies on her high guard to set up counter shots. After blocking or absorbing her opponent’s punches, Ladd will fire back the left hook. Often, she’ll build further by throwing back hook-cross or hook-uppercut.
A nice wrinkle to Ladd’s offense against Eubanks was her use of elbows. Both women were standing right in front of each other and trading shots from close range, which allowed Ladd to step into several elbow strikes. In one neat example, Ladd capitalized on her high guard by firing an upward elbow directly from her usual positioning.
Defensively, Ladd is not particularly hard to hit, and Eubanks found a lot of success in ripping the body as a result of Ladd’s high guard. The bright side, at least, is that Ladd always fires back when hit, which helps deter average strikers.
Ladd may not look particularly physically imposing, but she’s obviously quite strong. In any type of wrestling exchange, Ladd’s physicality is obvious, as she’s able to force foes to the mat with relatively basic techniques.
One benefit of Ladd’s love of the left hook is that it often convinces her opponent to trade hooks with her. Ladd can get away with squaring up to throw the hook, as her defensive wrestling and grappling is quite good. Her opponent, however, can fall into the trap of thinking she can take the same risk, which will serve as an easy setup for Ladd to drop levels and score a double leg.
In addition, Ladd’s clinch takedowns are quite good. Generally, she’s looking for the body lock, whether from the over-under or double-underhook position. Once she’s able to clasp her hands, Ladd will hook the leg or block her foe’s knee with her own to take an angle, allowing her to spin her foe to the mat. Similarly, Ladd has shown solid strength from the back clinch position.
Defensively, Ladd’s style of boxing does tend to leave her vulnerable to the shot. She loads up on power punches and throws kicks without setup — a pair of traits Eubanks capitalized on in the rematch to score takedowns. Luckily, Ladd defends well once her opponent is on the hips if she is not immediately blasted from her feet.
A purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Ladd has only scored one finish via jiu-jitsu officially, but shows great knowledge of grappling in the fight.
Once on top, Ladd’s combination of top pressure, punches and jiu-jitsu — a mix of wrestling and jiu-jitsu — sets her apart from the competition. In this week’s technique highlight, we analyze how Ladd puts it all together to finish her opponents.
Her sole professional submission win, an armbar of Amanda Cooper, came in her second professional fight in Invicta FC. That’s Cooper there in the above .GIF, eating elbows. As “ABC” tried to defend herself from the onslaught, she reached with her arm, allowing Ladd to latch on and sit into the submission.
More recently, Ladd used a guillotine choke to deny a takedown and reverse her way into top control opposite Eubanks. It was a simple enough choke, but Ladd had enough force on the hold to topple Eubanks, who’s a decorate grappler herself.
There are not many prospects or contenders at 135 pounds in women’s mixed martial arts (MMA), but Ladd firmly fits in both categories. Her main event slot this weekend is an attempt to fast-track her into the title picture immediately, as Nunes really needs fresh blood. We’ll find out whether or not it’s too soon for the Californian, but it’s a major opportunity nonetheless.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.