Aspen Ladd (9-2-0) is a fighter than many believe could be a future UFC champion, but arguably, she has not lived up to the hype so far with a 16 second knockout loss to Germaine de Randamie and a unanimous decision defeat to Norma Dumont.
On April 9th she has a chance to right the wrongs against short notice division staple, Raquel ‘Rocky’ Pennington.
Aspen has not had the best go of it over the last few years. Having mixed results in 2019 and 2020 being a non starter, it would be hard to blame Ladd for lacking the confidence one would like to see from a title contender. Her one fight in 2021 did not go according to plan with Ladd having weight cutting issues that lead to a featherweight fight with Norma Dumont for the fighter who normally competes in the bantamweight division.
Ladd seemed content to play it safe against Dumont, which led to a unanimous decision victory for the opposition. Now Ladd finds herself stepping into the Octagon against Raquel Pennington, a fighter on a Blonde Bronson-esque resurgence with a three fight win streak.
Resurgence is a good word to describe this fight. Pennington has been on a resurgence over the last few years. ‘Rocky’ has a deceptive record at 13-9, her last loss being to Holly Holm in 2020. Her rebound victory was an essential one considering at the time, her loss to Holm left her with one victory in the last four bouts she competed in.
Since then, she has put a stop to surging fighters, including Pannie Kianzad who was on a four fight win streak. It is hard not to draw comparisons to Derek Brunson, who accomplished similar feats in his most recent run.
With Ladd, this is the opportunity for a resurgence. While she has a solid 9-2 record, MMA fans have yet to view her as a legitimate title contender. A victory here could put the wind back in her sales for a title opportunity.
Make or Break?
This is not necessarily a make or break moment for Aspen Ladd, however a loss would be a significant set back when it comes to title contention. Getting past the surging Pennington would be a significant boost, but the path to victory is far from clear. Aspen is known for her wrestling, but its hard to see her taking Pennington to the ground and keeping her there.
In Pennington’s last fight she found a guillotine choke against Macy Chiasson in December. Ladd will need to set up her takedowns properly or she risks being caught and submitted like Chiasson. Ladd cannot come out as flat as she did in the Dumont fight. She will need to set the pace for this fight early.
For Pennington, a loss would be a significant set back for the UFC mainstay as she hopes to work her way towards a UFC title opportunity in 2022.
Who do you believe gets the victory at UFC 273 on Saturday?
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