By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA
From the tranquility of El Dorado Hills, California to the hustle and bustle of the Tropicana in Las Vegas, Nevada, Aspen Ladd (3-0), on short notice, jumped up a weight class and out of the gate when she stepped into the cage at Invicta Fighting Championships (Invicta FC) 16: Hamasaki vs. Brown to face Kelly McGill (2-1) in the bantamweight division; a clash of undefeated up-and-comers.
Ladd debuted as a professional under the Invicta FC banner as a flyweight, so fans were compelled to discover if her strength and dominance used to polish off previous opponents would shine with the same luster against competition owning a size and reach advantage. Soft-spoken in the pre-fight promo prior to walking out, the bell’s mandate cranked up the volume of Ladd’s aggression. Mere seconds disappeared from the clock to reveal the freshly minted bantamweight’s game plan would work to perfection!
No touch of the gloves, no feeling out process; Ladd wasted no time and rifled into McGill’s space. Onlookers quickly recognized Ladd’s ability to nullify the difference in reach and clarify any doubt in size disparity.
While squeezing the air between her and McGill, Ladd was tagged by a couple of McGill’s strikes, but, unfazed and calm as always, she marched forward to cinch hold of McGill’s lengthy torso. Muscling McGill to the canvas, Ladd, under Invicta FC’s hot lights and zoomed-in cameras streaming the fight via UFC Fight Pass, wrote the first chapter of her fairy tale ending: escape for McGill was futile. Though McGill appeared to weather the storm, the plot only thickened.
The second round kicked off in comparison to the first: Ladd, before blinking, locked up McGill’s body like a vice-grip. Struggling for freedom, McGill attempted to toss Ladd, except, attempt being the operative word, the product of MMA Gold applied every ounce of her newly acquired mass onto the frame of McGill, attaining a desired position.
The only voices heard above the roar of the crowd and the commentary of TJ De Santis and Julie Kedzie were the coaches in the corner of Ladd, imploring her with directives to flick her offensive switch, and she responded on cue, winging punches and elbows with a look of serenity.
At one point in the round, the action stalled enough for the referee, Mark Smith, to bring the contest back to its feet. Before Ladd returned to her bread and butter, she uncorked some solid punches on McGill. When McGill moved into a defensive posture, Ladd lassoed McGill and dropped her back to the mat like a sack of potatoes. From this point until the round’s end, she battered McGill with crushing ground and pound.
Ladd’s relentlessness was the charm in this contest, so the third time she closed the distance and pinned McGill to the apron went as no surprise to anyone. When jockeying for position on the ground, Ladd, in the lazy half guard of McGill, patiently picked her shots. A slow deliberate drizzle of elbows and hammer fists grew into a torrential downpour, forcing the hands of the ref to wave off the fight and halt any excess damage. At 1:47 of round three, Ladd earned the TKO victory and alerted other bantamweights, near and wide, of her new home.
Accepting fights at the drop of a hat sparks wonderings of cardio, weight cutting, or ample time to engineer a strategy, but Ladd’s coupling of an unrivaled drive along with teammates and coaches grinding her through the wringer punctuate opportunities with exclamation points, not question marks. Ladd’s appearance and success at bantamweight on a platform such as UFC Fight Pass opened the eyes of a worldwide fanbase to hypothesize how she’d fare in the UFC, joining the ranks of a division craving new contenders. Furthering Ladd’s strive toward excellence in the sport, she intends on returning to her stomping grounds, Urban Sprawl Fitness, and remaining prepared for the next offer slid her way.