Aspen Ladd (4-0): no nickname, no nonsense, and no question of her dominance at 135 pounds. At Invicta Fighting Championships (IFC) 18, Ladd’s flashing pulse on every female bantamweight’s radar darkened after she pawed her opponent, Jessica Hoy (1-1), around the cage like a ball of string before pouncing and forcing the referee to end the excessive punishment.
The playbook on Ladd thickened when she displayed a new, evolving chapter of her fight game on Hoy’s facial structure. Dating back to her days as an amateur, the secret of Ladd’s non-stop pressure and super-human strength as a grappler has become public knowledge for all stakeholders of the MMA community. Before every eye logged into UFC Fight Pass to watch IFC 18, the infinite rounds Ladd has invested with her boxing coach, Mike Guy, hooked the audience with left hand after left hand angled past Hoy’s guard, and her jab pumped like a piston anytime there was enough space, preventing Hoy’s engine from ever warming up.
Ladd’s rise in the all-female promotion and nudge toward contention at the top of the bantamweight ladder would be remiss without remembering her roots in IFC as a flyweight. At IFC 16, Ladd’s third trip to IFC’s cage, she unveiled ten more pounds of fury on Kelly McGill, leaving fight fans intrigued for another showing at her new weight class. The only blemish on Ladd’s report card when returning to IFC’s familiar stomping grounds was missing the contracted weight limit. According to Ladd’s head coach, Jim West, there was a miscalculation of water intake that altered the ease in properly cutting the weight. By delivering the high-octane effort fans are becoming accustomed to, the dark shadow of unprofessionalism lightened—as long as a rookie mistake isn’t repeated by the twenty-one year old.
More impressive than Ladd’s developing stand-up is what happened when she dragged Hoy into her natural habitat. The difference of levels on the ground between Hoy and Ladd was wide enough to drive a bus through. Effortlessly, Ladd shifted from side-control into the mount and punctuated her proficiency in such a position with elbows and punches until the referee had seen enough.
At 3:14 remaining in the second round, Ladd exited the cage: still without a nickname, still undefeated, and questions still buzzing about what should be next for this goldmine of a prospect.