A lot of questions were set to be answered in the main event of UFC Vegas 40, not the least of which was whether Aspen Ladd would look the part of a featherweight in her debut in the weight class.
Two weeks removed from missing weight for a bantamweight fight, Ladd was back, easily hitting the mark at yesterday’s weigh-in. Opposite her was Norma Dumont, who was returning to 145lbs after missing weight for two straight bouts at bantamweight, only one of which moved forward.
With the possibility of 145lb superstar Kayla Harrison joining the UFC next year (she’ll be a free agent following this year’s PFL season), the time was now for the promotion to properly build the division. The addition of Ladd, if she opted to stay with 145lbs, could be huge.
Early on in Saturday’s main event, Dumont worked her jab as Ladd moved forward. Not much connected; the approach was more about keeping Ladd at distance. This dance continued through the first three minutes: no kicks, no takedown attempts, no clinch work. Dumont did connect with that jab a couple of times, landing on the nose of Ladd.
After an uneventful first round, someone needed to open up in the second. Ladd fired a combo 90 seconds in, but nothing landed; Dumont, meanwhile, was still relying almost entirely on her jab. Ladd threw out a leg kick, but the second was only slightly more active than the first.
Between rounds, Ladd’s corner told her she was likely down two rounds. Dumont opened the third frame throwing a short combo, which was at least more than a jab. Ladd picked up the pace slightly as well, continuing to press forward. Ladd, however, continued to be met by Dumont’s punches on the way in. Towards the midway mark of the round, Ladd would drive her opponent into the fence, while Dumont defended with a whizzer. Eventually they’d reverse then move back to center, but not before Ladd landed a knee up the middle. Dumont then connected over the top; Ladd would drop to her knees for a takedown that Dumont stuffed.
Round four opened with Ladd immediately closing the distance and pushing Dumont up against the cage. Ladd looked for a trip, then dropped and tried to get her hands together for a double leg. Dumont just wouldn’t budge, however. They moved back to center, Dumont this time being the one to land a knee. Ladd would again push Dumont up against the cage later in the round, but it was Dumont landing the takedown. She wound up in guard, with Ladd holding on tight to her opponent’s neck to take away space. Ladd managed to sweep with less than 30 seconds remaining, and immediately began landing ground n’ pound, first punches then elbows, then punches again.
Aspen Ladd needed a finish heading into round five. Those watching knew it. Her coaches knew it. Her opponent likely knew it too. Ladd’s path to victory was almost certainly through ground n’ pound, and she pursued the takedown early in the third. Dumont, as she had done all fight, fought it off. This time, Ladd got a little more aggressive in the clinch, adding punches to the body and upstairs.
The problem is, the entire round pretty much played out that way. Nothing Ladd could do could get the fight to the ground. She clearly won the fifth round, but lost the war.
Official Result: Norma Dumont def. Aspen Ladd by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)