UFC Vegas 40: Serious Questions Loom Over Aspen Ladd vs Norma Dumont

Aspen Ladd UFC
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 15: Aspen Ladd poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on October 15, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Norma Dumont will welcome Aspen Ladd back to the Octagon as the two look to answer questions about their abilities to compete at featherweight at UFC Vegas 40.

Go back to January 2019 and it was clear that the UFC was putting all their chips in on an untested young prospect named Aspen Ladd to break the stagnation that has defined the women’s bantamweight division in the past year.  At 7-0 and with just three fights in the UFC, she was booked against perennial title contender and former champion Holly Holm.  The fight did not materialize (Holm withdrew in lieu of getting a title shot) and Ladd went on to go 2-1, defeating Sijara Eubanks and Yana Kunitskaya but falling short in disappointing fashion to Germaine de Randamie with a 16 second knockout loss.

Only 26 years old, there remains plenty of upside for Ladd.  But recent developments loom over her.  For one, she is coming off a nearly two year layoff after suffering a serious MCL and ACL injury.  Secondly, there is question as to if she can still make the bantamweight limit in a healthy manner.  The frightening scenes as a drawn out Ladd struggled on the scale in 2019 and again as recently as two weeks ago have raised questions of whether or not she should be allowed to still compete at 135 pounds.  If not, then there are questions of whether she has the frame currently to be competitive at 145 pounds.  At 5’6, Ladd is already smaller than most of the top female bantamweights in the UFC.  If the goal is to compete for the belt, then finding an optimal weight class could be a bigger challenge for her than most if she ends up jumping between divisions in the near future.

At 6-1, Norma Dumont’s resume does not leap off the page by any means.  However, circumstances would suggest that “The Immortal” could be on the featherweight title short list with a victory on Saturday.  She signed with the UFC at 4-0 where she debuted at featherweight against future title challenger Megan Anderson, losing the fight by first round knockout.  Dumont then faced struggles on the scale in her cut back down to bantamweight, missing weight by three-and-a-half pounds for her fight with Ashlee Evans-Smith and then later missing weight by the same margin once again for her fight with Bea Malecki, the latter of which was scrapped.  Following the bout, Dumont stepped in as a replacement for Danyelle Wolf and picked up a split decision victory over Felicia Spencer in May.

While Dumont had initially said her goal was to work with the UFC PI to manage her diet and weight cuts to make 135 pounds safely, she later reneged on those comments to say that the cuts to bantamweight were excruciating and that the UFC themselves asked her to stay at featherweight to “keep things interesting.”

This leads to an interesting scenario for Dumont and the division.  Outside of Felicia Spencer and Danyele Wolf, all of the fighters in the women’s featherweight division have primarily fought at bantamweight.  The argument could be made that should Ladd or Holm earn a title shot after their featherweight bouts, they would actually be better off requesting the fight with Nunes be at 135 pounds where they compete most optimally.  Depending on the outcome and her performance this Saturday, Dumont may also elect to return to bantamweight.

The fact that Ladd was attempting to make the bantamweight limit two weeks ago and Dumont has had months to work on building herself as a featherweight are the biggest x-factors in the fight.  While Ladd’s speed and wrestling would typically be expected to give Dumont issues, it remains to be seen whether her power and durability are compromised after going through two weight cuts of any kind so soon.  Dumont should look to use her physicality, pressing forward and keeping Ladd against the fence where she can force her to carry her weight.

The winner of this bout will likely await to see what happens with the featherweight division before discussing a possible opponent.  Should the UFC sign the PFL’s Kayla Harrison in free agency, a fight with Ladd or Dumont would be the perfect introduction.  Should the UFC go in another direction, then Saturday’s winner could go on to face Holly Holm in a bout that would make sense as both women were previously scheduled to face her with neither bout ultimately materializing.