The only non-title affair on the PFL’s Pay-Per-View main card Friday in New York City, Julia Budd vs. Aspen Ladd looked to be a preview of the league’s anticipated women’s featherweight launch.
Ladd, newly signed and hot on the heels of her UFC exit, had a bonafide championship caliber opponent in Budd, who had been knocked out of the PFL season, but was a former Bellator MMA featherweight champ.
Budd found success with a combo early, only for Ladd to then catch a kick and score a takedown, dumping Budd on her back. Budd rolled, Ladd went along for the ride, and took the back, getting hooks in. Budd attempted to reverse was nearly did, before Ladd took the back again, landing refs and rights while Budd tried to cover up. Budd finally opted to stand, trying to shake Aspen Ladd off over the top. Ladd held on, forcing Budd back to her knees and hooking her hooks in. Later, however, Ladd would end up pinned against the cage, with Budd able to reverse at long last.
With just one minute left, Budd didn’t have much time to work — and wound up with even less when Ladd transitioned back to the top. They wound up in north-south briefly; Ladd then turned the corner and landed knees to the body as the round closed out.
Following a strong opening round from Aspen Ladd, Budd went on the attack early in the second. She fought off an early Ladd takedown attempt, putting Ladd’s back to the fence and firing a knee to the body. Ladd reversed, then looked for a trip, but they reversed again. Budd worked in a few knees as the pair clinched; they came off the cage, moved back to the fence, and Ladd would again fall short on a trip attempt.
This grueling grappling battle wore on, with Budd using underhooks and landing knees, only for Ladd to reverse moments later in a very evenly matched round. Budd’s knees continued, and may well have been the difference maker with the action so close, especially as Ladd came up short on a lengthy stab at a single-leg takedown. Instead, the pair moved back to center, clinched up again, and Budd landed another knee before Ladd turned her back around on the fence.
Ladd opened up with her hands towards the end of what was a very close five minutes, punctuating each strike with a grunt, and they headed to round three.
We head to the 3rd Round of Ladd vs Budd!
— PFL (@PFLMMA) November 26, 2022
There was plenty of exchanging in the opening minute of the third, with Ladd mixing in some shots to the body. Ladd then changed levels for a takedown, but Budd sprawled and sneakily used the fence for a moment, with the ref unable to see it from the opposite side.
They moved back to center, with Budd landing another knee in a brief clinch, and hitting home with a right. Ladd was the more active fighter, but she was also missing on some big swings. Ladd’s takedowns were also being stuffed, but she was controlling the round, in another close frame where cage control might actually come into play.
Along the cage, Budd landed a right, clinched up and fired more knees, which had been her best play of the fight. But Ladd marched forward undeterred, with the pair trading right to the bell, and Ladd coming out on top in a close match-up — one that could lead to a rematch during regular season action next year.
Official Result: Aspen Ladd def. Julia Budd by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)