In a short break in the 2022 PFL World Championship action, promotional newcomer and rising prospect Aspen Ladd (9-3) meets former Bellator Featherweight Champion Julia Budd (16-4) in a bout to determine the face of the PFL’s new Women’s Featherweight division which will officially become part of the PFL Season and Playoffs next season. Ladd looks for her first victory in 3 years as she moves to 145lbs and Budd looks to right the ship after a disappointing Regular Season that saw her drop a decision to Genah Fabian.
The fight begins and it’s Budd pressing the action and coming forward, she seems to be the longer, bigger fighter in the SmartCage.
Budd continues to pressure and back Ladd up as Ladd struggles to get her offense going early. Ladd catches a kick from Budd and uses it to take her down but Budd uses a beautiful scarf hold to roll with her and wind up in a 50/50 position.
Ladd eventually manages to take the back and briefly flatten Budd out, landing some big ground pound in the process. Budd begins to tripod and try to work her way back up as Ladd attacks the left leg and tries to break Budd down, eventually getting back to the ground in a turtle position.
With 2 minutes remaining in the round, Ladd is in full control on the back of Budd throwing some sparse ground and pound and briefly attacking a choke. Budd is eventually able to control the wrist and reverse position, winding up in Ladd’s closed guard before Ladd pulls off a sweep of her own and winds up back on top.
Budd throws up an inverted triangle that looked threatening for a moment but Ladd defends well, moving to a north south position and landing some nice knees on the shoulder to finish the round on top.
The round begins with some more feeling out as Budd lands a nice 1-2. Budd initiates the clinch and lands a nice knee to the body before Ladd is able to circle off and reverse the position. Ladd looks for a trip but can’t get it as Budd reverses position again and looks to mount some offense. Budd lands another nice knee inside as Ladd throws and lands a short uppercut. The jockeying for position continues as neither fighter seems able to maintain the upper hand for long.
Ladd finally abandons the clinch and lands a nice left hook on the break before Budd initiates the clinch once again and lands a couple of nice knees to the body.
Both fighters up the output as the round comes to a close, trading knees and short inside punches as a much more competitive round comes to a close.
The final round begins and it could very well be 1 round apiece right now. Ladd wings a big overhand that just misses and Budd returns fire with a 1-2 down the middle. There seems to be a much higher sense of urgency in both corners as Ladd rips a nice left hook to the body of Budd.
Ladd shoots in on a double but Budd is defending well, sprawling hard and not allowing Ladd to control her hips. Budd seems to be leading the dance so far in round 3 as Ladd appears to be fading a bit at this point.
Ladd again looks to change levels for a takedown but she may not have enough gas in the tank to get it done at this point as Budd defends it and they break once again.
Ladd gets a little sloppy on the entry and Budd makes her eat a counter left hook for the mistake before Ladd once again changes levels to no avail.
With a minute remaining this is anybody’s fight as Ladd lands a heavy left hand but decides to clinch again rather than follow it up with more strikes.
With 30 seconds left both fighters look ready to empty the tank as they trade heavy shots in the pocket until the final bell rings!
Aspen Ladd is back in the win column for the first time in nearly 3 years with a statement victory in her PFL debut.
Aspen Ladd def. Julia Budd via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)