Just a year ago, Olena Kolesnyk was fleeing her native Ukraine at the beginning of the Russian invasion and occupation so that she could continue to train and fight in the PFL. Kolesnyk went 2-0 in the Regular Season last year before dropping a Semi-Final bout to eventual champion Larissa Pacheco and looks to build upon that this year for all of her countrymen and family back home. Ladd meanwhile makes her PFL regular season debut after winning a showcase bout against Julia Budd in her promotional debut last year. This bout has big implications and Kolesnyk will begin with -1 point in the standings after missing weight by .4 lbs.
The fighters touch gloves and we’re underway as Kolesnyk holds the center of the SmartCage and begins to probe with those straight punches. Ladd gets in deep on a single leg takedown attempt but Kolesnyk expertly fights it off, sprawling before framing off on the chin of Ladd to reset and get back to the center of the SmartCage.
Kolesnyk is keeping the pressure on, walking Ladd down before slipping a high kick and countering with a nice roundhouse to the body and a straight left behind it. Ladd is having some trouble getting inside on the bigger Kolesnyk early. Ladd finally gets inside and lands a right hand over the guard of Kolesnyk, but Kolesnyk fires back with a short left hook.
There’s a brief pause in the action as Ladd receives a warning for extending the fingers as Kolesnyk uses her jab to keep Ladd at bay on the reset. Ladd lands a nice hook but Kolesnyk has her doubled up in strikes at this point and Ladd is still having a lot of trouble closing the distance.
Kolesnyk lands a nice inside leg kick followed by a left hand as the Kolesnyk corner asks their fighter to come forward and throw, and Ladd lands a nice overhand punch with the round winding down. Ladd begins to come forward and puts some punches together but that will be the end of the round, we’ll see if she’s able to build on that momentum in the second.
Round two begins and Ladd opens the action with an outside leg kick but again Kolesnyk is establishing herself with her jab and long, linear punches, using her length very well against a smaller opponent.
Kolesnyk lands a heavy left hand that Ladd answers with an inside leg kick and Ladd eats a big straight left hand while throwing a kick to the body. Kolesnyk lands a nice check hook and is having a ton of success here just using her natural advantages as Ladd gets in deep on a single leg.
Again, Kolesnyk defends perfectly, using the whizzer and an underhook to stay on her feet and fight Ladd off. Ladd pummels for double underhooks as Kolesnyk considers and quickly abandons an inside trip. Kolesnyk repummels as the crowd voices their displeasure with the lack of action and now Kolesnyk steps through and takes Ladd down! Perhaps just to flex that she could, Kolesnyk instantly abandons the position and gets back to her feet.
Ladd lands a nice hook but Kolesnyk is having a lot of success with her jab and lateral movement as Ladd continues to find herself swinging at a target that just isn’t there anymore. Ladd again looks for a takedown but Kolesnyk frames off and lands a BIG knee for her troubles. Kolesnyk lands another big left hand as the round ends and Ladd is going to need to sell out for a finish here if she wants to be successful in her PFL Regular Season debut.
We begin our final round with Ladd in need of a finish here and more of the same: nice straight punches from Kolesnyk to keep her opponent out of range. Kolesnyk lands a nice low kick but needs to be careful as she dropped her hands doing it.
Ladd is doing the right thing and keeping the pressure on, moving forward and making Kolesnyk work as Ladd manages to take the back after a successful takedown attempt. Kolesnyk needs to fight the hands here and she is able to do just that, turning into Ladd and briefly getting out of danger.
Aspen Ladd takes Kolesnyk's back!#PFLRegularSeason LIVE NOW— PFL (@PFLMMA) April 8, 2023
🇺🇸 ESPN2 & ESPN+
🌎 https://t.co/jPNvomCxHI pic.twitter.com/QBE9nxC4hY
At long last, Ladd is able to take Kolesnyk down and halfway through the round Ladd is able to mount Kolesnyk and then take the back with both hooks in. Ladd unloads some heavy ground and pound before attacking the neck.
It’s survival mode at this point for Kolesnyk, who is almost definitely up two rounds to none on the judges scorecards and just needs to not get finished at this point. Ladd is continuing to attack the rear naked choke but Kolesnyk is defending expertly, rolling with submission attempts as we hit one minute remaining in the round.
Ladd is a little high on the back now as Kolesnyk turtles up and tries to build a base. She only needs to survive 20 more seconds at this point but what a round for Ladd who was getting outclassed before this. The final bell somehow comes 12 seconds late and we’ll head to the judges.
Olena Kolesnyk looks fantastic in her 2023 season debut but will only earn two points after missing weight.
Olena Kolesnyk def. Aspen Ladd by Majority Decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28)