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Aspen Ladd is the Signing UFC Bantamweight Division Needed

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Brilliant bantamweight prospect Aspen Ladd appears to be on her way to the UFC. The 22-year-old MMA Gold fighter is exactly what her division needs right now.

A number of sites have reported that Ladd will make her UFC debut against struggling 135 pounder Jessica Eye at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale on July 7. The event takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

MMA Latest’s sources close to the fight remain tight-lipped about the bout, and the UFC have not officially confirmed the booking as yet. However, a formal announcement is expected on Monday.

Aspen Ladd is a verified, undeniable talent with huge upside. After compiling a near-perfect 8-1 amateur record, Ladd made her professional debut inside the Invicta cage in February 2015. Her entire pro career has taken place inside that same six-sided structure.

Ana Carolina Vidal and Amanda Bobby Cooper were dispatched with consummate ease at flyweight before Ladd decided to make the move to 135 pounds. Ten pounds heavier, the performances remained every bit as impressive.

Kelly McGill and Jessica Hoy were unable to survive the full 15 minutes with Ladd. In January at Invicta FC 21, elite grappler Sijara Eubanks was but still wound up on the losing end of a unanimous decision.

Ladd’s mature performances caught the eye long before the UFC came calling. After Fansided’s Riley Kontek included Ladd as one of five bantamweight prospects the UFC should sign in 2017, Bleacher Report’s Scott Harris listed the fighter at number 21 in the site’s top prospects for 2017 list.

“Aspen Ladd is a machine,” wrote Harris about the steely-eyed upstart. Harris went on to close his assessment of the fighter’s ability thus,

“Ladd dictates pace, stays poised and executes her game like someone six or seven years her senior. If she keeps it rolling, Invicta 135 champ Tonya Evinger isn’t that far of a fetch.”

That we will likely never see Ladd fight Invicta’s bad-ass Queen Tonya Evinger is perhaps the only disappointment about her signing with the UFC. Ladd cuts an emotionless figure inside the cage and would have provided the perfect contrast in terms of personality and style opposite Invicta’s reigning bantamweight champion.

And while Harris’ noted admiration of Ladd’s skills is a true reflection of what we have seen in the cage, her ability to perform beyond her age and level of experience is key. In the UFC Ladd will have to execute her game like someone six or seven years her senior, because that is what most of her opponents will be.

The UFC’s female bantamweight division is not packed with young fighters, or even packed with fighters at all. The company only has 25 bantamweights under contract. Ladd would be the 26th.

Of those, only Veronica Macedo (21) and Lucie Pudilova (22) are in their early 20s. Brazilian prospect Ketlen Vieira is 26, while at the top end of the division Julianna Pena is 27, and Amanda Nunes, Katlyn Chookagian and Raquel Pennington are all 28.

Jessica Eye turns 31 less than three weeks after the TUF 25 Finale, almost nine years older than Ladd.

If the division is to remain significant, as it has been through the groundbreaking title reigns of Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes, then emerging talent is required.

The other youngsters signed by the UFC have struggled to hit the ground running. Veronica Macedo could not compete physically in her debut against Ashlee Evans-Smith. Lucie Pudilova came up short in a three round war with Lina Lansberg.

Macedo has time to grow as an athlete, as Pudilova does technically, but neither looked ready to make a dent in the division’s top 15 in the near future. Aspen Ladd might be though.

Aspen Ladd vs Amanda Cooper

Ladd handling Amanda Bobby Cooper at Invicta FC 14

Having gone 1-5 — with one no contest — in her UFC tenure, Jessica Eye is no longer considered a top 15 talent. Yet defeats to Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate, Julianna Pena and Sara McMann come with no shame attached.

Even Eye’s most recent loss against Bethe Correia came via a razor thin decision against one of the weight class’s most improved fighters.

The fact that Eye even remains in the company after losing five of her last six fights shows that the promotion has cut her some slack. The Cleveland, Ohio native remains a great measuring stick and a threat to anyone outside the top ten.

Aspen Ladd can be the future of a division that will soon desperately need one. A win in the bout with Eye is far from a given, and it’s not the sort of walkover that hardcore Invicta fans are billing it as, but it is a winnable debut. Ladd’s calm, composed in-cage nature should set her in good stead for her big-time debut.

If victory is achieved on July 7, Ladd will have moved well ahead of schedule in her ascent to the top. One big win will be all that separates her from a spot in the UFC’s top ten, years before she reaches her full potential.

And if defeat does come against Jessica Eye at the TUF 25 Finale, time remains Ladd’s biggest ally in eventually becoming the best bantamweight in the world.

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Announcement

Sensor Equipped Tracking Gloves to be Used at UFC 219

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From implementing the likes of USADA, the UFC Performance Instiute and the introduction of the instant replay. The UFC has always prioritized being at the top of the sport science game. 

Now, at UFC 219 on December 30th, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has approved a test run for sensor equipped tracking gloves to be worn by a selection of fighters on the card.

The technology behind the gloves comes from AGI International (an analytics company) along with HEED (a consumer platform company). A collaboration founded by the UFC.

After a sparring exhibition between top lightweights, Edson Barbosa (19-4-0) and Mark Diakiese (12-1-0), HEED co-founder Mati Kochavi had this to say regarding how “70 insights” collected from sensors on the gloves, the corner-men, the octagon itself can depict a clearer image of a fight.

“Those insights are covering entire aspects  of the fight between Diakiese and Barbose. Their passion, power of the fight, resiliency and strategy. All happen in the octagon.“

Shouldn’t sport be told in real-time, with real data, information and emotions?”

He finally promises “We are a company which is trying to revolutionize the way we (broadcast) sports and live events”

As for now there is little to zero information into the technical aspects of the gloves, however products like a Fit Bit have similar abilities to give data on speed,  force, motion, elevation, heart rate etc.

The UFC 219 card takes place on Decemebr 30th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will be headlined by a women’s featherweight title fight between current champion Cris Cyborg (18-1) and former UFC bantamweight champion, Holly Holm (11-3).

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Interviews

[Exclusive] Demarte Pena talks rematch with Sayed at EFC 66 and coaching on the “The Fighter”

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EFC 66: The Fighter 1 Finale is only two days away now in what is expected to be a historic night for the promotion as they round off their first season of the reality show “The Fighter”. In the finale fighting for a shot at the title and 500,000 rand is Brendan Lesar and Ibrahim Mané. Topping the card though is the rematch between Demarte Pena and Irshaad Sayed fight for the bantamweight strap. In their last fight, Pena walked away with the decision win, however, it was later ruled a no contest after Pena failed a drug test as a result of a tainted supplement.

Demarte Pena comes into this fight determined to take that win and is confident it will be easier than the last. Having worked hard on his overall game, in particular, his boxing, we could see a somewhat different approach to this fight.

“Yeah, the first fight I controlled the fight really well, used my kicks kept the distance and took him down when I wanted to. But for this fight, I’ve improved a lot, especially my boxing, I’ve been boxing a lot, with professional boxers that are both African and World Champions. So I feel that my hands will be a lot better for this fight, I’ll be able to use them a lot better. And I truly believe this fight will much easier for me in terms of stand up and if it goes to the ground obviously I’ll be better than him.”

Following the tainted supplement issue, Sayed has recently been vocal about wanting to see a positive test prior to the fight. Pena did not hesitate in mentioning how he has been tested numerous times leading up to this fight.

“The last time I remember Sayed was just a fighter and he doesn’t work for WADA or SAIDS, so he might just do his job, those people are doing their job. I’ve been tested multiple times so I feel that fighters should just fight and stop worrying about other people’s jobs.”

The Fighter 1 will officially come to an end this weekend, looking back on the show, Pena described the difficulties he experienced at first but quickly grew to like the coaching aspect of the despite it being time-consuming. His overall view of it being very positive.

“Y’know coaching was very cool, at first it was, hard because I train very hard throughout the day and my time was taken up during the show. I didn’t like that as much, but after some time I started to enjoy more. In the beginning, it wasn’t as nice but the exposure was great for me and that it was going to be ultimately something good. After a while, I got to know the guys and they’re really cool guys, I made a few friends on the show so overall it was great”

The opposing team coach was, of course, Irshaad Sayed, who did a lot of talking throughout the season, something that Pena anticipated so it didn’t faze him.

“With him there as a coach I knew he was going to talk a lot, but it is what is, it’s tough sport you just gotta take the shots and give them as well”

A member of Pena’s team, Will Fleury, was tipped to do great things in the competition but was removed early after receiving numerous illegal blows to the head. Demarte agreed with many stating that the fight should have been clearly ruled a disqualification.

“Yeah, the Will Fleury incident was right in front of our corner, I do feel that Shaw should have been disqualified because those shots were illegal but I think EFC only made that decision because Will couldn’t fight anymore. In an ideal world, Shaw should have been disqualified for sure.”

Despite Fleury missing out on a chance at reaching the final, Ibrahim Mané, who was on the same team on the show made it to the final. Pena spoke highly of him as he enters the fight Saturday, believing that if the fight is kept standing it’s Mané’s fight.

“I have trained with Ibrahim for the past two weeks, he’s an extremely talented athlete, very explosive, very strong with very good cardio but he does have a disadvantage on the ground. If he gets taken down him to ground, Brendan will have the advantage.”

Confident he’ll get the win once again on Saturday, Pena is looking for bigger things having accomplished everything he can in the EFC. The UFC being mentioned as what could be on the cards moving forward.

“After I beat Sayed, there’ll be nothing more for me to do in EFC I feel that I have done everything. Yeah, definitely I think the next is to try and fight in the UFC or any other big promotion.”

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Interviews

UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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