One of the best matchups in the women’s bantamweight division is in the works for UFC on ESPN 8 on Mar. 28 from inside Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, as former Ultimate Fighter winner Julianna Pena is expected to meet promising young contender Aspen Ladd, per a recent report by ESPN.
Contracts have not been officially signed for the 135-pound matchup, but UFC brass is close to finalizing the deal.
Ladd, 24, is coming off an impressive and very violent TKO win over Yana Kunitskaya this past December. It was probably the biggest statement win of Ladd’s career considering Germaine de Randamie had handed her her first professional loss with a 16-second knockout at UFC Fight Night 155 back in July. Ladd seems to have recovered nicely from that loss and may have even brought her game to a new level in defeat. Another decisive win at 135 pounds should position Ladd exactly where she wants to be heading into the second half of 2020, which could be her biggest year yet.
Pena, 30, made her return to the Octagon after a 30-month absence to defeat former UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano via decision this past July. Coincidentally, Pena captured that win on the same card that Ladd was mauled by GDR. It was a big win to say the least, especially considering the long layoff by Pena, but she still needs to prove her worth at 135 pounds after getting submitted by Valentina Shevchenko back in 2017. A win over a hungry young contender like Ladd should greatly help “Venezuelan Vixen” climb the bantamweight rankings in 2020 as she looks to regain her status as a top contender.
UFC Columbus will be headlined by a crucial heavyweight matchup pitting former title challenger Francis Ngannou against surging knockout artist Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The main card will also feature a bantamweight clash between former UFC champion Cody Garbrandt and perennial contender Raphael Assuncao.
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