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It's back to the doldrums, even if UFC Fight Night 155 is a fun and surprisingly deep card. The main event isn't particularly exciting, but beyond that it's the typical ersatz World Extreme Cagefighting tribute that the Ultimate Fighting Championship puts on every time they return to Sacramento; three-fourths of the card takes place at 145 and below, which should provide some consistently entertaining action. Add in the return of Urijah Faber, a legitimately excellent Josh Emmett-Mirsad Bektic bout and whatever happens when Ryan Hall steps foot inside the cage, and this should be one of the better ESPN+ cards on paper.
Now, let's get to the preview.
ESPN+ Main Card
de Randamie (8-3) vs. Aspen Ladd
Odds: Ladd (-150), de Randamie (+130)
This may seem like an odd choice for a main event on a surprisingly deep card, but the UFC's women's bantamweight division is in need of new challengers and Ladd has quietly become one of the most relevant prospects in the promotion. Thanks to weight-cutting issues, Ladd still has as many cancelled UFC fights as bouts inside the cage, but when she's been able to make it to the Octagon, the Californian's had a surprising amount of success given how formless her style seems to be. Ladd's at her best charging forward and dominating her opponent once she gets her hands on them, but it's been an adventure getting to that point; it seems to take Ladd a while to warm up and figure out what her strengths are, and she's often willing to eat a ton of shots as she tries to get into the clinch. But it's worked thus far; Lina Lansberg was too limited to go strength-for-strength against Ladd, Tonya Evinger may have gone past her physical prime just as she was matched up with Ladd, and a May bout against Sijara Eubanks showed that Ladd can keep up a pace even against an opponent who can match her in physical strength. Having proven herself against the mix of flawed veterans and prospects that make up the wide swath of 135, there's really nothing else to do except give Ladd a big test against a title contender, and that's where de Randamie steps in.
De Randamie's career is probably going to be defined by her title reign, such as it was. With the UFC wanting to prove some sort of a point to Cristiane Justino, the UFC decided to kick off women's 145 without her, and the result was de Randamie winning a flat decision over Holly Holm, choosing to nurse a recurring hand injury rather than fight Cyborg and getting stripped of the belt. That's left her as somewhat of a punchline, but that whole mess and de Randamie's general inactivity mask exactly how she's successful she's been, with a 2013 fight against Amanda Nunes marking her only loss in her last six bouts. "The Iron Lady" recovered with two dominant wins over the chaff of the division before being thrown into the Holm fight, and that plus her November bout against Raquel Pennington have shown nicely that de Randamie's improvements have carried up against legitimate competition. She's been able to rely on her size and kickboxing background to peck away at her opponents, and while it hasn't been the most exciting style, it's put her in as good a position as any to get back to UFC gold.
This is a strange fight, as Ladd is both now firmly in the title contender mix and still relatively unproven against strong competition. Whether she immediately starts to wade forward or takes her time to feel things out, de Randamie will probably land at will to start, which is the first test that Ladd will face in this contest; and even once Ladd gets in on de Randamie, the Dutchwoman has enough in the way of muay Thai skills to cause some damage if she doesn't get physically overpowered. So this could be where the Ladd hype train stops, possibly in spectacular fashion, but the pick is still for the prospect to get her biggest win to date. De Randamie just doesn't throw at enough of a pace to discourage Ladd if she doesn't get a knockout, and for all her skill, de Randamie's still capable of getting controlled in the clinch and she's a poor defensive wrestler to boot. This is hopefully the fun kind of grimy bout as Ladd works towards a win, and the call is for her to eventually get on top of de Randamie and earn a second-round stoppage.
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