Aspen Ladd (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

Women’s MMA Weekend Preview: UFC on ESPN 27

Another week and more women’s MMA fights to talk about. This week I am going to take a look at three of the four bouts on UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw. I will not be going over Sijara Eubanks and Elise Reed. I recently fought Elise and I occasionally train with Sijara, so I don’t want there to be any perceived bias. But the other three fights all have potential to be really good. So let’s take a look.

Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson

Sometimes I say how these fights are easy to break down and don’t require much writing, this is one of them. One needs to keep it in one place and the other needs it in another place.

Let’s start with Ladd. She enters at 9-1, but it is her first bout since a December 2019 win over Yana Kunitskaya as she recovered from an injury.


Ladd for my money, needs to be on the ground here. She is at an enormous six-inch read disadvantage as well as a five-inch height disadvantage. That basically means anytime they are throwing, Chiasson is going to land first. And if she stands a few inches away, she can land and Ladd can’t.

But we start on the feet, so Ladd has to do something there right? Everything she does will be to get the fight to the ground. So she has two options. One is to try and get Chiasson to overextend on her punches. She can do this by coming forward and then backing out. When she comes forward, Chiasson will throw every time. If Ladd can then back out, Chiasson will have to extend her reach and that is when Ladd can shoot.

The other option is to invite Chiasson to throw leg kicks. This is a risky proposition because Chiasson has very good and damaging kicks. But if Ladd can time them, she can catch one and earn a takedown.

One thing Ladd does not want is to be caught in a clinch. Chiasson has as good of a Thai clinch as anyone. If she can clinch Ladd, Ladd is in trouble. Especially with the huge height differential. Ladd will be at the right height where Chiasson can bring her knees up and do damage. Often a clinch is the best way to get a takedown, but Ladd would be tempting fate. If she drops down in that clinch, the knees of Chiasson are a recipe for trouble.

Now, assuming Ladd can get it to the ground, she will be in great shape. Ladd has great top pressure and control. Her ground and pound is great and she has very good submissions. Chiasson will have trouble getting off her back. Ladd will take what Chiasson gives her. She will be patient at first, or at least want to. She can land some strikes and see what Chiasson does as her escape attempt. Ladd is good enough to react to what Chiasson does and look for a finish.

Chiasson comes in at 7-1 on a two-fight winning streak, most recently taking a decision from Marion Reneau in March.

I can write about Chiasson in two sentences here if I want. I talked about the height and reach advantage. Use it and use it often. Chiasson can stand at range and just keep pumping out her jab. It will land from far enough away that Ladd can’t even hit her. She can do the same with her kicks. It really is that simple, in theory. But Ladd isn’t going to just stand there and allow that to happen. Ladd will want to get close because she’s looking for takedowns. So Chiasson will land her strikes, then step back and reset.

Eventually I think Chiasson will accept Ladd coming in because she will be happy to get her Thai clinch. When someone wants the takedown, you will see them try and get hooks so they can control the clinch. Watch Chiasson, once Ladd gets in close, to try and wrap her hands around the back of Ladd’s head. With the reach advantage, she will have a chance to get her hands there before Ladd is close enough to tie up Chiasson.

From there she can do two things. First, as mentioned, she can go to work with her knees. Mix them up, leg, body and head. She can also control the movement of Ladd and dictate where Ladd’s body goes. She can move Ladd around and move both of them where she wants to be. If this happens, any time Ladd hints at dropping down, Chiasson will bring a knee right up to her head.

If Ladd does get it to the ground, Chiasson has some issues. She won’t be able to bring her legs up high enough to get on Ladd’s hips and push her off. Her best bet is get guard and use her long legs to tie up Ladd. Keep her there, be safe and wait for an opportunity to shrimp and try and work her way up.

Maycee Barber vs. Miranda Maverick

This fight is incredibly interesting to me because Barber and Maverick are so similar in many ways. From what I am seeing, everyone seems to be picking Maverick to win. By now you know that I don’t make predictions, but I will say, do not sleep on Barber. I can make a case for either of these two ladies to win this fight.

Barber comes in 8-2, with two straight losses, most recently against Alexa Grasso in February. Two losses in a row might look bad, but they were good opponents. It might really benefit her in the long run. Barber got a ton of hype early on and let’s be honest, she was believing that hype. Sometimes a loss or two can make a person step back and say, “Okay, maybe I wasn’t unstoppable, maybe I still have improving to do.” I will choose to think Barber did that self-reflection and is going to come out the better for it.

The trouble I have with previewing this fight is they are similar in a lot of ways. On the feet, Barber has good movement and power in her punches. The downside is that sometimes, as we saw in the Grasso fight, she can use that movement from too far away and doesn’t really use it to her advantage. She will need to here. I think that in situations where they are standing and trading, Barber can have success. Her best chance is to make Maverick chase her a bit.

Maverick has really hard and powerful leg kicks. Barber making Maverick chase a bit can help minimize the leg attacks. I think Barber can also surprise her by rushing in with some strikes as well. But she can’t hang out in the pocket. She needs to try and land, then get out. Or if an opportunity is there, take Maverick down after the flurry. But she has to do one very important thing, don’t lower her head. Barber at times when she’s going to throw from close range, will lower her head, looking down. She can not do that here. Maverick will pounce on that and land every time.

I really like Barber in the clinch. It’s dangerous here because Maverick is good there to. But if Barber can put Maverick’s back on the cage, and preferably get underhooks, she can control that clinch and do damage, especially with knees. Another thing I love from Barber is her strikes off the clinch. Whenever there is a clinch, I want to see fists and elbows come from Barber. At that close range, she can land hard damaging shots and then back off.

The ground is interesting for Barber. She has great ground and pound and is a finisher there. But she is fighting someone very good on the ground herself. I am in favor of Barber getting it down, but it is vital that she goes by the old “position before submission” adage. Do not rush anything, do not be overly aggressive. It will be important to keep her body up high on Maverick’s body. Keep herself away from possible submissions such as triangles.

Maverick comes in 9-2, a winner of five straight (seven if you count her Invicta Phoenix Series tournament bout). Most recently she took a decision from Gillian Robertson in March.

Maverick, honestly, most of what I said about Barber applies to her. Maverick also has great movement, power, and is just very similar. I expect to see a leg-kick heavy offense. Maverick has such power behind her leg kicks. The earlier she can get those going and do damage, the earlier she can make Barber more of a stationary target. Maverick will not shy away from a firefight and if she keeps Barber stationary, she will get that.

As much as Barber might want to get Maverick to chase a bit, I would like to see Maverick try and avoid that. Instead, try and get Barber to come to her. The best way to do that is be more on the outside, close to the cage without actually putting her back on the cage. Barber wanting clinches might get enticed to move in thinking that a clinch is within reach.

One thing about Maverick is while her footwork is great, when she’s about to rush in, she will sometimes dip her legs extra low. I want her to avoid that here or she’s going to risk letting Barber know she’s coming in. If Barber picks up on that and times any forward rushes well, she can make a quick slide step and land hard hooks.

In the clinch, just as Barber wants to be on the outside, so does Maverick. And just like Barber will look for takedowns, so will Maverick. So of course, Maverick needs underhooks. She will want to control that clinch. If Maverick gets the takedowns, like Barber, she will start out punch heavy, looking to ground and pound. But in her case, it will likely be to try and get Barber to turn her back and look for a choke.

Like I said, no predictions from me, but I think this has potential to be an incredibly fun fight.

Diana Belbita vs. Hannah Goldy

This fight is going to be short to write about. Why? Because it’s basically going to be two fighters looking to land the knockout punch. It’s very basic. I don’t say basic as in they are basic, but I mean there isn’t a need to delve into strategy. They both have the same idea, so I will try to explain how they’ll enact that idea.

Belbita is 13-6 but 0-2 in her UFC career, most recently losing to an occasional training partner of mine, Liana Jojua. Four of Belbita’s six losses are by submission. She has no interest in the ground game and has the right opponent for that here.

Belbita will have an enormous seven-inch reach advantage in this fight. The problem she faces is that she doesn’t really use that reach. She likes to get close and brawl. However, she is fighting someone she doesn’t want to brawl with. While Belbita has power, Goldy might have more. Belbita does have a nice jab and I would like to see her use it often. If she uses that reach and keeps pumping out the jab, she can work her way into power strikes.

If starts doing damage with her jab, she can get close and land what I think are her two biggest weapons. First off, she has a wide looping right hand. In a fight like this, this can be an advantage. In a slugfest, that looping punch is one you sometimes don’t see coming. Maybe she can catch Goldy and really hurt her. Weapon two is her knees. Belbita can throw nice knees, both in the clinch and even just as part of a combo.

One thing you’ll notice with Belbita, if you land something good and hard on her, she’s coming back at you quick. I just would like that if that happens, she comes forward in a way that keeps some space. Because while Goldy also prefers the feet, there could be a takedown attempt, and if she gets close, she risks that. So be aggressive in a smart way.

Goldy comes in at 5-1 after suffering her first pro loss all the way back in August of 2019 to Miranda Granger.

One thing I that interests me is that Goldy seems to have a little less muscle on her. Goldy has always been one of the most purely muscular women you’d see in the division. She appears to have intentionally lost a little of that muscle and I think that is going to be great for her. The more muscle your arms have, the more oxygen they need, the more work it requires to use them. I think we will see a faster Goldy who will throw with more volume.

Goldy throws hard leg kicks and has a lot of power. If she combines them in this fight, she’ll be in great shape. She has a lot of distance to cover with that huge reach disadvantage, but her lack of fear about getting hit will help. If she gets to work on those leg kicks early, and gets Belbita worried about them, it is going to open up punches. Goldy is also a really good counter puncher. So with Belbita’s tendency to use her reach to come in, as opposed to fight at a safe distance, expect to see crosses and hooks coming from Goldy.

I also would like to see Goldy utilize the clinch game. She throws good strikes in the clinch and with her strength, she can hold Belbita there. If she wants a takedown, it will be there. The uglier Goldy makes this fight, the better it is for her in my opinion.

That is it for this week. Enjoy the fights.