Last weekend, at UFC Fight Night 118 in Gdansk, Poland, fight fans were treated to action in both the women’s bantamweight and strawweight divisions. In the early prelims, unbeaten Invicta FC star Aspen Ladd (6-0) made her UFC debut against Muay Thai specialist, Lina Lansberg (7-3). The first round was controlled by Lansberg in the clinch, however, the tides turned in the second round when Ladd secured a takedown. On the ground, Ladd advanced to full mount position where she rained down ground and pound (and primal screams) until the referee stepped in. Later that night, in the co-main event slot, Poland’s own Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2) snapped a two-fight losing skid with a dominant victory over Invicta FC vet Jodie Esquibel (6-3). Esquibel put up a valiant effort against the former title challenger but Kowalkiewicz’s striking output and constant pressure overwhelmed the debutante en route to a unanimous hometown decision victory.
So, what’s next for the women of UFC Gdansk?
As mentioned by Dan Hardy on commentary, Lansberg put on some muscle and strength for this camp. She looked stronger in the clinch and confident and crisp at range. Unfortunately for Lansberg, a well-timed takedown from Ladd led to the eventual TKO that many, including Lina herself, considered to be a premature stoppage. With that being said, Lansberg is a tough out for anyone at 135. With several current bantamweights making the move to flyweight, Lansberg still has the potential to string together some wins and find herself a spot in the rankings. Irene Aldana is looking for an opponent in January– Lansberg’s clinch-heavy Muay Thai approach vs Aldana’s boxing and footwork can make for an interesting stylistic clash. Another possible fight is Ashlee Evans-Smith, who currently rides a two-fight losing skid. Evans-Smith is a gritty wrestler who likes to fight in the clinch like Lansberg, a fight between the two will inch one closer toward cracking the top fifteen.
After falling sick the day of her UFC debut against Jessica Eye at the TUF 25 Finale, Aspen Ladd now has her UFC debut under her belt. With every appearance, the 22-year-old Ladd continues to improve. With more than 80 percent of her wins coming by finish, the well-rounded Ladd has the potential to climb the bantamweight rankings and make a statement. Sarah Moras, who recently returned from a long layoff with an impressive first round arm bar finish over Ashlee Evans-Smith makes for an excellent second fight for Ladd. Both will be looking to get streaks going inside the octagon and both comfortable boxers with slick ground games.
Jodie Esquibel is a game opponent that shows no signs of quit in her. She showed a lot heart against Karolina on Saturday but couldn’t quite find her rhythm. With great training partners and a solid camp behind her atJackson-Wink MMA, Esquibel has all the tools to bounce back. Against almost anyone she’ll face in the strawweight division, Jodie will be at a height and reach disadvantage. Perhaps Jodie should face Danielle Taylor, a defensive power striker with a similar frame to Jodie’s. Another potential fight for Esquibel is J.J. Aldrich, a fighter who also spent time in Invicta before making her UFC debut.
An emotional Karolina Kowalkiewicz bounced back from the first two losses of her professional career by scoring a clean sweep unanimous decision victory over a durable Jodie Esquibel. Kowalkiewicz looked physically stronger and focused as ever in her performance. Post-fight, Karolina called for Jessia Andrade— a showdown that can likely serve as a title eliminator. Number three ranked Kowalkiewicz vs number one ranked Andrade is an incredible fight to make. Another optioin for KK is to face the winner of Michelle Waterson vs Tecia Torres at UFC 218.
What matches would you make for the women of UFC Gdansk?