Saturday’s UFC Sacramento card is all about California love.
Seven of the 24 fighters competing tonight have ties to “The Golden State,” including headliner Aspen Ladd.
Hailing from Pioneer, which is about 60 miles east of Sacramento, Ladd steps into her first UFC main event against former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie. Both women have won their last three fights at 135 pounds and another victory will bump one of them closer to the front of the contenders’ line.
In the co-main event, Team Alpha Male founder Urijah Faber makes a comeback on a card that also sees several of his teammates competing. This will be Faber’s first fight since announcing his retirement in 2016, and he hasn’t been given a lay-up as he will have to find a way to top surging bantamweight Ricky Simon.
Also on the main card, hard-hitting featherweights Josh Emmett and Mirsad Bektic face off, Karl Roberson welcomes Wellington Turman to the Octagon in a middleweight bout, and middleweight Marvin Vettori looks to put USADA drama behind him when he takes on Cezar Ferreira.
What: UFC Sacramento
Where: Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California
When: Saturday, July 13. The entire card will air on ESPN+ with the seven-fight preliminaries beginning at 5 p.m. ET and the five-fight main card starting at 8 p.m. ET.
It’s going to be hard for anyone to shake the image of Aspen Ladd absolutely trembling at Friday’s weigh-ins. The 24-year-old Californian simply did not look like a fighter who should be stepping into the cage with Germaine de Randamie, a former UFC champion.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time Ladd has looked shaky on the scale. Keep in mind that Ladd is undefeated and she dominated Tonya Evinger at UFC 229 last October despite being a dehydrated zombie the day prior. Ladd appears to be young enough to shake off the travails of her weight cuts and later step into the cage (mostly) rejuvenated. Kids, don’t try this at home, please.
Ladd’s opponents haven’t been able to figure her out yet as she’s an improving striker who has also been able to rely on her bread-and-butter ground-and-pound to rule from top position. The question is whether she’ll be able to keep “The Iron Lady” down for any extended period of time.
De Randamie has excellent takedown defense and a wealth of experience both in MMA and kickboxing. If Ladd tries to stand with de Randamie, she is going to get pieced up badly. De Randamie takes a lot of flack for how her featherweight reign fizzled, but she has only lost to championship-quality fighters and it remains to be seen if Ladd is anywhere near that level yet.
This is a huge step up for Ladd and I’m predicting that she’s not quite ready to take it.
Pick: De Randamie
This just seems like a bad, bad matchup for Urijah Faber.
In Ricky Simon, Faber faces exactly the kind of lighter weight fighter that he had a hand in inspiring. Short, compact, powerful, that summed up Faber in his prime and pretty much sums up Simon now. What can Faber bring to the table against an opponent 14 years his junior?
That’s a rhetorical question, because we all know by now what Faber excelts at. Good in-and-out movement, a fast overhand right, and top-level wrestling. In his last fight with Brad Pickett, he didn’t look too far removed from the world title contender that he once was; then again, that was two-and-a-half years ago.
Simon can certainly be hit, but he’s smart enough to know not to take any crazy risks against Faber, who has been notoriously difficult to finish in his career. Look for Faber to put on a good showing for the fans, but eventually fall to Simon on the scorecards.
Josh Emmett’s headhunting makes him one of the most exciting fighters in the featherweight division. It could also be his downfall against Mirsad Bektic.
There’s a lot to like about Emmett’s game. He has a solid jab and can generate a ton of power in his right hand with little setup. However, he’s not as technically sharp as Bektic. The Bosnian fighter loves throwing combinations, rarely settling for single shots during an exchange. He’ll punish Emmett for 15 minutes if Emmett gets sloppy.
Where Emmett can win is if Bektic gets too cute mixing up his striking and wrestling. Bektic has shown he can control fights against the cage, but he’s also put himself in danger late in fights with risky takedowns. If he slips up against Emmett in that department, he’s going to end up seeing stars.
Still, I like Bektic to go the distance with Emmett here and take a convincing unanimous decision.
Wellington Turman has all the makings of a fun prospect at 185 pounds. He loves to walk his opponents down and is a threat to snatch a neck at any moment. He’s taking this one on short notice, which is the strange situation Karl Roberson found himself in in his last fight when he moved up to 205 pounds to take on one-time light heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira with almost no time to prepare.
With a full camp and back in the weight class where he belongs, Roberson should be able to recapture much of the hype that he generated after a 15-second win on the Contender Series. He has serious pop in both hands and slick striking defense. It’s his takedown defense that will be key here though as he’ll want to avoid Turman’s submission game.
Turman’s limited movement will make him a sitting duck for Roberson and it won’t be long before Roberson lines up a killer combo that turns Turman’s lights out.
Cezar Ferreira is really good!
That might not be the most in-depth analysis of Ferreira’s capabilities, but as my colleague Guilherme Cruz reminded us this week, “Mutante” has wins over Jack Hermansson, Anthony Smith, and Thiago Santos. He’s been plagued by inconsistency and a disastrous one-time drop to 170 pounds, so the time is now for the 34-year-old Brazilian to prove that he is a legitimate contender.
What Ferreira has always shown, win or lose, is that he has a good nose for the finish and elite jiu-jitsu. He also has underrated power, though his striking can be stiff at times.
Vettori remains an interesting prospect given that he’s already shared the cage with interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and top contender Antonio Carlos Junior. In both instances, Vettori showed he could hang, if not excel against high-level competition. His willingness to roll with Carlos Junior could provide a preview of Saturday’s matchup.
Should this be a grappling-heavy affair, the action will lean in Ferreira’s favor. He’s more experienced and his ground offense is better. I’m expecting “Mutante” to earn a submission win.