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Aspen Ladd: Julianna Pena upset at UFC 269 would shake things up, but ‘it’s very, very hard to bet against Amanda Nunes’

As Aspen Ladd awaits her return to the bantamweight division, she will be keeping a close eye on Saturday night’s co-main event.

Amanda Nunes puts her 135-pound title on the line against Julianna Pena at UFC 269, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. As expected, Nunes is a sizable favorite to remain a two-division champion, but there are some folks who believe Pena’s grinding style could create some problems for “The Lioness” and provide one of the biggest upsets in UFC title fight history.

“Wouldn’t it be remarkable if she did? That would change the whole landscape,” Ladd told MMA Fighting. “It’s very, very hard to bet against Nunes, it really is. Pena has some things that Nunes’ last couple of opponents didn’t have, and she is a grinder – it’s just that Nunes hits like a guy. Let’s just be honest there.

“Also, Pena isn’t the most physical. She tries to be a grinder, but she’s not an overwhelmingly physical type of fighter. I don’t know if her strength will match up with Amanda’s.”

Ladd understands why people would think that Pena could slow things down enough and use her wrestling skills to her advantage. But at the same time, the current champion that will enter the octagon for the UFC’s final pay-per-view event of the year is a much more evolved fighter than one of five years ago.

“Nobody’s done it and, from what I’ve seen, Nunes is extremely powerful,” Ladd said. “But her ground game is not overly complicated. It’s not extreme. It’s now where she shines. So if somebody can take her down and tire her out, we’ll see a whole different fight.”

After a one-fight stint at 145, Ladd is planning on returning to bantamweight in early 2022, even revealing to MMA Fighting that she’s already verbally agreed to a future fight with former champion Miesha Tate.

As far as the future of her division, Ladd was asked if deep down she’s rooting for Pena to shock the world on Saturday and dethrone the long reigning 135-pound queen.

“Sure, just for the shakeup and just do see something new,” Ladd explained. “Is it likely? Ehhh. But you also have to look at it as, that will also delay the division forever. It’s not like anybody else will get an immediate title shot after that. That’s gonna go to Nunes after another six months to a year trying to get it back.

“Would it be exciting? Sure, it would be exciting. But just because there’s been one champ for so long, all right, let’s just mix things up a little bit. [But] it would delay everything by another year.”