Harrison cruises past Ladd in comeback fight
Kayla Harrison, one of the top pound-for-pound women's fighters in MMA, is back in the win column.
Harrison returned to the PFL on Friday night after one year away, defeating Aspen Ladd via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) at the 2023 PFL championship event in Washington.
This was Harrison's first fight since suffering the first loss of her career in a stunner against Larissa Pacheco in the 2022 women's lightweight final last November.
Former UFC fighter Ladd agreed to the bout two weeks ago, replacing former Bellator champion Julia Budd. The fight was at a 150-pound catchweight due to the short notice.
Harrison is a two-time PFL women's lightweight champion, having won gold in the 2019 and 2021 seasons. She was considered one of the most dominant fighters in women's MMA before losing to Pacheco and will now look to regain that status.
The former Olympic gold medalist in judo suffocated Ladd on the ground throughout the fight. She easily scored takedowns in all three rounds, and she attempted a submission late in the second that was unsuccessful. Harrison landed heavy knees and some ground-and-pound in Round 3 to cement the lopsided victory.
After the fight, Harrison teased a potential matchup against Bellator women's featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. That fight has been talked about for years - and it is closer to happening than ever before. The PFL acquired Bellator and absorbed its roster earlier this week, meaning the PFL now could book Harrison-Cyborg without issue.
"I'm excited that PFL acquired Bellator," Harrison said in her postfight interview. "I heard there's a girl in Bellator who thinks she's a bad b----. So why don't we find out?"
Harrison, who trains out of American Top Team in Florida, is now 16-1 as a professional, with all but one of her fights taking place under the PFL banner. The 33-year-old attempted to become a three-time PFL champion last year but lost to Pacheco by unanimous decision in one of the biggest upsets of the year. Harrison defeated Pacheco twice during the 2019 season.
Harrison didn't compete in the PFL women's season for the first time this year. The promotion planned to have Harrison compete in multiple major bouts as part of its pay-per-view series instead, likely hoping a fight with Cyborg would materialize.
Ladd, who parted ways with the UFC in 2022 after a five-year run, is now 2-2 in the PFL. The 28-year-old missed the playoffs this year after going 1-1 in the regular season.