Kudla, seeded in an ATP World Tour event for the first time, broke Ram's serve to open the second set. The 23-year-old American finished with five aces and did not face a break point.
Kudla, who was born in Ukraine, had a breakout year in 2015. He reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and advanced to the semifinals of Atlanta, a 250 Tour-level event like Memphis.
"It's great being seeded," Kudla said. "You don't have to play people like Kei Nishikori in the first round."
Nishikori, the top seed and three-time defending champion, received a first-round bye and won't play his opening match until Wednesday. He is ranked seventh in the world and is attempting to become the first four-time winner in Memphis since Jimmy Connors in the late 1970s and early 1980s.