UFC women’s strawweight contender Mackenzie Dern has named which part of her game will be key to a successful championship reign inside the Octagon.
When the term ‘submission specialist’ comes up in mixed martial arts discussions, the name of Dern usually appears. In the MMA leader, not many are as accomplished in grappling as the Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout. As well as being the former world No. 1-ranked IBJJF competitor, the 29-year-old is an ADCC and no gi BJJ (black belt) world champion.
Since transitioning to MMA in 2016, Dern has put her submission prowess on full display, winning seven of 12 career wins via tap-outs, including four inside the Octagon.
But whilst her talent on the mats has pushed her as high as the top five at 115 pounds, Dern has acknowledged that her game needs to encompass much more should she reach her championship aspirations in the UFC.
Dern: “My Striking Is What’s Gonna Make The Difference”
During a recent interview with CBS Sports’ Shakiel Mahjouri, Dern was asked which growth to her skillset she sees as more important out of improvements to her wrestling game or striking development.
In her most recent loss, Dern was outpointed on the feet by Marina Rodriguez. But while it was her striking deficiencies that her compatriot exposed to secure the victory, many pointed to Dern’s inability to take the fight to the ground regularly as a major concern.
But despite that, Dern named the evolution of her striking abilities as the aspect of her game that will make the difference in her pursuit of title glory and strawweight GOAT status.
“I think for me, it’s about becoming great striker,” Dern said. “I feel like my hands is what’s helping me set up the takedown, or what’s helping me get to the person. With Tecia, I pulled guard. Worst-case scenario, if I can get my hands on them and just be confident that whatever I do, I go for the kill, that, ‘Okay, I can this win.’
“So I definitely think that my hands and my striking is what’s gonna make the difference in me becoming the champion and staying there and keep evolving and hopefully being one of the GOATs of the division… even if my takedowns were on point, I need something to distract them (opponents) and to bring them in; to get that engagement. I think that’s what the striking is doing.”
Dern’s striking could certainly be tested tonight when she headlines UFC Vegas 61 opposite Yan Xiaonan.
While the Brazilian has previously shown potential on the feet, most notably when she outpointed Virna Jandiroba in a striking battle, the Chinese contender will represent another step-up in the standing realm, especially considering she went toe-to-toe with Rodriguez earlier this year.
Will striking development be key to Mackenzie Dern’s success at the top of the strawweight division?