Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight contenders Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Oct. 1, 2022) at UFC Vegas 61 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dern may not yet fight like a fully developed mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, but having the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials on the roster certainly helps make up for any holes in her game. It hasn’t taken long at all for Dern to climb into the Top 5, and to be frank, she isn’t terribly far off from scoring her first UFC title shot. Yan has a bit more experience and fights more like a finished product, but that’s no guarantee of success against a finisher like Dern. Though she enters her first main event slot following a pair of losses, Yan is ranked just one slot below Dern at No. 6, so victory could put her right back into the title mix.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Tecia Torres (UFC 273), Nina Nunes (UFC Vegas 23), Virna Jandiroba (UFC 256), Randa Markos (UFC Vegas 11)
Key Losses: Marina Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 39), Amanda Ribas (UFC Fight Night 161)
Keys to Victory: Dern is a master on the canvas, consistently able to overwhelm her opponents’ defense with double threats and trickery. She has a wide variety of submissions in her arsenal, which makes up for the fact that her striking and wrestling remain a work in progress.
In general, Dern has to pressure forward. Yan dictates distance well, maintaining a long range and forcing her opponents to work forward. Dern cannot compete with the Chinese athlete from the kicking range, so she’ll have to close distance without stumbling forward and chasing the clinch.
Against Torres, Dern did really well to force grappling exchanges in unconventional ways. When the takedown didn’t materialize early, she jumped guard, forcing Torres to defend submissions until the sweep became available. Against a consistent striker with good defensive movement like Yan, that style of aggressive grappling may be necessary.
Going for a wild leg lock is a better strategy than hanging out on the wrong end of stiff jabs.
Record: 13-3 (1)
Key Wins: Claudia Gadelha (UFC Vegas 13), Angela Hill (UFC 238), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC Fight Night 168)
Key Losses: Carla Esparza (UFC Vegas 27), Marina Rodriguez (UFC 272)
Keys To Victory: Yan is a very crisp kickboxer. She does a nice job of sticking her opponents with straight jabs and long kicks then pulling back, avoiding their return shots and setting up her own counter blows. On the whole, her defensive wrestling/grappling has held up quite well with the exception of the Carla Esparza loss.
It’s good that Yan’s distance management is a strength, because that skill will be vital here. If Dern latches onto Yan — even in a failed takedown — she’s likely in for a fair bit of trouble. Therefore, the goal is to prevent Dern from ever securing a real hold on her, which comes down to footwork and frames more than anything else.
At distance, Yan shouldn’t have a terribly difficult time landing her long range blows and staying ahead on the scorecards. If she can sting Dern a couple times with some stiffer blows, that will go a long way in making her feints more effective and buying herself time to circle away from Dern’s charges.
The victor is in Strawweight title hunt.
Dern is growing into a 115-pound star. She hasn’t yet proven herself capable of consistently defeating the division’s best, but she’s still improving at a solid rate and isn’t far off. A big win here could set her up for a title eliminator next, perhaps against an established former champ like Jessica Andrade or Rose Namajunas.
Yan very arguably defeated Marina Rodriguez last time out, and Rodriguez is closing in on a title shot herself. In short, she’s not to be counted out despite her official record. Admittedly, the odds of scoring a title shot against Carla Esparza so soon after their first fight seem very slim, but if Zhang Weili reclaims her title, that’s an intriguing match up with some history to it. Regardless, Yan will need more than a one fight win streak, but taking out Dern would be an excellent way to bounce back into the win column.
At UFC Vegas 61, Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan will go to war in the main event. Which woman will have her hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 61 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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