Mackenzie Dern fought back the tears while addressing her latest setback after falling short to Yan Xiaonan by majority decision in the UFC Vegas 61 main event.
Despite a dominant showing on the ground in two separate rounds, Dern failed to secure a submission to put Yan away and struggled to deal with her opponent’s superior striking any time the fight stayed on the feet. It was the third fight in a row where Dern nearly scored a finish on the ground yet couldn’t quite close the show.
“I didn’t do what I came to do,” Dern said on the UFC post-fight show. “My goal was if I got it to the ground, I should be finishing it. I have the best jiu-jitsu, I believe, in the women’s division, so I had lots of opportunities to finish and she was just the better fighter than me. I just feel I’ve been getting so [much] better and it’s hard to not be able to show it in the fight.
“I have so much to grow and it’s all part of the journey and I just thank Dana [White], the UFC, my team, the Zuckerberg family for being here and making this such a great event. I’m sorry if I made anyone sad with my performance. So many people believed in me and I believed in myself, but it’s part of the game.”
Even before the fight started, Dern acknowledged that she needed to get “a little bit meaner” with her submissions after failing to put away Marina Rodriguez and Tecia Torres in consecutive fights despite putting both of them in bad positions on the ground.
While Dern had Yan in trouble any time she dragged the fight down to the canvas, she just couldn’t find the opening to lock on the submission and that allowed the fight to eventually slip away from her.
“I knew that I was going to have to break her arm or put her to sleep,” Dern said of Yan. “She’s tough. That’s what I was saying the whole time coming in here — she’s a tough girl. I knew she wasn’t going to tap easily and then standing, she hits hard. The first couple punches … I was like, ‘This is going to be a dog fight.’ I knew it was going to be a dog fight but I really, really thought I was going to submit her. I was surprised with her defense. I don’t feel like her defense was the best defense, but I think that she’s tough so she’s hanging in there.
“That’s what I saw from Tecia, that’s what I saw from Marina, that’s what it is. The best of the best, they’re not going to tap from anything. I just need to keep working on my game, get my jiu-jitsu on point, be aggressive 100 percent of the time and get my striking better.”
The loss drops Dern to 2-2 in her past four fights and undoubtedly pushes her further away from title contention in the UFC strawweight division.
Following a long training camp in preparation for Yan and the fight on Saturday, Dern said she plans to take a little bit of time off, but she promised not to stay away for long because there’s plenty of work ahead if she wants to begin her climb back up the ranks again.
“Not too much [time off] but a couple of days [from now], I’m going to go to Brazil,” Dern said. “Take my daughter, stay on the beach for a couple days. I can’t take too much time off. Just keep working at it.
“Thankfully, I’m not injured. My face is a little beat up but no serious injuries, so just get back in there, definitely.”