Mackenzie Dern Faces Marina Rodriguez in Pivotal Strawweight bout

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Mackenzie Dern returns to face the toughest test of her career when she takes on Marina Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Vegas 39. The fight marks the first time that Dern will headline a UFC card, whereas Rodriguez headlined her last time out. The winner of this one positions themselves extremely well in the 115lbs division, putting themselves right in the title picture. We break down the UFC Vegas 39 main event in more detail in the latest MMASucka podcast!

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Mackenzie Dern

Mackenzie Dern enters her first main event with a record of 11-1, enjoying an impressive four-fight winning run. On this run, she’s notched three finishes, all submissions (of course) and has improved her stand-up game a lot. We all know that Dern struggled with her stand-up in her early UFC career, looking awkward, unorganised and unconfident. Now, having trained with Jason Parillo, she’s looked a lot more assured, measured and willing to stand if necessary.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 10: (L-R) Mackenzie Dern punches Nina Nunes in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

We also know that Dern has struggled in the wrestling realm. Although she has notched an impressive four submission victories in seven UFC fights, she’s only been credited with two takedowns in her career thus far, one in her first and one in her latest UFC fights. Her chaotic entries into the clinch often look amateurish, but clearly seem to work.

With that being said, against Hannah Cifers she showed impressive judo, landing a hip throw to get it to the ground. Cifers managed to reverse the position, however, Dern took the upper hand on the floor. Against Randa Markos the fight only got to the ground as a result of Dern missing a kick, spinning and landing flat on her back. Markos rushed in and was made to regret it. When facing Nina Nunes, Dern grabbed a single leg, got the trip and managed to dominate on the floor.

The common theme is once it gets to the ground, no one in the 115lbs division can hang with Mackenzie Dern. Her Jiu-Jitsu is unparalleled. No one should actively look to go to the ground with Dern because it is where she’s most dangerous. Amanda Ribas took Dern down, but the Jiu-Jitsu ace instantly began to isolate the shoulder and look for a submission sequence. Ribas did enough to see the round out and nullify Dern’s attacks. Ribas then kept it on her feet and ultimately won the fight as a result of this.

If Dern can get the fight to the ground, it’s in her world and she will likely dominate. If not, it could be a long night for the Brazillian.

Marina Rodriguez

Marina Rodriguez has had a brilliant 2021. She’s got two big wins over notable opponents and with a win over Mackenzie Dern she’s in for a shout of female fighter of the year. The MMASucka crew discussed why this is the case on a recent podcast. Having lost a controversial split decision to Carla Esparza, Rodriguez bounced back in a huge way with the biggest win of her career.

Taking on the in-form, Amanda Ribas, Rodriguez essentially knocked her out twice. After a tough first round where she was taken down, controlled and couldn’t get much offence off, Rodriguez started the second round with a bang. Landing a sweet, counter straight down the pipe, Rodriguez dropped Ribas, jumping on her with multiple strikes. The referee, Herb Dean appeared to jump in and stop the bout, however, allowed Ribas to get back to her feet after Rodriguez backed off. After re-engaging, Rodriguez landed a sweet elbow from the clinch and followed up with two big overhand rights, ending the night once and for all.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 23: (R-L) Marina Rodriguez of Brazil punches Amanda Ribas of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The Fight Itself

The UFC Vegas 39 main event will mark the first time that Mackenzie Dern will be scheduled to go five rounds. We know that she has had weight issues in the past, but having sorted these out, expect her cardio to be on point going into this one. Rodriguez, on the other hand, took a main event slot on short notice last time out, proving that her cardio is always solid.

There is no doubt that this is a classic striker vs. grappler match-up, with Dern presumably dominating the fight if it hits the ground and the slick striking of Rodriguez getting the upper hand on the feet. With that being said, we’ve seen vast improvements in the hands of Dern and we’ve also seen Rodriguez more than capable of handling herself on the matt.

Ultimately, the fighter who will be most successful in this one is going to be the one who can implement their game more effectively and nullify their opponents. Dern needs to look to stand for as short a time as possible. Use her jab to get Rodriguez backing up to the fence before shooting in for a takedown. We saw Casey O’Neill this past weekend throw an overhand right and fall straight into the clinch, leading to a takedown and the end of the fight, which is a tactic that Dern could certainly utilise.

Rodriguez must keep her back off the fence and dominate the centre of the octagon throughout this fight. As we highlighted, Dern’s takedowns aren’t all that efficient, especially in the open space. She’s good when the fight is against the fence, or when she can crowd her opponents and therefore Rodriguez needs to eliminate this option for Dern. She, without a doubt has the footwork to do this, which will potentially lead to Dern getting desperate as the fight goes deep. Dern absorbs 3.57 significant strikes per minute and with the striking skills of Rodriguez, it could lead to a long night for the Jiu-Jitsu phenom.

Pick – Rodriguez via unanimous decision

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Frazer is a 26 year old MMA and boxing enthusiast from Coventry, England. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast which comes out every Monday.

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