UFC 295: Was Jessica Andrade good or was Mackenzie Dern Awful?

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UFC 295 went down just weeks ago and despite there being two title fight headliners, the entire main card stole the show. One of the key fights on the main card featured strawweight contenders, Jessica Andrade and Mackenzie Dern. The fight went in favour of the former champion, Andrade and saw Dern finished for the first time in her MMA career.

We broke down the fight itself on last week’s MMASucka podcast, which can be found below, however, in this piece, we will look into the fight in more detail.

The Stats

The key statistic that sticks out is that Andrade recorded four knockdowns in her fight with Dern in New York. For context, Dern has only been knocked down once previously in her UFC career, in her UFC debut, 10 fights ago.

This statistic lends itself to assuming that Jessica Andrade, performed phenomenally on the night and that Dern was just a victim of the in-form former champion. That isn’t the case, however. There’s no denying that Andrade was on form, however, it was far from a career-best performance.

The total strikes saw Dern throw more and land just three fewer strikes. She landed big on Andrade multiple times, however, seemed to get excited when she did land on the traditional striker and consequently was caught lacking.

The former bantamweight mixed up her striking throughout the 8:15 that this fight was contested over. She targeted 27 strikes to the head, seven to the body and 19 to the legs of the BJJ phenom. Dern, on the other hand head-hunted, landing just 38 of her 100 targeted head strikes and attempted just 14 strikes to the body and legs combined.

Dern was also zero for four on her takedowns, which didn’t come as a huge surprise.

First Round Knockdown

The first round knockdown came with just six seconds left in the round. To set the scene, Dern had been stung multiple times by Andrade, showing massive steps backwards in her boxing ability and had just had a kick caught by Andrade, to which she looked to counter with a lazy spinning back fist.

This knockdown isn’t the worst of the four that the eventual winner scored, it was simply na├»ve from Dern. Andrade is known as one of the heaviest hitters in women’s MMA, especially when she cuts down to 115lbs.

We can see from the above image that she is looking to hook with Andrade from an inferior position. She’s looping in her hooks, whereas we can see that Andrade is tight with her strikes, causing less of an ‘arc’ when she lands.

The knockdown comes as Dern over-commits to a hook, Andrade simply weaves underneath it and lands a big right hook of her own, flush on her opponent’s chin. Dern’s committal to the hook led to her right-hand coming all the way across her body and she was unable to protect her chin.

Dern leaves her chin exposed

Round Two Knockdowns

The first knockdown of round two saw Dern look to clinch with Andrade and despite being caught with an overhand in the process, she continued to cling on to Andrade’s arm in an attempt to keep the position. This, in turn, allowed Andrade to expose Dern’s uncovered chin to land heavily.

What makes this one such a mistake by Dern is her refusal to let go of the clinch and her shocking lack of defensive awareness. During the exchange, the stronger Andrade forced Dern to square up her stance before forcing her to eat a big left hook.

Dern is dropped for a second time

The next knockdown came as a result of Dern being too aggressive in her offence, landing a good shot but getting over-eager and seemingly forgetting about her defence. She waded forward, falling over her feet with very little awareness of her weight distribution, becoming off balance very quickly. Notice in the image below three key issues with Dern’s offence.

Firstly, notice how her entire body is leaning forward, having previously stepped heavily on her front foot. If (and in this case, when) Andrade looked to land a counter, Dern’s inability to use her head movement or avoid the shot spoke volumes. This leads to the second point.

Her entire weight is over her front foot, again limiting her ability to move out of the way of any counters. Very rarely will you see any elite strikers put their entire weight through their front foot as it limits their ability to avoid a potential counter. Even if she were to land an offensive strike, there would be little power behind it as her back foot is entirely off the ground. She wouldn’t be able to generate any power through her back foot due to the lack of connection with the mat and therefore would hold very little power, even if her shot were to land.

Finally, her rear hand, is down by her waist, not allowing any kind of defensive cover, nor allowing her to get it up and protect herself when the inevitable counter came.

The entire sequence of the knockdown can be seen below. Note how two looping hooks from Andrade catch Dern and her lack of defence allows Andrade to score a knockdown.

The Final Blow

The final blow from Andrade saw her do what she does best. Stalk her prey, land her heavy shots and capitalise on her opponent’s vulnerabilities. Luckily for her, Dern provided her with plenty of opportunities to exploit.

A quick jab-hook-straight combination saw Dern fall back to the fence and crumble. The final combination exploited Dern’s defensive inability to get her hands up, move her head and stay defensively aware in ‘the fire’.

Rather than coming up to protect her face, Dern held her arms out straight in front of her to try and block Andrade’s shots. A technique which isn’t advised, taught or encouraged, especially against a power puncher like Andrade.

The entire finishing sequence can be seen here:

The Ultimatum

Ultimately, there are two ways to look at this finish. The accumulation of the four knockdowns across a little over eight minutes proved just how powerful Andrade is. With that being said, we knew that beforehand. Her knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz showed us this.

The other way to look at it is that Andrade just caught Dern at the right time, everything came together in her fifth fight this year and she was simply ‘on it’. With that being said, it’s more likely the other factor.

Dern’s stand-up is truly awful (in relation to her defence). The split from Jason Pirillo spoke volumes. She fell back into old habits and appeared to be one-dimensional, unless she can get it to the floor, she’s in trouble. She was constantly falling over her feet, her balance was in the wrong places at key times throughout the bout and her confidence appeared to be flawed (when she landed a shot, she appeared to get over-eager).

The next step for the 30-year-old Dern is to seek training elsewhere. Of course, there are factors outside of the octagon that may prove this to be unattainable, however, training at a kickboxing gym or a boxing gym would benefit her massively. She’s never going to be able to contend with Stephen Thompson in the stand-up game, she’s never going to be as slick as Israel Adesanya, nor will she ever hit as hard as Amanda Nunes, however, there’s potential there for sure. If she can work out her stand-up game to get the fight into her wheelhouse, she’ll be able to achieve great things.

There are few women in the division who can hang with her on the ground, so she has to focus her whole stand-up game on setting up the takedown. We know she’s limited, but use that limitation to succeed.

Ryan Hall is elite on the mat and has shown an ability to use specific shots to utilise his BJJ. Against BJ Penn, Hall landed a calf kick, followed by a second. Penn reacted to the second by lifting his leg up to check. As soon as Penn’s foot began to make contact with the ground again, Hall rolled for a leg-lock, succeeding. This is something that Dern could work on. Learning specific stand-up shots in order to capitalise and show her BJJ game.

Dern needs to improve on her stand-up game. Andrade was good, however, Dern allowed her to look world-class.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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