In the Clinch: Contending Strawweights Dern and Yan Collide, UFC Vegas 61 – UFC Vegas 61 will feature a classic striking vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu battle between female contenders Saturday at the UFC Apex.
Mackenzie Dern (12-2-0), 29, the BJJ wizard who has improved her standup game will take on the pure No. 6 Chinese striker Yan Xiaonan (15-3-0, 1NC), 33, with the winner staying in the title shot conversation.
Dern came into the UFC with a lot of fanfare in 2018, having won multiple BJJ world championships. People still marvel at her amateur career, which includes a memorable submission win over the much physically bigger Gabi Garcia at the World Pros. Overall, she has done well in the octagon, becoming a mother in 2019 and focusing on improving all aspects of her game, specifically her striking. She can now keep opponents honest and set up takedowns for her ground game.
Dern was in contention in 2021 but lost a key bout to No. 3 Marina Rodriguez in October 2021. So, it’s taken about a year to work her way back to this point.
Yan, who currently trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, was in a similar position. She was close to a title shot with then champion Zhang Weili in 2020, but then lost to current champion Carla Esparza and Rodriguez. Her striking pays the bills but continues to improve her takedown defense, which helped her overcome grappler Claudia Gadelha.
And so, on paper, the advantage goes to the more versatile Dern. However, she has trouble with pure strikers. Dern will need to keep Yan honest so she can take the fight to the ground. Conversely, it is always imperative that Yan keep the fight standing. Will her takedown defense hold up?
I expect Dern and Yan to get after it from the beginning. They cannot afford to give rounds away as this could go down to the wire.
Let’s see what happens.
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