Mackenzie Dern is really good at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Actually, a quick look at her Wikipedia will reveal a long list of all the accolades she’s received in her wrestling career, but none of that means her current opponents in the UFC will just roll over and play dead as soon as the fight hits the floor. Despite her ground dominance, Dern hasn’t been able to complete a submission hold in either of her last two bouts, even after both Marina Rodriguez and Tecia Torres found themselves in highly questionable positions.
While the 29-year-old lightweight contender doesn’t question her ground skills, Dern acknowledges the mistakes that were made, perhaps due to too much sportsmanship.
“They are tough. They are the best of the best,” Dern said. Fighter vs Writer about its level of competition. “We don’t play here. These are former champions, champions, and they are not going to knock because they feel pressure. I feel like with Tecia, I’m on a kimura and doing it, I feel like 98 percent of the people will tap. You have to be a little mean, how to just tear it apart. Maybe they’ll rip their shoulder and have to have surgery or something. Of course, this is not my goal, but we are all adults here. They will try to harm me.
“It just stuck in my memory like I need to do it. I need to be technical to get into position, but I’m not going to say, “Okay, give her a chance to press.” No, you just need to leave. She resists, she knows she’s in a bad position. These are the things I think about during the fight, like she’s about to knock. Oh shit, she doesn’t tap. She resists! Because these girls are cool. They’re not going to give up defeat just like that.”
Because she has so much experience in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Dern has spent most of her mixed martial arts career trying to develop other parts of her game to match what she can already do in wrestling.
Dern is proud of the work she has put in to become a complete fighter, but learning all the other aspects of the sport without much focus on wrestling may have cost her these recent fights.
“With Marina and Tesha, I was in a good position to subdue them both,” Dern explained. “With Marina, I got an omo plateau on my back and didn’t finish the position. With Tecia I had a kimura and a leg lock and didn’t finish. Definitely, even with defeat and victory, I learn something. I need to improve my timing.
“I think I lost a bit with adjustments, I’m not so tight with submissions, that’s my strength. These are positions that if I get to these positions, omo plata or kimura, I must not lose them or I must not disobey.”
So what exactly will change in her upcoming fight?
She promises that if Yang Xiaonan gets stuck in places as bad as Rodriguez or Torres at UFC Vegas 61, her opponent will either do the smart thing and knock, or Dern will be forced to take the limb home to California with him.
“I lost time to get that submission and without letting it go so definitely, I worked on it for this fight,” Dern said. “I think I’m a little angrier and hey we all signed up for this and now we’re on another level. I’m excited.
“I cannot lose these positions. I have to finish the fight there. Whatever she gives me, back, neck, foot, leg, arm, whatever she gives me. Let’s see. I hope she knocks.”