Jiu-jitsu ace Mackenzie Dern has yet to win a MMA fight by knockout and doesn’t plans on focusing on her striking against muay thai specialist Marina Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Vegas 39 this Saturday in Las Vegas.
Speaking on the latest episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Dern admitted it would be foolish to walk away from her main weapon just to prove a point against the fellow Brazilian, who holds a 14-1-2 record in the sport with five knockouts.
“I have a better chance of knocking her out than she has of submitting me,” Dern said of the matchup. “In striking, the fact one hand lands can end [the fight]. On the other hand, on the ground, it’s a little bit harder to end up in a guillotine because I have time to defend myself and things like that. But my idea in this fight is not to trade with her.
“She has so many years of experience in muay thai and striking. I think the [best] way to beat a striker is by taking her to the ground. I really don’t want to get elbowed in the head. Of course, I can go 10 rounds on the feet with her if I have to, I’m not afraid of doing that, I’m trained for it. I’m ready. I won’t be scared on the feet with her but I think my hand can create openings to take her to the ground.”
“There’s no secret,” she continued. “It’s very clear that she wants to stay on the feet and I want to take it to the ground. My punches can surprise people, of course, because I’ve been training my striking every day. This fight is very important for me but I don’t see Marina Rodriguez, I’m seeing one person that’s part of my journey to the belt. I want to get in, win, finish the fight quickly and go for the belt.”
Dern, who tapped six opponents so far inside the octagon, wants to break the record of most submission victories among women in the UFC. Submitting Rodriguez “would be more sweet because it would show what I believe, the essence and efficiency of jiu-jitsu,” she said.
“This fight is very important to see where we’re going,” Dern said. “If the belt comes next, to maybe one more fight, or maybe it doesn’t even shake things up in the rankings. The rankings are so crazy you never know [what to expect]. But if I can get five straight wins, I’ll be in a very good situation to, who knows, fight the winner of Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang.”
Namajunas, the 115-pound queen in the UFC, is scheduled to Zhang on Nov. 6, and Dern wouldn’t be surprised to leapfrog former champion Carla Esparza, who many believe should be next for the gold over Zhang.
“[The UFC] wanted to put me against Carla Esparza before Marina [came in] but said Carla Esparza wanted to wait for the belt, so I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe the fact that Marina and I are accepting to fight now [will make we] jump over Carla. The UFC works like that, it’s a business, and that’s why it’s a good thing to accept fights. Maybe the UFC jumps Carla and gives the winner of this fight the opportunity to fight for the belt.
“I think they might offer that, but I want to talk to my coaches. If I win this fight but realize I still can get better at some things, then maybe we’ll fight once more because I want to be ready when I get to the belt and keep it for a long time. But I don’t know, if I go in there and finish it quickly and put on a show, then let’s do it. It depends. That’s why this fight is so important.”