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Marina Rodriguez puts on striking clinic against Mackenzie Dern to win decision in UFC Vegas 39 main event

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UFC Fight Night: Dern v Rodriguez Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Marina Rodriguez took a big step towards title contention with a convincing win over Mackenzie Dern in the UFC Vegas 39 main event.

While she did have to survive a ground assault from Dern in the second round, Rodriguez was leading the charge during almost every other exchange as she displayed accuracy, power, and a diverse arsenal of strikes to wrap up the unanimous decision victory.

All three judges scored the fight 49-46 for Rodriguez, who moved to 5-1-2 in the UFC.

“I had to pace myself,” Rodriguez said about her performance. “We had five rounds to work so we worked a little bit slower than usual but there was a point for it.”

Looking to close the distance and work for the takedown, Dern was oftentimes charging forward without much setup, but Rodriguez wasn’t able to take advantage early. Rodriguez did manage to shut down Dern’s takedown attempts from the clinch against the cage then attack with her strikes after getting reset on the outside.

While she was being wary of Rodriguez’s power, Dern finally dragged the fight down to the canvas in the second round during a scramble on the feet, which allowed the multi-time grappling champion to begin plying her craft.

Rodriguez made an attempt at a choke from the bottom, which ultimately served to stall the action, but only momentarily as Dern slipped free then began to attack with her vast arsenal on the ground. Dern dismantled Rodriguez’s defense to move into the mount where she began raining down punches but also making sure she maintained control on top.

“She does hit hard from the top,” Rodriguez said of Dern. “I had to pay a lot of attention there. As far as a submission goes, I was very aware of everything that was going on and I knew we had five rounds, so it would be OK.”

Despite her attempts to get the finish, Dern couldn’t quite put the fight away, which then allowed Rodriguez to put her striking back on display where she continued to be razor-sharp from the outside. Rodriguez threw with bad intentions behind every shot, including a head kick that was just inches away from catching Dern flush on the chin.

By the time the fight moved into the fourth round, Rodriguez was still throwing stinging combinations while Dern looked as if she was starting to lose steam. Rodriguez connected with a number of hard punches as well as a few knees to the body that continued to give Dern problems on the feet.

With the fight slipping away from her, Dern’s coaches told her before the final round that closing the distance and getting a takedown was paramount if she wanted to get the win. To her credit, Dern pressed forward to make every effort to follow that advice, but Rodriguez was just too slick on her feet as she avoided the ground while essentially winning every striking exchange.

After notching her third straight win with the unanimous decision over Dern, Rodriguez knows she’s knocking on the door of title contention — and she’ll be ready for a shot at the belt whenever the UFC comes calling.

“I’ve been ready to fight five rounds, to fight for a title since the day I started this thing,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what we’ve been preparing for. I know there’s some girls maybe ahead of me in line but if they’re not available, I know I’m going to be.”