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Yan Xiaonan punishes Mackenzie Dern on the feet, fends off submissions to win majority decision in UFC Vegas 61 main event

UFC Fight Night: Dern v Yan Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Yan Xiaonan knew she was a better striker than Mackenzie Dern but she still had to survive some seriously scary moments on the ground to secure a majority decision win in the UFC Vegas 61 main event.

The Chinese strawweight essentially won every exchange with Dern on the feet, which allowed her to rack up a lot of points on the scorecards. She also had to endure plenty of time on the ground with Dern, particularly in rounds 2 and 5 where it appeared Yan might get caught in a submission from the multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion.

During each grappling exchange, Yan survived and then punished Dern on the feet for failing to put her away. When the fight was over, the judges scored the contest 48-47, 48-47 and 47-47 with Yan getting the nod by majority decision.

“I know her jiu-jitsu is amazing,” Yan said. “She’s a black belt, I’m a white belt but I know what I should expect in this fight. I trained so hard, four times, five times [a day] on grappling during this camp. I know I can make it. I can do this.

“I didn’t train a lot on striking because I know if the fight is standing, I can win that no matter what.

Showing fast hands and power in her strikes, Yan was quick to establish her dominance on the feet while keeping Dern at distance to hopefully negate her opponent’s deadly submission game. Yan was also throwing a nasty side kick that was attacking Dern’s lead leg and chopping away at her knee.

While Dern was doing her best to avoid damage on the feet, she was still struggling to get a takedown to apply her dominant grappling game. Between rounds, Dern’s coaches confirmed she definitely lost the first round but they also knew there were going to be openings to allow her to stage a comeback.

Dern sought to shift the momentum in her favor as she dragged Yan to the canvas while holding onto a leg to search for a submission. A scramble on the ground allowed Dern to lock onto the omo plata that quickly transitioned into an arm triangle choke.

Dern opted to release the choke to then move into the mount, which forced Yan to roll and give up her back. That led to a slew of punches coming from Dern as she looked to open up Yan’s defense to search for a rear-naked choke as well as a late armbar attempt.

Still, Yan managed to make it out of the round so she could get a restart on the feet.

With Dern desperate to get the fight back down to the ground, Yan seized on the opening to get more creative with her strikes. Yan uncorked a monstrous left hook that blasted Dern and put her on wobbly legs for a moment.

Yan followed that punch with an overhand right that clubbed Dern once again as she struggled to close the distance or find her way back to the clinch to secure another takedown.

As time ticked away, Yan’s confidence was growing as she continued shrugging off Dern’s grappling attempts and then punishing her on the feet. Yan was consistently connecting with her best punches while Dern was just throwing strikes on a wing and a prayer.

At the urging of her coaches going into the final round with the scorecards likely working against her, Dern wasted no time looking for a takedown to bring Yan into her world on the ground. Dern took the back as she began hammering away with punches to try and force Yan to make a mistake so she could potentially secure a late submission

Dern was dominant while controlling Yan in the grappling positions but she just couldn’t get the finish despite her best efforts. In the end, Yan slipped free from one last armbar attempt and jumped back to her feet while throwing her hands in the air to signify the victory.

The win puts Yan back on track after two losses in a row as she continues to serve as a threat to the top fighters in the world at 115 pounds while Dern suffers another setback in her attempts to eventually become a UFC champion.

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