Mackenzie Dern had to battle for all three rounds but she returned to the win column with a hard fought split decision victory over Tecia Torres at UFC 273.
The most dominant performance came from Dern in the second round after she threatened Torres with a number of submission attempts but she also connected with some hard shots on the feet as well. In the end, two judges gave Dern the win with 29-28 scores while the third official gave the same 29-28 score to Torres in a razor-close decision.
“I’ve always been trying to not pull guard,” Dern said about her grappling in the second round. “I thought about that moment today. It was tight. The kimura was tight. I tried to go for the leg lock. It was a risk I was willing to make. I was surprised [she escaped].”
There was a lot of aggression from Dern as she threw big looping punches while also attempting to close the distance to look for takedowns to execute her world-class grappling game. Torres was fast on her feet, circling away and never allowing herself to get trapped by Dern.
Torres was also displaying great quickness with her hands, putting a lot of pop behind her punches but she still had to be aware of the power coming back from Dern.
As the second round got started, Dern decided to turn to her grappling as she jumped on Torres from the standing position while attempting to pull guard. When Torres didn’t go down, Dern latched onto a kimura and it appeared she might lock up the submission after the fighters finally hit the ground.
Somehow, Torres stayed patient before eventually escaping but Dern was still attacking as she looked for an armbar and then transitioning to a leg lock. Dern was constantly threatening while also throwing backwards elbows as Torres was just holding on to make it to the end of the round.
With five minutes remaining, Dern looked for another takedown but after putting Torres on the ground momentarily the former Ultimate Fighter competitor countered with a nasty up kick that pushed the multi-time grappling champion off her. Torres also managed to unleash a few kicks late but Dern was happy to comeback up top with some hard punches of her own.
It was a tough fight to score, especially after the first and third rounds both had very close moments but Dern eked out the victory as she gets back on track following a loss to Marina Rodriguez in her previous outing.
Following the win, Dern said she would like “someone in the top five” for her next opponent, although she noted that most of those fighters are matched up already so she may be waiting for the right opportunity for now.