As a multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Mackenzie Dern possesses some of the nastiest grappling skills in the entire sport of mixed martial arts.
So it’s safe to say the 29-year-old UFC strawweight has a more than valid opinion when it comes to rating the best submission specialists in the sport. When asked to name the fighter with the best jiu-jitsu in the UFC, Dern didn’t hesitate to single out top-ranked lightweight Charles Oliveira while praising the way he’s adapted his grappling game specifically for MMA.
“In my opinion the best jiu-jitsu in the UFC is Charles ‘Do Bronx.’” Dern explained on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Because of his jiu-jitsu in MMA. In jiu-jitsu, he wasn’t a black belt world champion or ADCC world champion or anything so it wasn’t like in the jiu-jitsu world he’s the most famous guy in jiu-jitsu but in MMA, for me, he has the best jiu-jitsu in MMA.
“[He has] the most submissions, knows how to play on his back, knows how to play on top. If you want to know the best jiu-jitsu in MMA, Charles ‘Do Bronx.’”
Now Dern will give credit to another Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner from her days growing up on the tournament circuit where she was constantly engaged in one grappling competition or another.
“The best jiu-jitsu athlete that is in UFC now, that’s hard but ‘Durinho’ Gilbert Burns for sure,” Dern said. “His jiu-jitsu game when we were in the jiu-jitsu world, people stopped to watch him fight. World champion, ADCC, crazy and he’s able to do that in MMA. A jiu-jitsu guy striking, he goes in, he’s not scared of getting punched and he has his takedowns and everything.
“I think the most high-level jiu-jitsu guy in MMA now is ‘Durinho’ but the best jiu-jitsu for MMA, Charles ‘Do Bronx.’”
It’s hard to argue with Dern’s logic when looking at the ridiculous resume that Oliveira has put together, especially in recent years.
He holds the record for most submissions in UFC history with 16, he’s second for most submission attempts behind only Jim Miller and he’s one of only two fighters in the UFC along with Frank Mir to ever pull off submissions using six different techniques (rear-naked choke, guillotine choke, anaconda choke, armbar, triangle choke, triangle armbar).
Oliveira has even managed to elevate his game during a current 11-fight win streak with seven submissions along the way including two victories in title fights. He’s also currently ranked as the best lightweight in the world according to the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.
“He’s definitely matured as a fighter,” Dern said about Oliveira. “He’s been almost 10 years in the UFC. You can definitely tell he’s really hit this maturity as a fighter, intelligent, confident, strategic, it’s all kind of connected now. He’s gotten to be the black belt in MMA.
“Always as we’re going up in belt — white belt, blue belt, purple belt — sometimes we’re good at our guard game and then we start working on our passing game maybe at purple belt and then at brown belt we’re working a lot of submissions. By the time we’re black belt, we’re able to be good at everything and I feel that’s where he’s really good. I don’t see him losing the belt for a while.”
As she moves forward with her own career and a main event fight booked against Yan Xiaonan on Oct. 1, Dern admits that she’s been inspired by Oliveira in many ways.
She explains that it’s not just because he’s got the deadliest submission arsenal in the sport but largely thanks to the perseverance that helped to transform him from being a mid-tier talent to the best lightweight in the world.
“[It took] 10 years [for him] to get to this point — now he’s there. He’s the best in the world,” Dern said. “There’s no doubt about it. Even just his story, his journey, it’s definitely inspiring for me. Be calm, take your time, each fight learn. Sometimes Charles he gets rocked a little bit and he pulls guard. That’s something that I’m learning to play smart. OK, if I get rocked, don’t stay standing and try to give it back. You can pull guard. See if they come into your guard.
“All that’s time and experience you get. 100 percent, I can connect and be inspired by Charles ‘Do Bronx.’”