Mackenzie Dern is really, really good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In fact, a quick look at her Wikipedia will reveal a page long list of all the accolades she’s racked up during her grappling career but none of that means her current opponents in the UFC are just going to roll over and play dead once the fight hits the floor. Despite her dominance on the ground, Dern failed to wrap up a submission in each of her past two outings even after putting both Marina Rodriguez and Tecia Torres in extremely compromised positions.
While the 29-year-old strawweight contender isn’t suddenly questioning her skills on the ground, Dern acknowledges the mistakes that have been made by perhaps showing a little bit too much sportsmanship.
“They’re tough. These are the best of the best,” Dern told The Fighter vs. The Writer about her level of competition. “We’re not playing here. These are former champions, champions, and they’re not going to tap because they feel pressure. I feel like with Tecia, I’m on the kimura and I’m doing it, I feel like 98 percent of the people would tap. You have to be a little bit mean like just rip it. Maybe they’ll tear their shoulder and have to have surgery or something like that. Of course, that’s not my goal but we’re all adults here. They’re going to try to hurt me.
“It’s just ingrained from memory like I need to do it. I need to be technical to get the position but I’m not going be like “OK, give her a chance to tap.’ No, you need to just go. She’s resisting, she knows she’s in a bad position. These are things that I’m thinking about during the fight like pretty soon she’s going to tap. Oh shoot, she’s not tapping. She’s resisting! Because these girls are tough. They’re not just going to give up a loss for nothing.”
Because she has so much experience in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Dern has spent a large part of her mixed martial arts career attempting to grow the other parts of her game to match what she can already do in grappling.
Dern is proud of the work she’s done to become a complete fighter but learning every other facet of the sport while not putting as much emphasis on her grappling may have cost her those recent submissions.
“With Marina and Tecia, I got in good positions to submit them, with both of them,” Dern explained. “With Marina, I got the omo plata on her back and I didn’t finish the position. With Tecia, I had a kimura and a leg lock and I didn’t finish. Definitely even with a loss and a win, I’m learning something. I need to get my timing better.
“I think I lost a little bit with my adjustments, I’m not as tight on my timing with submissions, which is my strength. These are positions that if I get to these positions, omo plata or the kimura, I shouldn’t be losing it or I shouldn’t be not submitting.”
So what exactly will change in her upcoming fight?
She promises that if Yan Xiaonan gets stuck in similarly bad spots at like Rodriguez or Torres at UFC Vegas 61, her opponent with either do the smart thing and tap out or Dern will be forced to take a limb back home to California with her.
“I lost that timing to get that submission and not letting it get away so definitely, I’ve been working on that for this fight,” Dern said. “I guess being a little bit meaner and hey, we all signed up for this and we’re on a different level now. I’m excited.
“I can’t be losing those positions. I should be finishing the fight there. Whatever she gives me, the back, the neck, the foot, leg, arm whatever she’ll give me. We’ll see. Hopefully she’ll tap.”