Brazilian jiu-jitsu star Mackenzie Dern is eager to enter the top 5 of the UFC’s strawweight division. Paired up against Nina Ansaroff for an important match at UFC Vegas 23, the prospect seems to see a clear advantage for herself ahead of the bout.
In an interview with Combate, Mackenzie made a point of her opponent’s limitations as a grappler. To her mind, that makes a ground battle the most obvious path to victory. Dern is still taking the fight seriously, however, noting that that Ansaroff has never been submitted before in her UFC career. That, in and of itself, gives the Brazilian a goal to shoot for.
“I think this is a great pairing for me,” Dern admitted. “Since she started out as a striker, she really is a fish out of water on the mat. However, Nina isn’t the number 5 fighter for nothing. I studied her a lot and I know she has very good takedown defense. I don’t think she’s ever been finished in her UFC career. My last fight was three rounds of striking, but I don’t want it this time. I really want to take it to the ground and be the first one to ever submit her in the UFC.
“I’m not that good at ground and pound, like Tatiana Suarez, who did that for three rounds (against Ansaroff). It was exhausting though, she took some head kicks and I don’t want that. I want to take her to the ground and scramble for a submission. I want to finish it so I can fight again and not break my nose again. That’s it.”
A win over Ansaroff would most likely put Dern in among the elite at women’s strawweight, exactly where the lifelong grappler wants to be. Should Mackenzie in fact defeat her ATT-trained opponent on Saturday, she expects to end the year within grasp of her first UFC title shot. Something she feels may be especially likely, considering that all top contenders have fights lined up for the near future.
“Depending on how I win, if I win well, it could put me close to the belt,” Dern explained. “Rose Namajunas, Weili Zhang, Carla Esparza and Yan Xiaonan are all fighting in the coming weeks. I think a lot is going to happen in the top 5. I don’t know where they’ll put me, but I hope that it’s somewhere close to the fifth spot. I think 2021 will be a great year.”
Mackenzie Dern (10-1) will look for her fourth victory in a row, after defeating Hannah Cifers, Randa Markos and Virna Jandiroba in her three last outings. The 28-year-old’s only defeat came in October 2019, when she dropped a unanimous decision to fellow prospect Amanda Ribas.