UFC Vegas 61 Fight Breakdown: Mackenzie Dern vs. Yan Xiaonan


MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC Vegas 61, a five-round women’s strawweight bout between Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan. The event takes place on Saturday, October 1 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mackenzie Dern (-225)

Dern (12-2) is the No. 5 ranked women’s strawweight. The 29-year-old American joined the UFC in 2018 and since then she is 7-2 with notable wins over Tecia Torres, Nina Nunes, and Virna Jandiroba. Dern has elite BJJ skills and she’s shown that with several submissions in the Octagon. She is also improving her striking and she has shown that she has the cardio and toughness to go five hard rounds. Overall, Dern is just under the elite of the 115lbs division, but if she can go in there and defeat Yan, then she would move one step closer to a title shot.

Yan Xiaonan (+190)

Yan (15-3, 1 NC) is the No. 6 ranked women’s strawweight. The 33-year-old Chinese fighter joined the world’s leading MMA promotion in 2017 and has gone 6-2 so far since then. After winning her first six UFC fights, including a notable win over Claudia Gadelha, Xiaonan has lost to Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez in her last two outings. There is no shame in losing to those two fighters, but it makes you wonder if she is truly elite at 115lbs, or if she’s just below the top fighters. We know she has great striking, but she hasn’t shown she has elite grappling skills just yet.

Fight Breakdown: This is an interesting fight in the UFC women’s strawweight division by two of the weight class’s top contenders. Dern is coming off of a huge win over Torres in her last fight so she enters this bout with some momentum, while Yan is coming off of two straight losses, albeit to high-level competition. On paper, it looks like a striker vs. grappler matchup, and the winner of the fight likely needs up coming down to who can get the fight into their area of greatest strength. Dern has amazing BJJ, but her pure wrestling isn’t the best. Still, it’s improving, as is her striking. Yan, meanwhile, is a great striker who is improving her grappling skills. Ultimately, I slightly lean towards the superior grappler in Dern to get the fight to where she wants it. If Dern can get this fight to the ground, I even think she could win by submission. If the fight stays standing, Yan will be a live dog. But I’m banking on Dern getting a takedown and finding a way to take Yan’s neck and submit her.

Prediction: Mackenzie Dern

Written by Adam Martin.


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