Mackenzie Dern is a laughing, smiling, dancing and all-round positive character outside of the octagon. But when the cage door is closed, she is a submission phenom.
Nearly eight months after recording her first MMA defeat against Amanda Ribas, Dern entered the octagon for the first time in 2020 last May. In the months that followed, she was to establish herself as a top contender in the division.
First-round submission wins over Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos were followed by a unanimous decision win over the dangerous Virna Jandiroba. Dern will hope for the same success when she enters the octagon in 2021.
UFC Vegas 23: Mackenzie Dern vs. Nina Nunes
As one of the card’s bigger names, Dern’s return to action is highly anticipated. At UFC Vegas 23, she’ll take on fifth-ranked women’s strawweight Nina Nunes. The Brazilian-American is already tipped by many to be the greatest threat to Zhang Weili’s reign. A win on Saturday will take her a step closer to the champion.
Watch our exclusive interview with Mackenzie Dern below, as the Brazilian-American strawweight discussed her upcoming fight with Sportskeeda's Andrew Whitelaw:
With that said, refresh your memories of Mackenzie Dern inside the octagon with three of her best performances in the UFC so far.
#3 Mackenzie Dern vs. Hannah Cifers - UFC Vegas
At UFC Vegas in 2020, Mackenzie Dern rebounded from her first MMA defeat in about as convincing a fashion as she could have. Not only that, but she also made UFC history in doing so.
Against a tough and unique character in Hannah Cifers, Dern became the first woman to win a fight with a kneebar submission in UFC history. It wasn't a bad way to show the rest of the division what you’re capable of…
Just two minutes and 36 seconds into the opening round, Dern forced Cifers to submit after a lightning-fast transition into the leglock. Having displayed clear improvements in her stand-up game during the opening exchanges, Dern showed the magic on the mat she is capable of producing.
Collecting a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus in the process, the Brazilian-American made a serious impact in her return to action.
#2 Mackenzie Dern vs. Randa Markos - UFC Vegas 11
Dern secured consecutive wins with her sixth submission against Randa Markos at UFC Vegas 11. Dern is undoubtedly an elite grappler and she showed it again versus the Canadian.
Having once again shown improvements to her striking in the short time the pair threw hands, a slip from Dern was a blessing in disguise. Making the mistake of entering her guard instead of forcing the action back to the feet, Markos created the environment for her downfall.
Locking in an armbar, Dern collected her second first-round submission win in just four months. Against an experienced grappler like Markos, the win was certainly one of the most impressive across her career in the UFC.
Showing her ambition, Dern admitted that despite achieving the impressive finish, she’d been after a different form of submission.
“I think I’m tied for the most submissions in the strawweights. I’m just No. 15, so just think how many submissions I’m gonna get, so I think it really shows how dangerous I am on the ground, and how much I can improve, too, so I can be so dangerous as a complete fighter.
“I really wanted to get the chokoplata – which is the crucifix with the omaplata – because it’s never happened before in the UFC,” she explained. “So I was trying to do that. I threw my leg over her head, but she stayed laying down, so I kept laying down and went to the armbar.”
With her skills inside the cage, it stands to reason we'll be seeing a lot more post-fight dancing from Dern.
#1 Mackenzie Dern vs. Virna Jandiroba - UFC 256
Mackenzie Dern had been showing signs of her improved striking during her first two wins in 2020. Her third fight at UFC 256 left no no doubt. She is not just a submission machine; she is an all-round dangerous mixed martial artist.
Dern’s fight with Virna Jandiroba was a brawl. There is no other word for it. ‘Carcara’ was 16-1 until she met Dern. After a hard-fought 15 minutes, her one became a two at the hands of Mackenzie Dern.
Both women swung for the fences. Fighting through a broken, bloodied nose, Dern pushed through and earned an impressive unanimous decision win. Against a game opponent, the 28-year-old made a statement to the entire division. She showed them they aren’t safe against her on the canvas or on the feet.
Mackenzie Dern returns to action at UFC Vegas 23, where she'll look to make it four wins from four against Nina Nunes.