UFC women’s strawweight Marina Rodriguez has looked back on her main event victory over Mackenzie Dern last year and described her disbelief when she almost submitted the Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert.
Top-five contenders Dern and Rodriguez collided in the UFC Vegas 39 headliner last October at Las Vegas’ Apex facility.
Heading into the contest, the Arizona-born grappling specialist was riding a four-fight win streak after submission victories over Hannah Cifers, Randa Markos, and Nina Nunes, and a decision triumph over Virna Jandiroba. A 2019 defeat to Amanda Ribas represented Dern’s only setback in 12 professional MMA fights.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, had won back-to-back contests since falling to her first loss in the sport, a split decision disappointment at the hands of current #1 contender Carla Esparza.
After five rounds of action, it was Dern who had a second defeat added to her record. Having survived some early exchanges and submission attempts on the ground, Rodriguez took control of the fight on the feet and recorded a comfortable unanimous decision.
Heading into the contest, many had expected Dern to impose her will on the mat and add an eighth submission win to her résumé. The BJJ black belt boasts incredible grappling credentials, having previously been the #1-ranked IBJJF competitor.
Despite that, Rodriguez held her own on the ground and managed to survive a heavy submission attack in the second round of their clash. Describing her game plan and ability to deal with her opponent’s offense, the 34-year-old told Drake Riggs she was “ready for everything.”
“For that fight, we were perfectly ready. We knew what we were going against. We knew her ground game was really really good, but MMA isn’t just ground game, right? So I was calm I knew what was going to come up and when the fight happened I was ready for everything that came.”
With Dern’s jiu-jitsu pedigree well known, and regarded as arguably the best in the promotion, Rodriguez understandably increased the amount of training she did for the discipline. The Brazilian acknowledged that identifying her opponent’s strong point and preparing for it was her best path to victory.
“In all my fights, I train a little bit of jiu-jitsu and grappling. For this fight specifically, we already knew that Mackenzie Dern’s jiu-jitsu is really, really strong, so we prepared especially for this. I added a little bit more of grappling and jiu-jitsu to my training and that’s it. When I train, I think of my opponent, what are their strong points, and I get ready for that.”
More than just surviving on the ground in the second round, Rodriguez actually got off some offense of her own in the form of a D’Arce choke attempt. While Dern managed to slip out of the hold, Rodriguez admitted she felt like she had a chance of submitting the grappling ace, a prospect that left her in disbelief.
“I thought exactly, ‘I’m going to finish Mackenzie during—is this real? She’s so good on the ground she was able to get out of the position. And I thought afterwards, ‘Okay, I won’t be able to get the finish in this fight, but next fight I’ll get it.”
Rodriguez Will Look To Secure A Title Shot With Win Over Xiaonan
Rodriguez will now ride the momentum of her big win over Dern into her first outing of 2022. The #3-ranked contender is set to face Chinese star Yan Xiaonan at UFC 272 on March 5.
Before coming up against the division’s inaugural champion Esparza last May, Xiaonan boasted a perfect 6-0 UFC record, which included wins against Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Cláudia Gadelha.
With Esparza set to challenge for Rose Namajunas’ gold next, both Rodriguez and Xiaonan will be looking to stake their claim for a title shot on the pay-per-view stage.
Do you think Marina Rodriguez has what it takes to become the UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion?