Mackenzie Dern and Marina Rodriguez have each lost just once in their professional MMA careers. But they both need a big win if they want to have a shot at the UFC strawweight title, and they might just find it when they face each other in the main event of UFC Fight Night 194 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Dern enters as the No. 4 ranked women’s strawweight in the UFC, with Rodriguez in the No. 6 position.
A true battle of styles
Both women have the kinds of records that could earn them a shot at Rose Namajunas’ title sooner rather than later, as well as the skills to potentially take the belt. However, each has a very different path to success inside the Octagon.
Dern (11-1) dominates opponents on the ground, having won seven fights by submission in her young career. Meanwhile, Rodriguez (14-1-2) can strike with the best in the world, holding six knockouts on her record.
If styles make fights, then fans and bettors have a lot to digest in this one.
“I think her ground game has a lot to work on,” Dern told MMA Junkie ahead of the fight. “I’ve seen her get up and giving her back, so I can imagine her camp is going to be a lot of takedown defense and maybe getting up using the cage to get up. I think her striking is so dangerous, but the ground has a lot to work on.”
Rodriguez sees the fight similarly, but says she can use her advantages to get a quick win.
“Of course, I won’t reach the amount of time Mackenzie has invested in jiu-jitsu. Likewise, she won’t match my muay Thai experience,” Rodriguez told MMA Junkie. “Perfect day, I would get my knockout in the first or second round, but we know it’s a tough fight…I’ll just frustrate her and put on a striking clinic, or maybe win a five-round fight.”
Dern eyeing titles in two divisions
Dern enters the fight as a clear favorite. FanDuel Sportsbook rates her as the -196 choice against Rodriguez (+164), likely due to the fact that Rodriguez has struggled mightily on the mat, and as such as Dern submission seems like a more plausible outcome than a knockout for the Brazilian. Still, both of those outcomes are very much in play.
If Dern can get through Rodriguez, then she has big plans for where she wants her career to go – and they don’t stop with taking the strawweight belt from Namajunas.
“I’m really thinking about, OK, maybe go up a weight class after and be like a double weight champ, you know?” Dern told MMA Junkie. “Definitely just watching Valentina [Shevchenko], you know, she’s a long time at the belt. The girls are trying, we’re trying, but I’m like, we need someone to fight her. Maybe a jiu-jitsu girl is the one to beat her.”