Consecutively notching four straight victories in the UFC’s strawweight division, Mackenzie Dern has sights firmly set on earning a shot at 115-pound spoils by the end of the year — following a highlight-reel armbar win over Nina Nunes at UFC Vegas 23.
Emerging from UFC Vegas 23 on Saturday as one of the standout performers, Dern managed to lock up a taut armbar before the first-round buzzer over the returning #5 ranked, Nunes — extending her winning spree to four fights.
Tying flyweight grappler, Gillian Robertson for the most submission wins in the history of the UFC’s women’s divisions, Dern added the armbar victory to three prior stoppage triumphs via submission since her promotional bow back in March of 2018 at UFC 222.
Speaking prior to the clash with Nunes, Dern claimed that by the end of the year, she hoped to be in a position to challenge for strawweight spoils.
“I would like to have maybe one or two more fights (before a title shot),” Dern said. “Really, my coaches, they decide when I’m ready — really Jiu-Jitsu-wise, I can beat any of them, you know. The champion, all the way to the newbies in the UFC. The ground game; I can win — but we wanna be champion, and champion — you need to be good at everything and preparing for anything and be able to mix in and melt everything together.“
“I think if I can get (over) my anxiousness in the fights, to calm down a little bit — I think a lot of people notice that maybe if I hit a good punch, I kinda go forward a little bit, then the person’s like recovering and breathing and then I lose the good opportunity,” Dern said.
Off the back of her victory over Nunes, Dern catapulted herself to the promotion’s top-five rankings and believes she’s now ready to challenge the division’s upper-echelon.
“I’m ready for the top girls, but maybe fight for the belt, maybe at the end of the year,” Dern said during a post-fight interview with ESPN MMA. “A couple more fights, because the belt you want to be one-hundred percent, and I’m not one-hundred percent on what I need to do.“
“I just need to be one-hundred percent on the go time, and that’s being able to be calm and to think. I’m getting there, but a first-round submission, you don’t really get to see those other parts. But I know that even if I submit my next (opponent) in the first round, I want to know that when I fight the champ, I’m ready even if I go the whole five rounds.“
With Zhang Weili slated to attempt the second defence of her strawweight championship on April 24th. at UFC 261 against Rose Namajunas, Carla Esparza is also slated to match with Yan Xiaonan on May 22nd. — it’s likely Dern will draw her next opponent from those two fights, however, former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and the undefeated, Tatiana Suarez present those types of contenders Dern wants to match with next.