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UFC Vegas 39 card: Marina Rodriguez vs Mackenzie Dern full fight preview

UFC Fight Night: Nunes v Dern Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight talents Marina Rodriguez and Mackenzie Dern will go to war TONIGHT (Sat., Oct. 9, 2021) at UFC Vegas 39 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This bout is an excellent clash of styles between two up-and-comers who have really risen to the occasion in the last year or so. Rodriguez has some of the nastiest Muay Thai in the division, and she’s spent an impressive amount of time inside the Octagon brutalizing a bunch of grapplers on the feet. Dern, conversely, is one of the most decorated female grapplers of all time. Early on, there were some doubts about her abilities to make weight and perform inside the cage, but she’s since quieted those concerns with a string of solid victories.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 41 On ESPN+

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Oct. 23, 2021, with a highly-anticipated match up in the Middleweight division, as No. 2-ranked contender Paulo Costa returns to action against No. 5-seeded Marvin Vettori. In UFC Vegas 41’s Lightweight co-main event, Grant Dawson looks to remain undefeated in UFC when he locks horns with Ricky Glenn

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Marina Rodriguez

Record: 14-1-2
Key Wins: Amanda Ribas (257), Michelle Waterson (UFC Vegas 26), Tecia Torres (UFC Fight Night 156), Jessica Aguilar (UFC on ESPN 2), Maria de Oliveira Neta (DWTNCS Brazil Season 1)
Key Losses: Carla Esparza (UFC Fight Island 3)
Keys To Victory: Rodriguez is a fierce striker. She may not be most technical boxer — the Brazilian loves to channel the spirit of PRIDE-era Wanderlei Silva and alternate big hooks — but she builds upon her punches very well by following up with hard kicks and a dangerous clinch game.

The first ten or so minutes of this fight are extremely dangerous for Rodriguez. While Dern is fresh and yet to feel the effects of heavy kicks and knees, a single mistake can be fatal. If Rodriguez throws a kick at the wrong time or otherwise gives Dern an easy takedown early on, the fight could be over quickly on the mat.

Caution may not be Rodriguez’s usual strategy, but it’s necessary here, and she has five rounds with which to work. In that early portion of the fight, shot selection will be key. Rodriguez cannot abandon her offense entirely; she has to pick and choose her moments to land and start wearing Dern down.

The clinch is still an area where Rodriguez can thrive despite the takedown threat. Dern is not such an amazing wrestling that Rodriguez must abandon that aspect of her game. Instead, Rodriguez just has to be sure to maintain good control of her collar ties and avoid forcing the position for too long.

A few big knees will quickly change Dern’s desire to close distance.


Mackenzie Dern

Record: 11-1
Key Wins: Nina Nunes (UFC Vegas 23), Virna Jandiroba (UFC 256), Randa Markos (UFC Vegas 11), Ashley Yoder (UFC 222)
Key Losses: Amanda Ribas (UFC Fight Night 161)
Keys to Victory: The term “grappling ace” gets thrown about a lot, and jiu-jitsu credentials can be confusing, but make no mistake about it: Dern is one of the very best grapplers on the planet. Three of her last four wins came via submission in the first round, and in each victory, Dern proved herself several steps ahead on the canvas.

This is a fight in which each woman has massive advantages in one area. Dern is an enthusiastic puncher, but she’s not a great striker, and Rodriguez will chew her up on the feet. Similarly, Rodriguez has struggled on the floor in several bouts that she was dominating, and Dern is elite!

The message is clear: get this scrap to the mat.

Dern’s wrestling has improved, and truthfully, Rodriguez has not fared well against fighters will to chain together takedowns. An early commitment to dragging her foe to the floor may be enough to secure victory, but if not, I’d like to see Dern willing to get creative. She could copy fighters like Ronaldo Souza by grabbing a single leg and pulling guard into a leg lock or sweeping position.

Really, anything to get the fight to the mat. Dern is many levels beyond Rodriguez in terms of jiu-jitsu, so she should be able to fairly easily get away with starting in less than ideal position.


Bottom Line

The Strawweight title picture is in an odd place, but this could be a title eliminator.

Booking Rose Namajunas vs. Weili Zhang right away leaves the division in something of a minor logjam, with Carla Esparza the deserving contender left out to dry. Likely, Esparza will need to fight again to really secure her shot, and the winner of this fight would make plenty of sense! Rodriguez already fought Esparza to an extremely competitive decision loss, whereas Dern would provide an interesting style threat to the wrestler. Of course, UFC might just continue pretending “Cookie Monster” isn’t real and hand tonight’s victor the next shot at gold.

A loss here strips the defeated fighter of the above opportunities, but fortunately for them, the division isn’t exactly exploding with would-be title challengers at the moment. They’re both still reasonably young in their pro careers, so there’s time to bounce back.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk has to fight somebody when she returns to action.

At UFC Vegas 39, Marina Rodriguez and Mackenzie Dern will throw down in the main event. Which athlete will have her hand raised?


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 39 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 39: “Dern vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.