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UFC Vegas 61, The Morning After: Has Mackenzie Dern peaked?

A close majority decision loss to Yan Xiaonan has us wondering whether we’ve witnessed the ceiling for Mackenzie Dern inside the Octagon.

UFC Fight Night: Dern v Yan Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Mackenzie Dern was set up to succeed at UFC Vegas 61 last night (Sat., Oct. 1, 2022) in Las Vegas, Nevada. In what was just the second main event bid of her Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career, Dern was expected to rise to the occasion and finally cash in when it mattered most.

Unfortunately for Dern, she was met by an eager and willing dance partner, Yan Xiaonan. Not only did Yan showcase her vaunted striking, but the Chinese contender displayed a nearly-perfect takedown defense in her first time atop a UFC marquee. Yan didn’t fight without error, but she drove the ball across the finish line to solidify her spot in the women’s Strawweight pecking order.

As for Dern, this was another missed opportunity to separate herself from the rest of the pack at 115 pounds. She said all the right things leading into this main event fight and looked ready to finally live up to her expected potential. But, despite her pre-fight plans, Dern was unable to control Yan as well as she would’ve liked. Dern struggled to secure the takedown, rarely won any exchange on the feet, and ultimately failed to put away Yan with her world-class grappling.

I guess those submission attempts weren’t mean enough.

So, what does this all mean for Dern? Is this the type of performance we should expect whenever she’s on the cusp of finally breaking through? Has she already peaked just four years into her UFC career?

To be honest, it’s hard to say. At just 29 years of age it’s difficult to imagine that Dern has peaked. She still has so much to learn in the fight game and possesses the determination to continue her journey and learn from her mistakes. Not to mention she has a massive fan following and remains one of the nicest fighters on UFC’s roster today.

That said, Dern will not have many more of these chances moving forward. She has already dropped the ball in previous losses to Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Ribas, which were two fights that were going to push her over at 115 pounds. The women’s Strawweight division has proven to be a changing faction of late, unwilling to wait for any one contender. So while Dern’s skills may still be evolving, she is another disappointing main event loss away from being cast aside at the Strawweight level.

What do you think, fight fans? Has Dern peaked or is it still too soon to tell?

For complete UFC Vegas 61 results and coverage click here.

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