About five years ago, No. 7-ranked Tecia Torres was knocking on the door of a women’s Strawweight title shot, but then “Tiny Tornado” dropped four straight between 2018-2019, dashing her hopes perhaps forever at the time. But, the 32-year-old eventually turned things around and worked her way back into contention, with a showdown against the No. 5-seeded Mackenzie Dern at UFC 273 tonight (Sat., April 9, 2022) perhaps punching her 115-pound title ticket once and for all.
Dern, though, is on the rise, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist who has just started to really assemble a complete mixed martial arts (MMA) game. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for either woman, and in the end, it was the superior grappling of Dern — along with her pressure fighting — that carried her to a split decision victory.
Dern got the action started with an aggressive overhand right that missed, with Torres stepping aside and slipping a nice counter hook moments later. Dern continued to stalk Torres early, with “Tiny Tornado” bouncing across the Octagon to try and get herself settled. Dern missed with a huge right hand, but Torres easily ducked under it. Dern finally connected with an uppercut and was able to use it to press Torres against the cage. The pair jockeyed for position, with Torres reversing position along the cage. Dern grabbed an underhook, looking for a potential takedown, but the pair broke free and started exchanging in the center of the Octagon. Torres landed a night left as Dern began to settle down a bit. Low kick from Torres, then a body shot as Dern was seemingly strictly head hunting. Dern with a solid right hand, followed by a few others as Torres tried to keep her at bay with a series of side kicks to create some space. More kicks from Torres down the stretch, but it was a solid round from the punch-happy Dern.
Dern came out again for round two with guns blazing — pressuring Torres and backing her up against the cage early. Dern jumped on her and worked for a standing kimura, with Torres’ back pressed up against the cage. Torres was trapped, basically carrying Dern as she fought desperately to escape. Torres finally caved and went to the ground, her arm cranked behind her with Dern looking for a tap. She was able to roll once on the ground and eventually escape, but Dern transitioned to an armbar. Torres couldn’t really do much but defend as Dern tried to break her grip and crank the armbar. Dern underhooked her left leg, with Torres still fighting the armbar, and then transitioned to a kneebar. Torres tried to fight her off with her other leg as Dern was able to get back on top of her, angling for what appeared to now be a heel hook. Torres, somehow, defended until the bell, eating some backward elbows as the seconds melted off the clock. It was a jiu-jitsu clinic.
Third and final round, with Dern likely up on all the judges scorecards. Torres needed a finish, but it was Dern once again coming out of her corner looking to end her night early. Torres uncorked a spinning back kick that just missed, with Dern making her pay with a hard counter shot. Left hook from Dern, with Torres looking like she just wants to survive at this point — she was clearly exhausted after carrying Dern for most of the second stanza. Torres landed a big heel to Dern’s chin, but she caught the leg and used it for a takedown. But, Torres landed an upkick that Dern really didn’t like. The tide turned for a moment, but then Dern went right back to work with her constant pressure.
It turned out to be a split decision, but it seemed pretty clear that Dern was in charge for a majority of the fight. Torres is tough as nails and probably should have been submitted in the second round, but that just goes to show her grit and determination.
Dern has a bright future, while Torres is headed back to the drawing board once again.
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