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UFC Vegas 61 preview: ‘Dern vs. Yan’ predictions

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UFC 272 Weigh-in Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

In an era of increasingly well-rounded fighters, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strawweight division brings us an old-school grappler vs. striker matchup tomorrow evening (Sat., Oct. 1, 2022) when submission magician Mackenzie Dern faces ferocious slugger Yan Xiaonan in the familiar halls of the UFC APEX.

In other mixed martial arts (MMA) action, welterweight veteran Francisco Trinaldo attempts to continue his improbable run at 44 years old against the first-ever “Lookin’ for a Fight” signee, Randy “Rude Boy” Brown.

Our usual main card guy was launched into an asteroid earlier this week, so this solemn duty falls to me once again. As always, you can find our UFC Vegas 61 “Prelims” analyses here and here, our odds and betting guide here, and Andrew Richardson’s champion-caliber investigation of the other “Dern vs. Yan” main card bouts here.

On we go.

115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Yan Xiaonan

Mackenzie Dern

Record: 12-2 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -230
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’4” | Reach: 63” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.16 | Striking accuracy: 4.35
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.35 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 0.46 (9% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 40%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Split decision win over Tecia Torres

Yan “Nine” Xiaonan

Record: 15-3 | Age: 33 | Betting line: +195
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’5” | Reach: 63” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.66 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.77 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 1.06 (66% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 65%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Split decision loss to Marina Rodriguez

Much like Dern’s clash with Marina Rodriguez, is one of those fights that’s going to be competitive when viewed as a whole but not in the actual moment-to-moment. Though Dern has made admirable strides towards parlaying raw aggression and a heavy right hand into a functional striking offense, Yan’s power, durability, speed, and volume give her an insurmountable edge on the feet. “Nine” has developed into a surprisingly sound technician, as well, outstriking the aforementioned Rodriguez for long stretches of their brawl.

Conversely, the ground disparity is every bit as pronounced in the opposite direction. Dern’s jiu-jitsu game has earned every superlative heaped upon it, and Yan’s disastrous loss to Carla Esparza showed that her bottom game can’t hold up against truly world-class grapplers. Dern only needs one good scramble to find a dominant position and one dominant position to end things.

All that said, I favor Yan in the end. Beyond all the advantages she possesses in the striking, Her takedown defense has held up against sub-elite wrestlers, and Dern’s shiny 9% takedown accuracy definitely qualifies. Though Dern doesn’t always need a takedown to get her submission onslaught going, as we saw in that dominant second round against the very capable Tecia Torres, getting past Yan’s powerful jabs and straight rights will be increasingly difficult as the fight progresses.

It really boils down to whether Dern can submit Yan during her brief windows of opportunity, or at least get enough done on the ground to offset the sheer number of power shots coming her way. I lean towards no, especially with the five rounds favoring Yan’s excellent cardio. Sprawl-and-brawl wins the day.

Prediction: Yan def. Dern by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Randy Brown vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Randy “Rude Boy” Brown

Record: 15-4 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -320
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3” | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.42 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.32 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 0.76 (35% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 71%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Split decision win over Khaos Williams

Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo

Record: 28-8 | Age: 44 | Betting line: +265
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 14 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 5’9” | Reach: 70” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.15 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.60 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 0.98 (43% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 59%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Danny Roberts

Every once in a while, you find a fighter and just get weirdly attached. You don’t sing their praises on message boards or tout them as future champions, but you’re happy when they succeed and sad when they struggle. This could be because you enjoy seeing them in action on a basic entertainment level or just because they are, to use recent Internet lingo, your blorbo.

That’s me with Trinaldo. I was a fan even before he fought on TUF: Brazil as a Middleweight, having seen his name crop up on prospect lists beforehand. It’s been delightful watching him become and remain a genuine threat even in his mid-40s, and his career has been a resounding success by any reasonable metric. 14-4 in his last 18, one of those losses a bogus decision against Alexander Hernandez, and wins in five of his last six over dangerous customers like Bobby Green and Jai Herbert.

This is an extended plea to keep all of his successes in mind and not paint him as a never-was when he loses to Brown.

“Rude Boy” knows how to use his height and reach much better than the likes of Danny Roberts, meaning Trinaldo will have far more issues getting inside to land that bomb of a left hand. This was on full display against Khaos Williams, who while not as seasoned or technically sound as Trinaldo, is quite a bit faster and more aggressive. Plus, while Trinaldo does have a powerful ground game to lean on, Brown’s range management and increasingly stout defensive grappling figure to shut it down.

Trinaldo definitely still has enough left in the tank to keep him competitive, but the difference in dimensions looks like more than he can overcome. Brown potshots his way to a wide decision victory.

Prediction: Brown via unanimous decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 61 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 61: “Dern vs. Yan” news and notes, be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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