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UFC Vegas 73 preview: ‘Dern vs Hill’ predictions

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 73 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., May 20, 2023) on ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a strawweight main event between Top 15 title hopefuls Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill, a five-round headliner with major title implications for late 2023 and beyond.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES FLYWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., June 3, 2023, with No. 3-seeded contender, Kai Kara-France, face rising No. 7-ranked Amir Albazi. In UFC Vegas 74’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, an exciting Featherweight bout sees No. 15-ranked contender, Alex Caceres, lock horns with all-action Daniel Pineda.

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

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the middleweight scrap between Anthony Hernandez and Edmen Shahbazyan, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the UFC Vegas 73 preliminary card — which he wrote after Montana banned his access to Tik Tok — by clicking here and here. For the latest “Dern vs. Hill” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

For the rest of the UFC Vegas 73 main card predictions click here.

115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill

Mackenzie Dern

Record: 12-3, 1 NC | Age: 30 | Betting line: -175
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’4“ | Reach: 63” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.02 | Striking accuracy: 36%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.39 | Striking Defense: 52%
Takedown Average: 0.61 (11% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 40%
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: Majority decision loss to Xiaonan Yan

Angela “Overkill” Hill

Record: 15-12 | Age: 38 | Betting line: +145
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 10 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 10 DEC
Height: 5’3“ | Reach: 64” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.68 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.97 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 0.58 (29% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 77%
Current Ranking: No. 14 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Emily Ducote

Mackenzie Dern makes her Octagon return tomorrow night at APEX and it’s hard to believe we’re now more than five years into her UFC career, which has seen its share of highs and lows. Dern entered the promotion with a perfect 5-0 record and quickly jumped out to a 6-1 start with four submissions, which should surprise no one when you consider her remarkable run — and multiple gold medals — on the jiu-jitsu circuit. After quickly disposing of Nina Nunes at UFC on ABC 2, Dern found herself ranked in the Top 5 at women’s strawweight and Top 15 on the women’s pound-for-pound chart.

Not too shabby.

Unfortunately Dern was unable to hold her position and has since fallen out of the pound-for-pound Top 15 and slipped to No. 8 at 115 pounds after losing two of her last three, courtesy of decision defeats to Marina Rodriguez and Xiaonan Yan. Dern is an absolute savage on the ground but completely outmatched on the feet, sporting one of the worst percentages in striking accuracy (36%) across any weight class, male or female. That’s not uncommon for grapplers who transition to MMA. Former middleweight title contender turned welterweight bruiser Demian Maia was also far below the 50% mark in striking accuracy (43%) and it cost him against the upper echelon of the division.

Maia was able to make up for that deficit with a dogged wrestling attack but Dern has an anemic 11% takedown accuracy, whiffing nearly 30 times across her last five fights. Expect that to be an issue against Hill, who has serviceable takedown defense and 26 fights under the UFC and Invicta banners. Working against “Overkill” — who is an accomplished Muay Thai striker — is the fact that her Dern fight will be contested across five rounds. That means Hill has to survive 25 minutes against an opponent whose only focus is to take her down, tie her up, and make her tap. Hill is not a prolific finisher and has gone nine fights without securing a stoppage. Without the threat of the knockout, it will be hard to keep Dern honest and the grappling specialist may commit to eating a few shots if it gets her through the front door, so to speak.

There are not a lot of fancy words to describe this matchup. Dern will only strike to set up her jiu-jitsu attacks and Hill will only grapple defensively to get back to (or stay on) her feet. Dern is favored by the bookies but not by much and it feels like the safe pick, it’s just hard for me to side with a fighter coming off a loss — who hasn’t looked great in recent years — against a resurgent veteran who’s not only one of the most active fighters on the roster, but also one who is riding back-to-back wins over quality competition.

Prediction: Hill def. Dern by decision

185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Edmen Shahbazyan

Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez

Record: 10-2, 1 NC | Age: 29 | Betting line: -210
Wins: 1 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.03 | Striking accuracy: 59%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.50 | Striking Defense: 47%
Takedown Average: 6.49 (64% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 66%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission win over Marc-Andre Barriault

Edmen “The Golden Boy” Shahbazyan

Record: 12-3 | Age: 25 | Betting line: +170
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.59 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.87 | Striking Defense: 46%
Takedown Average: 2.31 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 65%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Dalcha Lungiambula

Edmen Shahbazyan first made headlines for being managed by former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, a partnership that dissolved when the “Rowdy” kingdom crumbled under the weight of its own hype. “The Golden Boy” is now aligned with veteran manager Ali Abdelaziz (take that however you want) and appears to have finally turned a corner after a dismal three-fight losing streak that took some of the bloom off his middleweight rose. It’s still too early to determine if Shahbazyan is going to become the next big thing at 185 pounds, despite his thrashing of Dalcha Lungiambula at UFC 282, because it was Dalcha Lungiambula and the self-proclaimed “Champion” is 35 and lost four straight. A win is a win, of course, but let’s not get too crazy here because it’s still a long way to the top.

That said, Shahbazyan is still just 25 years old and has yet to enter his competitive prime and when you compete at that age in today’s MMA landscape, it’s possible to look completely different in each successive fight — for the better. It’s also worth pointing out that Shahbazyan trains at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and regularly goes head-to-head with fellow UFC middleweights Sean Strickland, Chris Curtis, and Marvin Vettori — and has even given heavyweight hurter Francis Ngannou a tough time on the mats. Now we’ll see if “The Golden Boy” can translate that success in the gym into wins in the cage and he’ll certainly have his hands full this weekend at APEX.

Anthony Hernandez blasted his way into UFC with a 40-second knockout of Jordan Wright at Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in June 2018, only to see his victory overturned by Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) because of marijuana metabolites. Then things went from bad-to-worse when “Fluffy” (an amazing nickname) faltered in his Octagon debut, falling to Markus Perez by way of second-round submission. Undaunted, Hernandez would go on to capture four of his next five — three by way of submission — and is currently riding a three-fight win streak, which includes his finish over Marc-Andre Barriault at UFC Vegas 60 last fall. If there is one critique of his recent run, outside of a technical knockout loss to Kevin Holland at UFC Jacksonville, it’s that Hernandez hasn’t beaten anyone ranked in the Top 15. By contrast, Shahbazyan cracked the Top 10 when he finished No. 11-ranked Brad Tavares at UFC 244 in late 2019 (prior to both fighters losing subsequent bouts and falling off the charts).

Shahbazyan is a dangerous striker with serious power, registering 10 knockouts in 12 of his wins. Even so, Hernandez is the superior fighter, statistically speaking, across the board. He’s more accurate with his punches, throws a higher volume, scores more takedowns, and keeps a more punishing pace throughout the fight. If Shahbazyan is going to win this fight, he’s first going to have to get Hernandez to respect his power — or simply toe-tag him before the wrestling even comes into play. With just three rounds to work against a fighter with flawless conditioning, I expect “The Golden Boy” to spend the majority of their 15-minute affair on defense, as “Fluffy” ties him up against the fence or neutralizes him on the ground.

Winning ugly is still winning.

Prediction: Hernandez def. Shahbazyan by decision

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UFC Vegas 73 main card predictions RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 73 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 73 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Dern vs. Hill” fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.

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