Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight contenders Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill will clash TONIGHT (Sat., May 20, 2023) inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One week later and two rounds longer than originally scheduled, this Strawweight scrap features a pair of women trying to actualize a title run. Of the two, Dern, has come a bit closer in her young career. She’s advanced up the ladder quickly, but thus far, members of the Top 5 have been too sharp on the feet and able to avoid her vaunted grappling. Conversely, Hill has not yet managed to put together an extended win streak and break into title eliminator territory. She’s come close on a couple occasions, but close decisions never seem to break her way, and she’s lost to most of the Top 10 at this point. Still, she enters this main event slot having won two in a row, and beating Dern would be a big deal.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Tecia Torres (UFC 273), Nina Nunes (UFC Vegas 23), Virna Jandiroba (UFC 256), Randa Markos (UFC Vegas 11)
Key Losses: Xiaonan Yan (UFC Vegas 61), Marina Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 39), Amanda Ribas (UFC Fight Night 161)
Keys to Victory: Dern’s grappling is otherworldly. Phrases like elite and world-class get thrown around to describe individual aspects of a fighter’s game all the time, but Dern is the rare case of a fighter truly being one of the absolute best in their background martial art.
It stands to reason, then, that getting Hill to the ground and strangling here is the best path to victory here. The question is how? Dern isn’t the best pure wrestler, and Hill’s takedown defense percentage is actually very strong overall, despite being out-wrestled in several losses to women like Virna Jandiroba and Jessica Andrade.
The answer is ... trickery!
Dern is perhaps the only UFC fighter who can pull guard in an attacking manner — not like Kron Gracie’s recent and unfortunate display of butt scooting. She’s also more than capable of catching kicks and running through for easy takedowns, as well as combining her jiu-jitsu into takedown attempts in strategies like shooting a single then falling into a leg lock entanglement.
Lastly, Hill has fallen victim several times to the double leg with a trip-style shot, so perhaps Dern should give that an attempt as well.
Key Wins: Maryna Moroz (UFC on FOX 28), Loma Lookboonmee (UFC Fight Night 168), Lupita Goodinez (UFC San Diego), Emily Ducote (UFC Orlando)
Key Losses: Yan Xiaonan (UFC 238), Rose Namajunas (UFC 192), Tecia Torres (UFC 265, UFC 188), Virna Jandiroba (UFC Vegas 54)
Keys to Victory: In the interest of conciseness, I only list a few names in the “Key Wins/Losses” sections. Hill makes that difficult, however, because she’s lost to about half of the Strawweight Top 15 at some point or another. Admittedly, if the judges were a bit more apt, at least a couple of those defeats would instead be in the victory column.
More to the point, Hill is a very solid volume striker with decent pop in her hands. She has the skill set to really expose Dern’s relative inexperience on the feet, as deny takedowns and picking Dern apart is a very clear path to victory.
The issue comes in that Dern is much more dangerous than Hill as a finishing threat, and this is a 25-minute contest. Hill has to be perfect, because any bit of grappling with Dern could easily end the contest. Even if Hill’s submission defense holds up, a half-round of defending submissions will leave her fatigued and more likely to get wrestled moving forward.
Strike selection is key. As often as possible, Hill has to be punishing the body and sticking Dern with strikes that keep the distance. When they do clinch, Hill has to break dirty with hard shots to discourage Dern from trying to clinch again. Lastly, Hill’s kicks are an important part of her game, but setting them up well is absolutely paramount.
One woman leaves the cage ranked in the Top 10.
Dern’s last fight opposite Yan could have easily scored her a title shot with a win. She’s a popular fighter with a unique skill set, which is helpful in scoring big opportunities. Bouncing back into the win column here will likely see her fight up the ladder once more, potentially against a Top Five opponent next.
A loss, meanwhile, would be a considerable setback.
As for Hill, this is a solid opportunity. Beating Dern advances her into the Top 10 for perhaps the first time in her long UFC career. Victory would also extend her win streak to three, which could be enough to score Hill a rematch with one of the highly ranked women she’s faced earlier in her career.
TONIGHT at UFC Vegas 73, Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill will battle in the main event. Which woman earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 73 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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