Making her Octagon return this weekend in tandem with the #5 ranked strawweight contender, Nina Nunes — surging Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Mackenzie Dern believes a shot at undisputed 115-pounds spoils could await her by the end of 2021.
Sitting at #11 in the official strawweight pile, Dern has the opportunity to possibly crack the division’s top-five with a victory over Nunes, who makes her return to the Octagon for the first time since UFC 238 back in June of 2019 — where she dropped a unanimous decision loss to the undefeated, Tatiana Suarez.
In the time spent away from the Octagon, Nunes, along with her partner, current two-weight champion, Amanda Nunes welcomed their first child, Raegan Ann Nunes.
The victor of three on the trot, RVCA and Jason Parillo trainee, Dern has embarked on a splendid run of form recently, scoring a unanimous decision victory over fellow grappling standout, former Invicta FC strawweight champion, Virna Jandiroba — suffering a broken nose during their UFC 256 clash last December.
On the cusp of contention at 115-pounds, the Arizona-born grappler is planning an active 2021 like the annum prior, and has sights set on a challenge to strawweight gold by the end of this year.
“Yeah, I think so, for sure,” Dern said when asked by MMA Junkie reporter John Morgan if a title challenge could be in reach by the end of the year at a media scrum ahead of UFC Vegas 23. “Like I said, it all depends on what happens on this fight (with Nunes). I think this fight is going to be a big determining factor in my career. So hopefully winning and winning really good with hopefully set me up for, you know — what could come next, they (the UFC) have Rose (Namajunas), Carla Esparza, Yan Xiaonan, and Zhang Weili. They’re all fighting in the next two weeks,” Dern explained. “So a lot of things are going to happen in the top-five.“
Whilst a victory over Nunes would likely catapult the 28-year-old into the top-five of the division, Dern is in no rush to push for a title challenge, explaining how she’s eager to score at least one, if not two more fights beyond this weekend’s outing first.
“I would like to have maybe one or two more fights (before a title shot),” Dern said.”Really, my coaches, they decide when I’m ready — really Jiu-Jitsu-wise, I can beat any of them, you know. The champion, all the way to the newbies in the UFC. The ground game; I can win — but we wanna be champion, and champion — you need to be good at everything and preparing for anything and be able to mix in and melt everything together.“
“I think if I can get (over) my anxiousness in the fights, to calm down a little bit — I think a lot of people notice that maybe if I hit a good punch, I kinda go forward a little bit, then the person’s like recovering and breathing and then I lose the good opportunity,” Dern said.
In the midst of a three-fight winning-spree, Dern added the above-mentioned, Jandiroba to an armbar victory over Randa Markos, and a quickfire kneebar win over Hannah Cifers last September and May, respectively. The armbar stoppage of Markos came as Dern’s sixth submission success from ten professional wins.
A whopping eight-time gold medalist in World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, Dern, the daughter of renowned grappler, Megaton Dias has scored three World Cup wins, an ADCC World Championship, and two World Jiu-Jitsu Championships to name a few.