As would be expected of a fight between the fifth and sixth-best fighters in a division, the UFC Vegas 39 main event of Marina Rodriguez vs Mackenzie Dern was a competitive scrap where both shined at their strengths. However, Rodriguez proved to be too tactical for her opponent over five rounds.
In the first round, Dern came out energetic and looking to earn some respect on the feet. It probably caught the 34-year-old off guard at first as she likely expected a heavy grappling attack. But Rodriguez seemed to settle in and was a bit more effective landing her strikes and keeping the fight on the feet. However, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion was game in a round Rodriguez probably eeked out.
Marina Rodriguez pulls away late to beat Mackenzie Dern at UFC Vegas 39
The second round saw a major switch in momentum for Dern, as a failed Judo throw led to a sweep on the mat and the gifted grappler in the top position on her opponent. Rodriguez did not lie idle and looked to defend by attempting a d’arce choke from the bottom. The 28-year-old weathered that defensive storm and settled in just as her foe did in the previous five minutes. She showed her mat talents and even put her opponent in a reverse crucifix from behind. She dominated the second half of the round but wasn’t able to get in striking distance of a finish.
After losing the round, Rodriguez adjusted and seemed to find the range she needed to do damage while staying out of Dern’s grasp. The third round ended up being one of her best as she seemed to widdle away at her fellow Brazilian and land consistently with kicks and punches as Dern couldn’t land clean shots often.
The fourth round was more of the same, as Rodriguez kept the fight on the feet and picked away at distance. The fight IQ of the strawweight contender showed as a difficult second round seemed like ages ago. Despite being outmatched on the feet, Dern still was aggressive and tried to pressure. Eventually, with less than a minute left Dern did score a nasty takedown that ended with in her being in full mount. However, with such little time left in the round, Rodriguez survived, although things got a little hairy there.
In the fifth and final round, both women had moments early as they tried to get the last round in a back-and-forth affair. Yet, with the fight in the balance, Rodriguez’s (15-1-2) dominance of the distance, outstanding striking technique, and variety helped her pull away in the second half of the final five minutes.
At the end of the fight, the judges saw the fight similarly and awarded the sixth-ranked talent the unanimous decision victory. She has now won three straight against ranked fighters, with the last two being in main event opportunities.
The defeat ends a four-fight winning streak for Dern (11-2) and is just the second loss of her career.