LAS VEGAS — Mackenzie Dern is never going to be known as a striker in MMA, not with the world-class jiu-jitsu that she possesses.
But Dern’s striking has developed nicely during her four-fight winning streak and has been a big factor in those wins.
She faces Marina Rodriguez on Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 39 at Apex, and she knows it would be a bad idea to stand and bang with Rodriguez. But the striking has made her jiu-jitsu that much more lethal, and it’s why she’s a good bet to win this fight.
Dern is -160 to win at BetMGM, while Rodriguez is +130. Since 2020, Dern has defeated Hannah Cifers by submission by kneebar; Randa Markos by submission by armbar, Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision and Nina Nunes by submission by armbar.
It’s an impressive run, but it may not be better than Rodriguez’s recent efforts. Rodriguez won a unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson in May and stopped Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 in January.
She lost a split decision to Carla Esparza on July 26, 2020, in a fight she looked very good in for long stretches.
Rodriguez is an expert striker and six of her 14 victories have come by KO. But Dern’s striking is vastly better than it had been and it’s not like she’s going to force Dern to shoot at the opening bell. Dern has reason to be confident in her striking and while she’s probably going to be outstruck by Rodriguez over the long haul, it’s going to play well because Rodriguez has to be worried about her submission skills.
Dern’s jiu-jitsu is far and away the best skill either of the fighters own. She has every submission in the book and she can score submissions from every position.
Rodriguez can’t afford to spend any significant amount of time on the ground with Dern. Rodriguez is a purple belt, but is leagues behind Dern in terms of BJJ skill.
I see the fight going the distance and Dern winning a decision, so I’ll play Dern and lay the -160.
Other bets for UFC Vegas 39
• I’ll take Charles Rosa at +145 to win over Damon Jackson (-175).
• I will lay the -300 and take Phil Hawes to win over Deron Winn (+240).
• I like Sabina Mazo at -165 to defeat Mariya Agapova (+135).