Mackenzie Dern on UFC Vegas 39 Main Event slot: ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for’

No. 4 ranked women’s strawweight Mackenzie Dern headlines her first UFC event on Saturday taking on No. 6 ranked Marina Rodriguez in the UFC Vegas 39 main event.

Dern, who has a world championship jiu-jitsu background, is used to high pressure situations. She’s been competing most of her life in competitions. To main event a UFC event doesn’t add any pressure to the 28-year old.

“I’ve always said that I’m better under pressure. Always, since my jiu-jitsu career, like the regional events I always fight worse than the big events. I’m always able to kind of grow to the occasion,” Dern said on Wednesday during the UFC Vegas 39 media day. “This is what I’ve been waiting for, so I’m really, really excited about it.”

Dern (11-1) knows what brought her to where she is. She’s a world class jiu-jitsu practitioner. Lately, she works almost everyday on her striking, but she’s still one of the best in the world on the ground. While she’s shown marked improvement in her striking, she’s won three of her last four fights by submission. Seven of her 11 wins have been by submission.

Working with Jason Parillo on her striking, Dern is confident on her feet, but says Parillo isn’t making her into a striker. He’s helping her become a champion.

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“Now they have to kind of think about my strikes, my punches, and the takedowns are coming way easier and that’s why my submission have come way easier because of how Jason Parillo is not making me a striker but making me a champion,” Dern said. “Coach is just making it easier to be the best fighter that I can be which is keep me with my roots but make me dangerous everywhere.”

Rodriguez (14-1-2) is primarily a striker, but does have a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. Six of her 14 wins have been by knockout. Dern is conformable striking with Rodriguez but knows her easiest path to victory is on the ground.

“I’m going against a striker. The strategy isn’t to be standing up there with her. I don’t want to compare my striking to her striking. Of course, if I go the whole five rounds striking, I’m ready for that, but I think the easiest way to beat her is by the ground,” she said.

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