Marina Rodríguez passed another important test and made her case as a possible future title contender. Surviving several difficult positions on the ground, Rodriguez defeated Mackenzie Dern by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.
It was a classic battle between a striker and a fighter (Dern is a former world champion of Brazilian jiu-jitsu) and, in this case, Rodríguez, the striker, took the victory.
Dern had Rodriguez in deep trouble in the second round, looking for multiple submissions on the ground. But Rodriguez managed to survive the jiu-jitsu attack and win the next three rounds with his punch. For the most part, Rodriguez kept Dern at bay out of the second round, thanks to his superior standup acumen. He kept his distance and peppered Dern with hand combinations and front kicks to the legs and body.
Going into the fight, ESPN had Rodriguez at No. 4 and Dern at No. 6 at strawweight. Rose Namajunas will defend her UFC women’s strawweight title against Zhang Weili at UFC 268 on November 6 in New York. Former champion Carla Esparza is likely to get the winner of Namajunas vs. Zhang, but now Rodriguez has put himself on the championship scene.
“I’ve been ready to fight five rounds, to fight for a title since the day I started,” Rodriguez said. “We know there may be some girls ahead of me, but if they are not available … I may be ready for a title fight.”
Rodríguez (15-1-2), 34, has won three matches in a row. He was coming off a unanimous decision win over Michelle Waterson in May, another Fight Night main event appearance. The Brazilian is 5-1-2 in the UFC, with her only loss to Esparza and a pair of draws to Cynthia Calvillo and Randa Markos.
Dern (11-2), once considered the best pound-for-pound female jiu-jitsu competitor in the world, came on a four-fight winning streak. He was coming off a first round submission on Nina Nunes in April.
With information from ESPN’s Marc Raimondi