In a sometimes sloppy standup battle, Mackenzie Dern held on long enough, and finally scored a late takedown on Ashley Yoder to propel her to victory in her UFC debut on Saturday.
The long awaited UFC debut of BJJ ace Mackenzie Dern took place Sunday night, part of the televised preliminary card of UFC 222. Welcoming her to the octagon was Ashley Yoder, 0-2 in her UFC career to date. That said, Yoder remained a tough test for the debuting Dern, who was supremely skilled on the ground, but still a work in progress on the feet.
Dern had shown a willingness to exchange on the feet in her previous fight, and she did that same in her coming out party at UFC 222. Dern swung wild early, but it was Yoder proving something, avoiding the takedown attempts of Mackenzie Dern. Yoder then went to the body with a heavy kick, and you had the feeling that Dern might be a little too wild for her own good. Sloppy punches, rushing in, chin high — Dern was certainly tempting fate. She looked far more comfortable pressing Yoder into the fence, changing levels, and briefly taking her down. That allowed Dern to try to take her opponent’s back, but again, Yoder proved she could deal with Dern’s grappling, fighting her off.
Yoder then launched an inside leg kick that wobbled Mackenzie Dern, and left unchecked, those leg strikes could prove effective.
In the second round, Dern continued to press forward throwing heavy hands. While sloppy, she threw with enough power to force Yoder to retreat. With the fight still standing, however, and half the bout to go, the question was whether Dern could continue to hang. Yoder held her own in grappling exchanges against the fence, and the ref eventually broke the pair up, restarting the action in the middle. Then, the inevitable: Mackenzie Dern found herself tagged. Moments later, Yoder landed again with her left hand, then again. Dern maintained her composure, battling back enough to open up a cut by Yoder’s right eye. Dern would shoot for a takedown towards the end of the round — but much to her chagrin was stuffed once more.
Round three saw Ashley Yoder and Mackenzie Dern clinching along the cage, with the pair trading knees. Dern worked hard for the takedown, but it simply wasn’t happening. And just when it seemed like this could be Yoder’s big moment, Dern was finally able to get her to the canvas. There, she was able to bloody her further, get hooks in, and work on securing a choke. Yoder would survive the round, but the sequence likely put Dern up on the scorecards. Which it did one two, giving her a split decision.
Mackenzie Dern def. Ashley Yoder by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)