For years, Tecia Torres has been a study in unfulfilled potential. One of the best strawweight fighters around, always a tough out — and always, seemingly, coming up short in steps up in competition.
But the list of names Torres has lost to reads like a who’s who of female fighting: Rose Namajunas. Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Weili Zhang. Jessica Andrade. All four have won UFC gold; a fifth loss, to Marina Rodriguez, feels like it came to a potential future champ.
Of late, however, Torres has turned things around. Heading into UFC 273, she’d won three straight bouts, and was paired up with Mackenzie Dern — a submission machine who had just come up short against the aforementioned Rodriguez.
Opening up the action on Saturday, Dern went on the attack, but Torres connected with her on the way in. It was all lightning-quick action to start, with Dern displaying improved stand-up, and Torres as quick and accurate as ever.
When they tied up along the fence, it was Torres pressing Dern up against the cage. Nothing would come of that, with the pair breaking and returning to center. Through the first half of the round, the action played out entirely on the feet; Torres would attack the lead leg of Dern, risking a takedown but getting away with it for the time being.
In the final minute of the opening frame, Torres caught Dern with a right hand, fired a couple of side kicks, but most importantly, exited the round without having ended up on the ground.
The clinch came earlier in the second round, and this time, Dern jumped guard — but Torres stayed standing. Dern, meanwhile, began working on a kimura, clinging to Torres like a baby koala. Torres used the fence to carry some of the load; Dern pushed off the fence with her feet, but Torres was still upright. How much carrying 115 pounds or more of Dern was sapping the energy of Tecia Torres remained to be seen, but they’d eventually go to the floor. Dern still had the arm, at least for a moment, but a visibly tired Torres broke free.
Torres, however, stayed on top, stacking her opponent up, and Dern immediately moved to the next submission, looking for a triangle or arm-bar. With two minutes remaining in the round, the second was as much in Dern’s world as the first round has been in Torres’s. Dern transitioned from the arm to a leg, looking for a knee bar. Torres rolled, holding on to Dern, who then began wrenching on the foot. She added some backfists, but Torres made it out of the round.
The final round had a slower start, with Torres on the defensive. Torres nearly found herself in trouble near the midway mark, dumped on her back, but a close call with an upkick later, and she was back to her feet. Torres then got her hands going a little more, and Dern in turn slowed a step. Torres chopped the lead leg of Dern with a kick; Dern fired a heavy punch in return. Another chopping leg kick, and Dern was on her back, but there was no way Torres was wading into that danger zone, instead letting Dern back up.
In the final minute, Dern landed a big right hand, and the pair grappled to the final bell. In a close fight, with all three judges returning 29-28 scores, Mackenzie Dern picked up the split decision win.
As advertised 👏
— UFC (@ufc) April 10, 2022
Official Result: Mackenzie Dern def. Tecia Torres by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)