The women’s strawweight main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night featured a striker versus grappler match between Yan Xiaonan and Mackenzie Dern. Xiaonan, the striker, was able to secure her largest victory to yet by a slim majority vote at a crucial point in her career.
In the opening frame, Xiaonan did well, landing leg kicks and moving around to probe Dern with a variety of blows. Throughout the round, she also managed to avoid takedowns, blocking Dern’s attempt to bring the fight to the ground and scoring a few punches from the top position.
Initially confident in exchanging on the feet, Dern started setting traps in the second round. The jiu-jitsu expert slid forward on her back and tangled up Xiaonan’s legs to force engagement on the ground after Xiaonan blocked a kick from Dern that knocked Dern to the ground.
In order to remind Xiaonan of her superiority on the ground, Dern locked in an omoplata, transitioned to an arm triangle, advanced to mount, and then threatened with additional submission attempts.
Dern’s tactics were quickly recognized by Xiaonan, who avoided harm in the grappling while while continuing to brutally kick Dern’s lead leg. Xiaonan focused on her movement and strength to burst off attacks while avoiding getting pulled into potentially hazardous on-the-ground exchanges as Dern became visibly upset.
After obtaining a takedown and spending virtually all of the fifth round on Xiaonan’s back, Dern was able to control the bout. Any submission attempts, including a late armbar, were successfully resisted by Xiaonan. Xiaonan was able to make it to the final bell and win by majority decision with scores of 48-47, 48-47, and 47-47. Her ability to survive the fight’s perilous finale proved to be sufficient.
After the bout, Xiaonan said through an interpreter, “I know her jiu-jitsu is incredible. “I have a white belt, but she has a black belt. I have worked so hard to prepare for this fight, so I know what to anticipate. Fighting occurred four or five times in this camp. So I was confident I could succeed.”
Given that Xiaonan had lost her previous two battles, the victory was crucial for her. Xiaonan has won 12 straight fights without counting a no contest before suffering TKO losses to Carla Esparza and tight split-decision losses to Marina Rodriguez.
Dern has now lost two of her last three fights; she was defeated by Rodriguez via unanimous decision in October 2021 before defeating Tecia Torres via split decision in April.