Opinion: What’s next for Mackenzie Dern after UFC 224

A controversial weigh in attempt unfortunately overshadowed a near picture perfect trip to Rio de Janeiro for grappling ace Mackenzie Dern at UFC 224. She secured her second UFC victory and remained undefeated in her professional career after submitting Amanda Cooper in the opening round of their catchweight contest.

Initially, both women were slated to compete in a three round strawweight clash until Friday morning, with decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Dern, stepping onto the scales weighing an astonishing 7lbs higher than the strawweight limit at 123lbs. Arizona born Dern subsequently gave up 30% of her fight purse to Cooper and the contest was allowed to go ahead.

Mackenzie showed an obvious striking improvement from her flat footed, stiff and rudimentary display against Ashley Yoder. Part way through the contest, Dern ducked under a shot from Cooper throwing a big overhand right, setting up the eventual submission victory. Diving straight into mount, Mackenzie began raining down ground and pound, forcing “ABC” to her back, where she secured both hooks and locked up a vice like rear-naked choke. After some resistance, Cooper relinquished her pride and tapped in a timely fashion. So, what’s next for the BJJ player? Here are some legitimate options below.

MMA: UFC 224

Move to flyweight: Regardless of her next opponent Mackenzie Dern, in my opinion, should seriously consider a return to her former home of flyweight. Dern originally competed at 125lbs against Mandy Polk during her time in Legacy Fighting Alliance, argueably looking her most impressive and comfortable to date in her early MMA career.

According to the 25 year-old, her diet for this fight against Cooper led to her overall weight-cut mishap, and a combination of missed flights and careless nutrition resulted in a 7lbs discrepancy. Realistically, unless Dern hires a reputable nutritionist, a move to flyweight is a realistic possibility. Three failed weight cuts only furthers her need for a move in weight division.

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A fight with Paige VanZant: As above, a move to flyweight is more than likely on the horizon for Dern, especially under a UFC demand due to her potential future in the sport and her marketing prospects. A meeting with the recently struggling, but still game Paige ’12 Gauge’ VanZant is truly a prospect versus prospect match up, something hugely marketable for the promotional side of the UFC. Paige is already a notable figure due to her appearance on Dancing With The Stars and her enormous social media following – pairing her alongside the talented Dern furthers both of their pedigrees.

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VanZant is a legitimate striker, evident from her stoppages of Kailin Curran and Bec Rawlings. A meeting with Dern represents an opportunity to snap a two fight slide which includes decision defeats to Aussie Jessica Rose-Clark, and a rear-naked choke defeat to Michelle Waterson. A potential victory over VanZant gives Mackenzie a legitimate big name win, the biggest of her naive run to date.

A fight with Angela Hill: If Dern decides to bring a reputable nutritionist into her team come fight camp time, a stay at strawweight should be met with an opportunity to crack the top 15. A former champion, Angela Hill would be a great shout for all parties involved. The former Invicta FC best is a dangerous Muay Thai practitioner, so she obviously give’s grappling ace Dern her toughest test to date in terms of striking exchanges. The classic striker versus grappler bout also allows Hill to build on her unanimous decision win over Maryna Moroz and halt the progression of a promising up rise.

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Whatever arises next for Dern, the UFC’s marketing machine must be careful not to throw a hugely promising, bilingual star away in search of a quick buck (unfortunately something that has become somewhat of a norm in this era of mixed-martial arts).

– Ross

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