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Dern channeling ‘aggression’ from ‘crazy’ divorce and camp into Hill fight

Mackenzie Dern returns to action this weekend in the main event of UFC Vegas 73 against Angela Hill, and it’s a big question mark as to what form she’ll be in.

Dern’s last fight was a majority decision loss to strawweight contender Yan Xiaonan in October 2022. Shortly after, the jiujitsu champion announced on social media that she had split with her husband Wesley Santos. While she hasn’t gone into too many details on that, she did admit during fight week media day that the divorce and issues with her gym have been challenging.

“This whole camp has been so crazy,” Dern said. “My divorce has been so crazy. Everything. My coach [Jason] Parillo was out of town for a month with Luke [Rockhold] for his bare-knuckle fight.”

“I feel like so many things are trying to bring me down,” she said later. “I changed managers, the divorce, the gym. There’s so much stuff going on that I don’t want something to take me off of my course. To stay on course I need to have a plan.”

That plan is to be more mindful of what the judges are seeing. Submission grappling doesn’t get much respect these days. Effective striking and grappling is often boiled down to damage caused by judges, and that has led to some wonky results for Dern.

“So it’s basically, this fight was about tactic, and having this vision of fighting that I never had before,” she said. “And I feel kind of like, man, I’m like ten fights in the UFC and I just found that out now, you know? To understand that I just need to win the round, and if you do that each round, you win the fight. I would finish the round and out of one minute I’d spend 20 second thinking did I win that round? At this level, the top five, the top ten, you can’t finish the round and not know if you won or not.

“You need to be leaving the round and knowing ‘I’m winning here, I’m losing here, okay I needed to steal the round.’ What did the judges see? That’s that tactic I was able to train this camp, since it was so crazy. It was more about understanding the MMA game and how we do use the judges and you do steal things, you steal the round when you do this, instead of me going for a submission and falling on bottom and maybe they steal the round.”

Maybe she needs to subscribe to Dominick Cruz’s new cut-based theory of fighting? She certainly sounds excited to punch someone in the face.

“I’m coming with a lot of aggression from my personal life and everything,” Dern said. “So nothing personal against Angela, I have a lot of respect for her. But I need to get it done.”

This story originally appeared on MMA Mania

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