Mackenzie Dern did not add to her record number of submissions but showed off a different dimension of dangerousness in dominating Angela Hill in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Dern (13-3), a two-time jiu-jitsu world champion whose four submission wins inside the Octagon are the most in UFC strawweight history, spent much of the fight’s 25 minutes in clinches or in control on the canvas, prime positions to set up a tapout. But Hill (15-13) defended gallantly, fending off several armbar attempts. Along the way, Hill absorbed much punishment, which showed on her swollen face and nearly shut left eye, but she survived to the final horn of a lopsided fight.
Two judges scored it 49-44 for Dern, and the third scored it 49-43.
“I tried to get the submission. I’m trying to catch up to Charles ‘Do Bronx’ [Oliveira] with the most submissions,” Dern said, referring to the former men’s lightweight champion, who has a UFC record 16 submissions. Gillian Robertson, who has competed at both flyweight and stratweight, has the most subs among women, with seven.
Dern has been viewed as a grappling specialist, but it was her standup game that put her in position to succeed. Her early takedown attempts failed, but she got the fight to the canvas in the first round with a right hand that floored Hill. In the third, Dern wobbled her opponent with a lead knee to the chin.
Dern, who came in having lost two of her last three fights, let her hands go throughout, landing a career-high 126 significant strikes. Sixty-one of those came while in control on the canvas, where she spent nearly half of the fight.
“I felt good,” said Dern, a 30-year-old who fights out of Huntington Beach, California. “I landed a lot of my striking.” Hill, who is 38 and from San Diego, saw a two-fight winning streak come to an end. Her last 10 fights have gone to decision, and she is 4-6 in those bouts.
Afterward, Dern, who is No. 8 in the ESPN strawweight rankings, called out former champion Rose Namajunas. “I’ve never fought an ex-champion,” she said. “I feel like I could have that opportunity now.”