Arizona native and grappling ace Mackenzie Dern claims the former inaugural strawweight champion turned her down before the Marina Rodriguez fight materialized.
Slated for Oct. 9, two surging strawweights will vie for supremacy that advances them one step closer to a championship opportunity. This bout is important for the division, and hurdles have been erected along the way for the strawweight booking. The fight was reportedly targeted for July, but due to scheduling issues, Marina Rodriguez was forced to push the contest back further.
Mackenzie Dern is unbeaten in her last four fights. At UFC on ABC 2, the grappling ace met the #7-ranked Nina Nunes and made short work of her. In the opening round, Dern got the fight to the floor and locked in a tight armbar for the finish. The stoppage marked the Brazilian’s fourth submission win in the UFC.
Facing Dern will be Marina Rodriguez who offers up an aggressive standup style where she mostly focuses her efforts on boxing and damage. Rodriguez proved to have some of the sharpest hands in the strawweight division after her Fight Island knockout of the #11-ranked Amanda Ribas.
Ahead of Dern’s fight with Rodriguez, she spoke with Low kick MMA and provided clarity as to why the fight with Esparza never came to fruition.
“They (the UFC) offered Carla Esparza but I think maybe she wanted to wait for the belt,” Dern said. “So who knows? Maybe being in a good fight in the main event (against Marina Rodriguez), I can jump in front and maybe go to the belt.“
“I don’t know if she (Esparza) was on her honeymoon, she had just fought Yan (Xiaonan),” Dern explained. “She had a great performance, you know, so I don’t think she got injured or anything in that fight but, I don’t know how good her camp was, she was probably tired — just take a little time (off). I know she felt like she should get the belt, and I agreed. If it wasn’t Zhang Weili, I would think Carla.“
Dern wasn’t too surprised that the Esparza turned the fight down. After hearing that “The Cookie Monster” was closing in on a potential shot at gold, Dern was cognizant of how things were going to play out.
The 34-year old Rodriguez is coming off back-to-back wins against Ribas, and Michelle Waterson. On Oct. 9, Dern and Rodriguez will meet in a high-pressure fight with title aspirations hanging in the balance. The grappling phenom will look to expand her winning streak to 5-0. Conversely, Rodriguez intends to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that she is a bonafide contender in the strawweight division with the power to back it up.