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UFC Vegas 23: Nina Ansaroff vs Mackenzie Dern Preview and Prediction

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The first event on the April 2021 calendar for the UFC just so happens to be the promotion’s second stint on ABC Network as well. The main event will feature two middleweight contenders in Marvin Vettori and Kevin Holland, stepping in on short notice to replace Darren Till.

Also on the card is the return of the number five ranked women’s strawweight, Nina Ansaroff. She will be taking on one of, if not the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the women’s weight divisions, Mackenzie Dern. Join us as we take a look into the careers of both combatants and break down the paths to victory for Ansaroff vs Dern!

Ansaroff vs Dern: Meet the Fighters

Nina Ansaroff

TORONTO, CANADA – DECEMBER 07: Nina Ansaroff poses on the scale during the UFC 231 weigh-in at Scotiabank Arena on December 7, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Nina Ansaroff will be making her return to the octagon at UFC Vegas 23 after nearly two years on the shelf. During this time, however, Ansaroff would become a mother in September of 2020 along with her wife and UFC great, Amanda Nunes. Now, six months removed from the birth of her daughter, Nina looks to come back in a big way and solidify her top-five ranking.

Ansaroff, who holds a professional record of 10-6 (4-3 in UFC) debuted in the organization back in 2014 and it didn’t start too well. Nina would drop her first two fights in the UFC, both via Unanimous Decision. However, she bounced back in a big way, winning her next four bouts, three coming against top-level contenders. These names included Angela Hill, Randa Markos, and former title challenger, Claudia Gadelha, all of which would come via decision. 

After her four-fight win streak, Anasaroff would find herself in what was then looked at as a number one contender fight against Tatiana Suarez. Nina would end up losing this bout, just like every other opponent that has squared off with Suarez, and thus her hiatus would begin.

Now back in action for the first time since June of 2019, Ansaroff has a very big test in front of her in Mackenzie Dern. A win here would keep Nina at the top of the division, potentially just one more away from a title shot. A loss would mark two in a row and a potential step back, hindering her from getting a chance to be “Mom Champ”. It will be very interesting to see how Ansaroff will look in this bout given the time off, but a victory is sure to set her up for something big next.

Mackenzie Dern

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 30: Mackenzie Dern celebrates after her submission victory over Hannah Cifers in their strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 30, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Mackenzie Dern is widely recognized as one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artists in the entire UFC. Rightfully so, with multiple BJJ world championships under her belt and six submission victories, she is straight-up dangerous when the fight hits the canvas. Coming into UFC Vegas 23 with a record of 10-1 (5-1 in UFC), Dern is making her first leap into the top of the strawweight division against Nina Ansaroff.

Dern made her first appearance in the UFC in 2018, with a lot of hype surrounding her, being that she was undefeated at the time, and she showed why starting her tenure in the promotion with two victories. Her debut would come against a seasoned veteran in Ashley Yoder, and Mackenzie was able to edge out a split decision. Ever since her remaining four victories in the UFC have been much more decisive. 

Dern would have a year and a half long hiatus, similar to her opponent, Ansaroff, and would start her own family, becoming a mother in June of 2019. Upon her return to the octagon in October of that same year, Mackenzie would have her first taste of defeat, when she clashed with another very popular prospect within the division, Amanda Ribas. This fight would be a fantastic bout, with both women having their moments, however, Ribas had the overall advantage in the striking department and took home the win.

Since then, Dern has been flawless, coming into UFC Vegas 23 on a three-fight win streak. Two of which came via submission against Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos, plus an amazing three-round war with Virna Jandiroba. All of these wins would come in 2020, with Mackenzie making a strong case for female fighter of the year last year. 

Now, as previously mentioned, her first crack at the top-five competition will come against a very formidable opponent in Nina Ansaroff. Can Dern keep pace in the striking department? Can she utilize her incredible grappling skills to pull off another submission finish? Many eyes are on Mackenzie here in her biggest test yet and it will be interesting to see how she can respond under the bright lights.

Ansaroff vs Dern Fight Breakdown

On paper, we have a classic grappler vs striker matchup here. Ansaroff carrying a very high level, distance striking approach, and Dern being the submission ace on the canvas. So, which woman will be able to use their strengths to their advantage? That is what we will take a deeper look at here!

First, we have Nina, who has shown on numerous occasions that she possesses a great standup game. She uses a great jab to keep her opponents at bay and mixes in a healthy portion of leg and body kicks to keep them guessing. However, we have seen her weaknesses when it comes to the grappling department. Granted her last loss was to Tatiana Suarez who most like to call the “female version of Khabib Nurmagomedov”, she has also been taken down multiple times in other bouts.

When the fight goes to the ground, Ansaroff has shown the ability to get back to her feet. But, we have also seen her become weaponless and allow opponents to gain ground control time and land some ground and pound shots. What we have not seen too much, is how she performers when it comes to submission defense. It is safe to say, at least one time, if not way more in this bout, she is going to have to showcase these skills to not get finished by Dern.

For Mackenzie, she is a world-class grappler with outstanding submission techniques. If you allow her even the slightest of openings on the mat, you will likely be tapping out, choked out, or be given some sort of limb injury moments later. She truly is that dangerous. Similar to Nina however, she does have her own weaknesses, Dern’s being in the standup realm. Now, to her credit, we have seen a steady improvement in striking from Mackenzie in every bout since her loss to Ribas. She is working hard to become as well-rounded a fighter as possible. The issue is if she has gained enough ground to keep pace with Ansaroff in this department.

On the feet, expect this fight to be very competitive, with Nina edging out most of the exchanges in her favor. When this fight inevitably goes to the ground, it is almost guaranteed that Dern will control this aspect of the contest. So, will there be a finish in this bout you may ask? Well, lean toward no, but it is always fun to expect the unexpected! 

Nina will hold her all in this bout and have some good moments on the feet. However, in the end, look for Dern’s grappling to be the decisive factor in this one. Ansaroff is as tough as they come and for that alone, do not anticipate Mackenzie being able to finish her. But, Dern will dominate on the ground, be very active in her submission attempts, and potentially even show some ground and pound, which can pay huge dividends when your opponent won’t allow the submissions to come through.

Just know, that the winner of this bout is going to be looked at amongst the elite at 115 pounds, which says a lot in this stacked division. All it takes for the winner of this fight is one more win, at the most two, before they find themselves standing across the octagon from a champion looking to steal their gold. 

Ansaroff vs Dern Prediction: Mackenzie Dern via Decision

Let us know your predictions for Ansaroff vs Dern in the comments below!

Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images and Embed from Getty Images

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Dominic Sallee is a Combat Sports writer. He focuses primarily on the UFC, with plans to venture out with pieces from other MMA organizations in the future. Along with writing, Dominic is also the Co-Host of the Below Average Joe's MMA Podcast, which produces 2-3 new episodes per week about all things in the MMA community!