Tomorrow on the main card of UFC Vegas 23 we are going to see a pretty important matchup in the strawweight division. Top eleven contenders will battle it out as Mackenzie Dern (10-1) takes on the returning Nina Nunes (10-6).
For Nunes, this is her first UFC appearance since giving birth last year. She has not competed inside the octagon since June of 2019 so it’s been almost a two year layoff for the fifth ranked strawweight in the world.
Nunes has had a very interesting tenure in the UFC so far. She made her debut back in 2014 and it didn’t start out well. She lost a decision to Juliana Lima. Then she had a year off before losing another decision to Justine Kish.
Following the back-to-back losses, Nunes had another year in between fights. However, when she returned to the UFC, she looked better than ever. Nunes won four straight which included wins over Angela Hill, Randa Markos, and former title challenger Claudia Gadelha.
The last time we saw Nunes was at UFC 238 where she lost a decision to Tatiana Suarez. It will be interesting to see how Nunes looks in her return after this layoff. Someone who knows all about that kind of a layoff is Mackenzie Dern.
Dern is one of the most hyped strawweights in the UFC. She is one of the best jiu jitsu practitioners in the world and she’s shown that off to the tune of six slick submissions in her career.
Like Nunes, Dern took a year and a half off after having a baby. She lost her first career fight in her UFC return, but since then, she’s been sensational. Since her loss to Amanda Ribas, Dern has gone 3-0.
UFC Vegas 23 Prediction
This is a really tough matchup to predict at UFC Vegas 23 and honestly I would stay away from it if I was a betting man. My biggest question mark is around how Nunes is going to look upon her return.
If both fighters were fresh and active, I really like Nunes. She has the grappling defense to keep this standing and I think everyone would agree that she is better and more fluid on her feet than Mackenzie Dern.
While Dern has made improvements, Nunes is the better striker. However, is Nunes going to be tentative and uncomfortable in her UFC return? Will there be any rust? Dern has won three fights in the last 11 months so we know that she’s ready to go.
I’m incredibly torn on this matchup, but I’m going to lean slightly towards Mackenzie Dern. If Nunes comes out looking like the same fighter she was in the third round against Tatiana Suarez, I think she can easily win this fight.
However, there are just too many questions around her UFC return. With Mackenzie Dern, this fight only needs to hit the mat once for her to find a submission. When she has that ace in the bag and factoring in how active she’s been, it’s hard to pick against.
Prediction: Mackenzie Dern by Unanimous Decision