Yan Xiaonan edges Mackenzie Dern at UFC Vegas 61

Daniel Cunningham
Mar 5, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, UNITED STATES; Yan Xiaonan reacts after losing to Marina Rodriguez (not pictured) during UFC 272 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In the headliner of UFC Vegas 61, we saw a pivotal matchup in the women’s strawweight division. Top contender battled it out as Mackenzie Dern (12-2) took on Yan Xiaonan (15-3).

Dern entered this contest fresh off her win against Tecia Torres that came back in April. It was a split decision win that came on the heels of her loss to Marina Rodriguez. That loss to Rodriguez snapped a four-fight winning streak for Dern.

Speaking of Marina Rodriguez, that is who Yan Xiaonan fought in her last fight. That fight took place at UFC 272 and Yan lost a very close split decision. Personally, I scored the fight for Yan, but two of the judges gave the fight to Rodriguez.

Yan entered the octagon this evening on a two-fight losing streak. After winning her first six fights in the UFC, she lost back-to-back fights to Carla Esparza and Rodriguez.

UFC Vegas 61 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 61 headliner kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Yan opens the striking with a side kick. Dern comes forward but eats a nice counter right from Yan. Dern holding the center and lands a big low kick. Big combination from Yan and Dern looks to clinch but Yan shrugs her off.

Another nice combination from Yan and then she throws another. Dern is getting caught clean as she’s coming in at the moment. Nice feints from Yan and it’s keeping Dern off-balance. Side kick from Yan. Check left hook for Dern and it’s answered with a right from Yan.

Dern gets a clinch against the fence and she’s trying hard for a takedown here. Yan doing a really good of defending so far. Dern unable to get the takedown and Yan breaks the clinch. Low kicks from Yan. Good body kick from Dern and then she shoots for another takedown.

Yan once again defends well and they stay on the feet. Good jab lands for Dern. Dern charges forward with a combination and makes it dirty. After a clinch, they end up on the ground after a scramble. Not much time to work here. The round comes to a close and it’s 1-0 Yan at UFC Vegas 61.

Round 2

Entering the second round and it’s evident through one that Dern’s only shot is to get the fight on the ground. Dern comes forward and immediately takes the center. Yan starts the striking with a low kick but Dern answers with a right. Then Yan lands a big right hand.

Dern tries to pull guard and Yan gets away briefly. However, Dern scoots over and grabs a leg. Dern pulls her to the ground and now they are grappling. This is exactly what Dern wants but she’s eating big elbows from Yan here.

Dern remaining composed as she appears to be setting something up. Nice shots from Yan continue to land from the top position. Dern attacking an omoplata and she gets on top of Yan. Yan is able to escape but she lands herself right in an arm-triangle.

It’s deep but once again, Yan is able to escape. Dern ends up in the mount. Yan bucks and spins but gives up her back. Dern flattens Yan out and she starts landing big shots. Dern looking for submission opportunities, but Yan is doing a sensational job of defending. The round comes to a close and Dern couldn’t get a finish but she gets the round.

Round 3

Entering the third and we are all even at UFC Vegas 61. Low kick from Yan starts the striking and Dern is plotting forward. Dern charges forward and lands a right hand as she looks to clinch. Yan immediately gets away then lands on the outside.

Yan lands nicely again and Dern clinches. Beautiful knee from Yan, but Dern pulls her into her guard. Yan immediately escapes and backs away. Stiff jab from Mackenzie Dern. Yan lands a nice combination but then eats a huge body kick from Dern.

Another nice body kick lands for Dern. A couple of solid low kicks land for Yan and then she throws a beautiful body kick. Dern upping the pressure here. Massive left hand from Yan and Dern is wobbled. Yan tries pushing forward but stays patient to avoid a grappling exchange.

Dern catches a kick but can’t take Yan down. Low kick from Yan on the exit. Head kick from Dern is blocked by Yan. Dern tries blitzing but doesn’t land anything. Big right hand lands for Yan. Body kick answer for Dern. Dern gets a takedown at the last second but it’s not enough to win the round.

Round 4

Entering the fourth at UFC Vegas 61 and I have it 2-1 Yan. Both ladies exchange in the center to start the fourth. Big combination finished with a flush knee from Yan. Dern lands a big right and she tries chaining into a takedown. However, Yan is defending well for now.

Yan is able to stay on her feet and breaks the grip of Dern. Immediate leg kick from Yan lands. Dern charges forward but she eats the bigger shots. Another low kick from Yan. Nice uppercut from Dern and she uses it to get to the clinch.

Yan escapes a Dern takedown attempt and goes right back on her striking. Dern is getting touched up on the feet here. Yan is really beating up Dern’s legs here. Big body kick from Yan and she’s really starting to pull away here in the fourth round.

Spinning back fist from Yan but Dern is able to get the clinch. Dern is able to pull guard and they are on the ground with a minute to work. Yan landing some nice shots from the top. Dern attacks an arm bar but there’s not enough time. We head to the final round at UFC Vegas 61.

Round 5

Entering the final round and I have it 3-1 at UFC Vegas 61. It’s looking like Dern is going to need a finish here. Dern lands a nice left hand on Yan to start the final round. Yan lands back but Dern is able to get a clinch up against the fence. She knows she needs to get this fight to the ground.

Dern gets the takedown and she’s on top with more than four minutes to work. Mount from Mackenzie Dern and Yan is in a world of trouble here. Dern is staying patient and she’s looking for a submission. Yan is trying to defend but Dern is softening her up with shots.

Yan bucks but ends up giving her back. Big shots from the back from Dern. Yan is defending well but she’s eating a lot of shots here. Yan gets to the fence and almost breaks the back mount, but Dern adjusts and stays on the back.

90 seconds left and Dern is starting to run short of time. This is a dominant round, but I’m not sure it’s dominant enough for a 10-8. Yan is just looking to survive here and Dern is staying locked to her back. Dern now sliding up and she’s looking for the arm bar.

She gets it but Yan slides her arm out. The round comes to a close and it’s a dominant one for Mackenzie Dern. These scores could be interesting at UFC Vegas 61.

Yan Xiaonan def. Mackenzie Dern by Majority Decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-47)