This weekend, UFC will be coming to you live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, headlined by a clash of strawweights Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill.
You can catch all the action exclusively on ESPN+, with the main card kicking off at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT, following the Prelims starting at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT.
Now, we understand you’re here for more than just the hype. You want some solid fight predictions, betting tips, and analysis. Our team have their UFC Fight Night predictions primed and ready. You’ll find their takes on the Dern vs. Hill fight right here. For more fight predictions on the rest of the card, you can head over to our UFC predictions page.
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As of now, Dern is the betting favorite at -175. This means you would need to bet $175 to win $100 if Dern comes out on top. Find the solid -175 odds over at BetUS before this fight.
On the other hand, Hill is the underdog with odds of +146. If you bet $100 on Hill and she pulls off the upset, you stand to gain $146. These odds are available at MyBookie before the UFC Fight Night 224 main event.
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This weekend’s main event is a fantastic matchup between the best BJJ player to ever transition into the Women’s UFC divisions and a fighter in Angela Hill that fans have truly watched grow up and evolve in the octagon over the past decade.
Mackenzie Dern is a wild striker. She tends to rush forward with big loopy punches which can get her in trouble. However, the trade-off is because she barrels forward with reckless abandon at times, she has been able to sometimes bully opponents to the fence in order to get in close and initiate her grappling. Otherwise, although good strikers may be able to deal with her with good slick head movement, if she does connect, it’s often a powerful shot.
Angela Hill is a very good striker, so expect her to deal with that forward pressure very well, using angles, and her reach to tag Dern from the outside. She has an exceptional jab and very good kicks. However, when dealing with the threat of better grapplers, she has been known to sink into her stance more to prepare herself to sprawl, which then limits some of her movement on the feet, allowing more clashing and potentially ending up in a clinch. This is a preferred method of takedown for Mackenzie Dern, who wants to tie up her opponents and drag them to the mat from some kind of body lock. For Hill, in order to maintain her rage and keep Dern at Hill’s preferred range, she must control the center of the cage and play the matador, by maintaining the potential area to move backward, and if used, find a way to get back to the middle.
For Dern, she has to use her pressure over five rounds to try and draw out mistakes from Hill. That means forcing her backward to the fence, which means being the last to land when they exchange and making it a tiring fight. As the fight goes on it’s more likely that Hill gets heavier in her stance and becomes easier to catch. A lot of the time Hill will overthrow and stuff her own range, moving forward in her combinations and crashing into a clinch. That is when Dern has to get to double underhooks or a Whizzer and attack trips and takedowns without hesitation.
If Hill finds herself trapped on the mat it could very be a wrap. The battle for her should be not getting to the ground in the first place because even if Dern does not find the submission, she has a history of dominating rounds if they grapple. This is because Dern is so good at continually chaining and transitioning to new threats. Where a lot of BJJ players find trouble is when they pull guard and settle first, whereas Dern tends to jump guard and initially attack or trap a limb just to force engagement, before then switching to a different attack or sweep and moving the exchange along. In this way she is always a move or two ahead of her opponents in the jiu-jitsu scrambles, watch for her to drag her opponents down directly into a kimura grip just to attack a leg or the back.
One of the knocks on Hill to no fault of her own is because she has never been known as a power puncher she has lacked the ability to finish opponents in the past even if she was been the sharper fighter. This has led to a lot of decisions, so against someone like Dern who throws maybe not the cleanest but dangerous strikes and is a phenom grappler, it’s really on Hill to go 25 minutes with as few mistakes as possible. On the other hand, it’s on Dern to capitalize on any mistakes she does see over those 25 minutes, and I could very much see that happen if she has the confidence to move forward and fight assertively.
Pick: Mackenzie Dern to win (-175 odds at BetUS)
Mackenzie Dern, 30, nearly climbed to the top of the strawweight mountain but lost her title eliminating opportunities via decision. Overall, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace has a 7-3 UFC record with 4 submission wins and all 3 losses coming via decision. It’s rare that a fighter’s record truly embodies who they are in the cage; but, in Dern’s case, her record represents her game perfectly. She is lethal on the mat, as evident by 4 of her 7 wins by submission. She is incredibly tough and difficult to hurt, as evident by her never being finished. But, she struggles to win closely contested fights, as evident by her 3 decision losses, one of which was a split.
Digging a bit deeper, Dern’s submission skills are well known and truly impressive; but, her overhand right into a telegraphed takedown approach to wrestling has resulted in several fights staying on the feet, where she is out of her element. On the feet, Dern has a solid chin, decent power, and a perpetual ability to walk forward through volume. Her striking is a work in progress. Dern has a negative strike differential and lands below a 50% clip. However, her volume is improving, her combinations are more refined, and she sets up her shots better. At the end of the day, though, Dern’s primary, secondary, and tertiary game plan is to get the fight to the mat where she can fluidly hunt the finish.
Where Dern is a limited striker with subpar wrestling, Hill is a varied striker with reliable defensive wrestling. “Overkill” looks to implement her nickname on the feet. With excellent cardio and an ability to land a variety of strikes for the full fight, Hill’s game plan is often rooted in overwhelming her opponent on the feet and landing damage in the clinch. At range, the orthodox fighter an even distribution of attacks, hurting the legs, body, and head of her opponent.
Hill can land her leg kick, body kick, and jab from range with precision and consistency. Then, when her opponent crashes distance or Hill traps her foe against the cage, “Overkill” can land with more power from the clinch. Her range striking is more stick’n move while her clinch elbows and knees are more impactful. Hill’s defensive wrestling is a product of her cardio, volume, and movement. She is can fight with a consistently high pace for a full 25 minutes and she is rarely standing in one place on the canvas. Because her opponents often are dealing with her volume and a moving target, their takedown attempts are labored or telegraphed, giving Hill ample opportunity to keep the fight standing.
If the fight hits the mat, though, Hill severely struggles. She scrambles well initially, using athleticism and strength to desperately get back to her feet. But, if an opponent can settle on top, Hill rarely can get back to her feet before the round ends. More often, once down, Hill will ride out the round from her back and do her best to avoid being finished. The strategy has resulted in her only being finished twice out of 27 professional fights; but, the other side of the coin is Hill losing decisions when she’s controlled on the mat.
I think this line is off and overly skewed from recency bias. Dern is a high-level submission artist who was on a championship-challenging track until she lost to Marina Rodriguez, who was also on a championship-challenging track until recently and Xiaonan Yan who will likely challenge for the belt next. Meanwhile, Hill has a 10-12 (that isn’t a typo) UFC record and has recently beat two solid prospects, both unranked and who oddly enough fight each other on this same card. Yes, Hill’s record is riddled with controversial decisions.
Yes, styles make fights and Dern’s lack of wrestling, inability to get a submission last time out, and striking gaps is the perfect recipe for Hill’s brand of volume striking and stout defensive wrestling. However, as Cory Anderson said: “there are levels,” and Dern is just a level above Hill. I expect the fight to look close early but Dern to land the heavier shots. Then, when Hill inevitably clinches, Dern will find a takedown and the submission soon after. Maybe I’m just wrong about Dern’s ability but I truly believe she is just the better fighter and the recency bias will be corrected Saturday night.
Best Bet: Mackenzie Dern to win (-175 odds at BetUS) and Dern by sub (+170)
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Mackenzie Dern, the 8th-ranked strawweight, is a specialist when it comes to fighting. Similarly to Charles Oliveria, opponents are often fearful of going to the mat with Dern, as she has one of, if not, the most dangerous submission games spanning the entire UFC, able to win at a moment’s notice through a variety of attacks both in top position and off of her back.
A submission specialist is often feared, but, sustains less success than specialties in striking and wrestling. The reason for this is that with submissions, the inherent need is for the fight to hit the mat, or at the very least, end up in the clinch. Often, closing the gap on the feet to find an angle and shoot a legitimate takedown is a feat many submission-first fighters find challenging when facing strong grapplers, and Dern is no different as evidenced by her bleak 11% takedown success rate. Failure to get the fight where she needs it to be to have the greatest disparity in talent between herself and her opponent is indeed a problem, however, the former top 5 ranked fighter understands the growth areas of need to propel her into title contention, and the mere awareness of said need is a significant positive in her favor.
The growth that Dern has focused on thus far is finding some semblance of success with striking compared to greatly enhancing her wrestling capabilities. This choice is likely the correct one at that, as fighters such as Charles Oliveria, Gilbert Burns, and others have shown that submission-first fighters can find significant in-octagon success with striking given they can throw without any worry of overextending and getting taken to the mat. The key difference between Dern and others is the inherent power threat she has, or rather, lack thereof. Because she does not have the one-punch power on her feet, she limits the significant success she can have there. Knowing this, Dern has focused on landing clean strikes and using striking to set up her grappling, and if she continues to excel in the latter, then she can increase her 11% takedown success rate, get the fight to the mat, and once there, show off her elite skills.
Needing to enhance attributes to allow for a specialty to flourish is not needed for Angela Hill. This is because she, like other high-end UFC fighters, is a well-rounded fighter who weaponizes cardio through non-stop pressure and output. This style of fighting, particularly in the strawweight division where decision victories are quite common, would seem like a recipe for sustained success. And, while Hill has indeed secured victories over talented fighters, twelve fights, four of which have come by split decision in the UFC. This split decision outcome is due to a culmination of Hill finding success through output and cardio, but, often fails to truly separate from her opponent within a given round. This lack of ability is worrisome, but she has done a better job of late with landing sharp, damaging elbows in the clinch, and keeping the fight where she desires. The latter will be paramount in this fight, given Hill will need to use her 77% career takedown defensive rate to keep the fight standing, and if done, she can win; if, however, the fight hits the mat, while Hill is typically good there, in this fight, there will be a stark disparity in the favor of her opponent.
This fight, which was initially 3-rounds, is now a 5-round affair that favors both fighters in differing ways. For Dern, the longer the fight is, the more chances she has with getting the fight to the mat to secure a submission win. For Hill, a longer fight means the cardio and pressure advantage she often has will only loom greater in a 5-round bout. So, the question will be if Dern can get the fight to the mat, in a secure position, to find a submission, or will Hill continue her success on the feet to win a close decision?
Given the fight-ending favor is far greater for Dern than Hill coupled with the fact that Hill inherently fights close fights even if she is seeming to be better, I believe the possible paths to victory are greater for Dern than it is for Hill. Because of this, and because Hill has shown the ability to be submitted in the past albeit her grappling has improved, I am electing to go Dern here. And, given the 5-round duration of the fight, I believe Dern can get the fight to the mat where I expect her to find a submission finish.
Pick: Dern by Submission (+170)
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