One of UFC’s most decorated grapplers takes on the “Tiny Tornado” at UFC 273. Mackenzie Dern, the #5 ranked women’s strawweight in the world, will meet number #7, Tecia Torres. While Dern is looking to rebound from a loss during her first main event, a win would put her back on track, a four-fight win streak broken by the most recent. Another win would also reposition Dern arguably very close to a title shot.
For Torres, three in a row could turn to four with a win over Dern. After picking off Angela Hill in August of last year Tecia Torres proved herself on a legitimate title run. Beating Dern sets her up not only a step closer to the belt but also as one of the best career comebacks in recent memory, going from four straight losses between 2018 and 2019 to four straight wins from 2020 to present.
The odds on this fight are dead even at -108 apiece.
- Dern: -108
- Torres: -108
Mackenzie Dern is probably the best pure grappler in women’s MMA today. Her ability to establish position before even worrying about strikes or transitions set her apart and is the cause for her ability to always stay in control when the fight hits the mat. Often you will see her pass to half and stop, solidify her balance and then strike to create openings so that she can complete her way to mount or side control. Her ability to also adapt to what her opponents give her is great, and once she does dominate a position, she attacks multiple limbs at once to split her opponent’s focus and ultimately isolate something to finish. One of those is from the back crucifix where she will attack both arms with her upper body and her legs, looking to extend both arms of her opponent, at no point on the mat can Torres feel safe.
For Dern, the keys to victory start at getting the fight to the mat, one of the reasons she has struggled here in the past is against opponents with great takedown defense or a higher wrestling base, finishing the drive through shots can be difficult. An underutilized tactic in my opinion for her is pulling guard, against Marina Rodriguez in her last fight going to single leg X off of the failing shot allowed her to make up for Rodriguez’s great defense because Dern is so quick to sweep anyway. Few fighters will commit to settling and striking Dern on the bottom rather than trying to disengage.
Dern has definitely made improvements in her striking as well but it is still the area that she has holes to expose. She is much lighter on her feet nowadays and her technique is becoming crisper and overall better. Her overhands especially have some devastating power when they land but also miss big when they don’t. The largest point of concern here is her inability to set everything up, she can be caught throwing naked kicks without feints or punches leading in, and get countered while doing so. She also has a tendency to dip and drop her face when she throws the wide jab to set up her overhand, or when she just throws the overhand. If Torres makes a read on this, the uppercut is a danger. She also comes in on a straight line or chases her opponent at times, but defensively she has made a great adjustment in staying on her bike and making herself a moving target. As with any grappler who is making a run as an MMA fighter by adding the striking game later on, simply being a bit less comfortable there also has a bit of an effect on otherwise great cardio, which is where low guards and overextending happens.
Tecia Torres has to make the most of these issues Dern is still working through. Torres’ greatest asset is that she has the rare ability to maintain a high pace while also being one of the most explosive in the division. She utilizes teeps and sidekicks to keep her opponents at bay so that she can blitz in and engage on her terms. She has a variety of techniques used to bridge the gap, often leaping punches, cross-steps and superman techniques, and then exiting with kicks to all levels. Her ability to stay extremely mobile, can force her opponents to overcommit forward in response which is where her best takedowns come in, as her reactive takedowns are her most effective.
Her keys to victory are to stay consistent with her footwork, fighting out of a grappling scenario with Dern is much more dangerous than avoiding position with in and out movement. She has to make reads and exploit Dern’s habits on the feet, and ultimately Dern is more likely to fade than Torres. Dern has a habit of holding on to limbs standing to chase arm drags or hold onto single legs against the fence and taking some punishment for it, by making Dern pay in these positions and escaping, Torres can win but even this should be avoided by staying off the cage at all costs.
The biggest concern in Torres’ repertoire of techniques that have been taken advantage of is because she kicks so often as well as spins for kicks and backfists, she can be caught and dragged down. Dern could look to watch one of Torres’ kicks if she goes back to a combination too often and if she is caught spinning Dern can take the back and she is quick to solidify hooks. If this becomes the case or even an early close call, Torres has to make the adjustment and avoid these risks.
Ultimately I think that Torres has the ability to pick Dern apart with her striking and wear her out. Footwork is the biggest element in her victory I believe and if she is the one dictating the pace and octagon presence she can avoid Dern’s best and exploit her weaknesses.
Prediction: Tecia Torres to win