Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill were not in the marquee when the fight was signed but now find themselves front and center on the poster. The women's strawweight tilt headlines UFC's return to the Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Dern (12-3) is arguably the most successful women's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete in history. Naturally, expectations were lofty upon her transition to mixed martial arts. She has generally been successful, only falling short against rising contenders with more well-rounded games. Dern's preparation for the Hill fight experienced turbulence after the UFC moved the fight back one week from a three-round fight in Charlotte to a five-round main event at the Apex.
"Really just the mental fatigue you have after having a whole camp," Dern told CBS Sports. "You schedule your whole camp and train so that you reach your best moment on the day of the fight. You're getting there and suddenly it's like, 'Oh shoot. It's pushed back.'
"One week isn't that big of a push compared to a month, but you're so ready for it to be over with. You're so ready to go there and punch someone and take them down and choke them. Go out there and get the win and put all that energy from training into the fight. At the same time, you have one more time to train more and prepare yourself."
Check out the full interview with Mackenzie Dern below.
Hill (15-12) is a better fighter than her record indicates. A veteran who has competed in UFC longer than Dern has been a pro fighter, Hill has mixed it up with former champions and contenders alike. Hill has an almost cursed reputation with split decisions, repeatedly losing fights that could have gone her way. The most recent example was a split decision loss to Amanda Lemos in December 2021 the latter of whom will challenge Zhang Weili for the UFC women's strawweight championship in August. Hill faced similar challenges to Dern after the UFC called on them to slide into the main event.
"The biggest hurdle was mentally having to do another week of fight camp because once I get to Vegas, I'm in chill mode. I'm recovering, I'm hanging out. I'm eating my little egg lunch and dinner and having a rest week," Hill told CBS Sports. "But I got the call on Saturday night and I had already done my last sprint, which should have been my last sprint of the camp.
"I started thinking about I got to do this whole week over again. So it was a little bit of 'Groundhog Day' feeling where you still want to go hard and your last week of training, but you don't want to overwork yourself."
Check out the full interview with Angela Hill below.
Hill will almost certainly eclipse Joanna Jedrzejczyk as the most prolific striker in UFC women's history. The two are tied at 1,754 significant strikes landed, behind only Max Holloway (3122) and Frankie Edgar (1801). Hill, after examining Dern's skills, has no doubt that she will set the standard on Saturday.
"Her takedowns look kind of sloppy to me," Hill said. "I'm sure they feel stronger when you're actually in it, when you're actually defending it, but technique-wise: a lot of the stuff that she gets shouldn't happen.
"So being able to just go through the tape and watch how she does get them to the ground, it really opened my eyes when I first got the matchup. I'm like, 'Wow, I know how to defend all this stuff.'"
Saturday's co-main event features Edmen Shahbazyan, a former pupil of Ronda Rousey and her coach Edmond Tarverdyan, and submission specialist Anthony Hernandez. Shahbazyan was primed to be a breakout star but struggled against better opposition. A Performance of the Night stoppage in December snapped Shahbazyan's three-fight losing streak. Hernandez had the inverse experience. He shook off a shaky UFC start and now boasts a three-fight winning streak.
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Plus, Loopy Godinez is set to meet Emily Ducote in a catchweight bout after Ducote was called up on short notice to replace Polyana Viana. And, viral sensation Joaquin Buckley returns in a welterweight bout against Andre Fiahlo. And lightweight veteran Michael Johnson is back in an interesting matchup opposite Diego Ferreira.
Below is the rest of the fight card for Saturday night with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to a prediction and pick on the main event.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
|Mackenzie Dern -170||Angela Hill +145||Women's strawweight|
|Anthony Hernandez -200||Edmen Shahbazyan +170||Middleweight|
|Loopy Godinez -150||Emily Ducote +125||Catchweight|
|Joaquin Buckley -230||Andre Fialho +190||Welterweight|
|Diego Ferreira -150||Michael Johnson +125||Lightweight|
|Viacheslav Borshchev -160||Maheshate +135||Lightweight|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: May 20 | Start time: 7 p.m. ET (main card)
Location: UFC Apex -- Las Vegas, Nevada
TV channel: ESPN+
Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill: Dern is very much a work in progress. Every interview peels back another layer of foundational MMA experiences she is discovering. Her most recent epiphany is that controlling action and winning rounds is more reliable than forcing takedowns to secure submissions. Dern is physically strong and leaning her opponents against the fence could be a boon. Smothering opponents and striking in close will score points and lead to takedowns. Hill is an interesting fighter. She has an elusive, output-heavy style but lacks finishing ability. Consequently, the fights are often narrowly contested against a wide swathe of competition. If Dern executes a poised and tactical gameplan, she could take rounds and eventually threaten submissions. Otherwise, the more experienced Hill will dance circles. There is also the elephant in the room of a difficult divorce Dern is working through. I'll side with Dern, who can make bigger improvements fight over fight. But it won't be easy. Dern via SUB3
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