UFC travelled to the Apex in Las Vegas Nevada on Saturday as the women’s strawweight division took centre stage with Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill facing off in an attempt to escalate the division and challenge the superiority of Zhang Weili.
The co-main event saw Edmen Shahbazyan vs Anthony Hernandez, as both men looked to improve their credibility and build a run of performances that could land them a spot in the highly contested middleweight division.
We will also look at the catchweight clash of Emily Ducote and Lupita Godinez as both women look to break into the UFC rankings.
Mackenzie Dern def. Angela Hill by unanimous decision.
After a sluggish start, Mackenzie Dern took full control of Angela Hill and cantered towards a unanimous victory over Angela Hill.
The match-up before the fight was questionable given the record and quality of each respective fighter. Dern is a two-time jiu-jitsu world champion with four submissions inside the Octagon- the most in the UFC strawweight history.
Dern has 28 pro fights and has already tasted defeat 13 times, also failing to beat any of the gatekeepers in the women’s strawweight division to boost her credibility.
Dern is predominantly associated with her ground game but struggled to set up a tap-out with a control time of over 13 minutes. Hill defended valiantly and fended off several armbar attempts from Dern.
It was in the stand-up where Dern ultimately won the fight. She landed 126 punches (a career-high) compared to Hill’s 66 and inflicted some visible damage to the face of her opponent- with Hill nursing a bruised face and a badly swollen eye after the fight.
Dern’s bout with Hill seemed like a warm-up for a much bigger challenge later this year. After her arm was raised, she called out former champion Rose Namajunas, stating that she “has never fought an ex-champion before and could have that opportunity now.”
Having lost to Yan Xiaonan last year- who is deemed the primary candidate to challenge the champion Zhang Weili- Dern’s reputation and validity is still up for debate.
However, a date with ‘Thug Rose’ would illuminate her true capabilities.
Anthony Hernandez def. Edmen Shahbazyan
The middleweight may have been looking at this one with a pen and notepad as Anthony Hernandez staked his claim to an official ranking with a comfortable victory over Edmen Shahbazyan.
Shahbazyan did land some neat shots on the chin of Hernandez in the opening round, but Hernandez swiftly went on the front foot- succeeding in several takedowns and threatening to choke out his opponent on numerous occasions.
Shahbazyan somehow survived the second-round onslaught from Hernandez with referee Herb Dean warning Shahbazyan that he needed to see more output from him, or he would call the fight. However, in the third the American got the job done.
He landed a vicious elbow to set up his 6th takedown of the fight and clamped onto a deteriorating Shahbazyan. A series of brutal strikes forced the stoppage as Hernandez takes his winning streak to four- having lost two out of his first three appearances inside the Octagon.
He currently holds the second-longest active win streak in the middleweight division but will need to continue that hot streak to have any hope of facing the big boys.
Emily Ducote def. Lupita Godinez by unanimous decision.
With both fighters tasting defeat to Angela Hill last year, there was an impression that Emily Ducote and Lupita Godinez could have been the main event had things worked out differently.
Both women were determined not to let any regrets linger this time- battering and pelting one another across the three rounds.
Ducote landed some fine combos in the opening exchanges as her intent to end the fight was evident from the outset. Godinez did weather the storm and slowly started working her way back into the fight as she increased her attacking output with some vicious shots to the body of Ducote.
The pair exchanged in kind for the remainder of the fight, with the judges giving Ducote the unanimous decision- despite landing less significant strikes and being taken to the canvas by Godinez.
The fight may have been slightly contentious judging by the statistics, but Ducote was full value for her win and now takes her record to 10-3.