Yan Xiaonan: Grappling is Mackenzie Dern’s ‘only way’ to win UFC Fight Night 211 headliner

Yan Xiaonan: Grappling is Mackenzie Dern’s ‘only way’ to win UFC Fight Night 211 headliner

LAS VEGAS – Yan Xiaonan thinks she has a clear path to victory in the UFC Fight Night 211 main event, and it’s keeping off the ground with Mackenzie Dern.

That should come as no surprise given Dern (12-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) is one of the most decorated grapplers on the UFC roster – female or male – going into Saturday’s strawweight main event with Xiaonan (13-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) at the UFC Apex, which streams on ESPN+.

However, Xiaonan is focused on exactly what she needs to do.

“She may do something standing,” Xiaonan told reporters, including MMA Junkie, through an interpreter at Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 211 media day. “But it’s just for setup to drag me to the ground because that is the only way she can win this fight, I believe.”

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The fight represents a big moment for Xiaonan’s career. It’s the first time she’s been placed at the top of the billing in her UFC tenure. With that comes added attention, and for Xiaonan it’s a key opportunity to rebound from back-to-back losses against top contender Marina Rodriguez and current champ Carla Esparza.

“This fight they put me in the main event, so I think UFC, they saw something special in me,” Xiaonan said. “They saw some very high-level things from myself. So that’s why they put me in the main event.

Xiaonan said she’s confident her conditioning will hold up over five rounds against Dern, if needed, and if she can keep sharp on her takedown defense and grappling counters, she expects a smooth night at the office.

The Chinese fighter is absolutely not underestimating Dern, though, and that’s why she’s not putting any energy into where this win would put her in the division.

“I don’t think about the next step or what’s going to happen after this fight yet,” Xiaonan said. “I’m only focused on Saturday night.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 211.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie