Mackenzie Dern (T) Jeff Vulgamore (Combat Press)

Women’s MMA Weekend Review: Dern Among Winners at UFC on ESPN+ 36

This weekend’s UFC on ESPN+ 36 card provided us with three female bouts. Each was memorable for one reason or another. Granted, not all of those reasons were good, but they were still memorable.

I am going to go through each bout with some thoughts. Before I do, let me point out that next week’s UFC 253 card only has one female bout. I’d like to have a little more to talk about, so if there is another female bout somewhere that you might like to read about or get a fighter’s insight into, hit me up on Twitter with suggestions. Now, let’s talk about this weekend.

Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Sarah Alpar

Clark defeated Alpar via TKO in round three. In my preview of this one, I said I felt Clark, better known to her fans as “Jessy Jess,” would likely hold the advantage in the stand-up department, whereas Alpar would look to get it to the ground. Well, in a sense, I was right. Clark definitely held the advantage on the feet, and Alpar definitely wanted it on the ground. However, what I had not accounted for was how well Clark would do when it did hit the ground.


The strategies and advantages were apparent right from the start. Clark was able to land good strikes when she had the space to, and Alpar looked to clinch. Clark, though, did very well in the clinch, avoiding bad positions. When it did go down, she was able to get in advantageous positions and land more punches.

Instead of looking for the clinch takedowns, Alpar should have maybe altered what she was doing and looked more to shoot in and take Clark off her feet that way, making it perhaps harder for Clark to land in those good positions when it did go down. That, however, is easier said than done, especially when you’re getting hit every time you get close.

In the third round, we had some controversy. Clark landed a brutal knee to Alpar as Alpar was falling to the ground with her back to the cage. The knee was legal, but referee Chris Tognoni seemed to at first think it was illegal and stopped the fight. Presumably, he saw the replay on the screen and realized it was in fact legal. After checking if Alpar was OK to continue, he restarted the fight. Clark then teed off on Alpar, beating her about as bad as you’ll see before it was stopped. There was controversy on two ends. First off, it seemed everyone had their own interpretation of replay and restarting, what’s legal and what isn’t. Second, regardless, there seemed to be no reason to continue the fight.

Alpar is tough. She’s a fighter. Of course she was going to say she could go on. However, her nose was clearly broken, her face looked like she was fighting Michael Myers as opposed to Jessy Jess, and she probably would have been better off had they stopped it.

Regardless of the controversy, this was the best Jessy Jess we have seen. She looked improved in all aspects and was in the best shape I’ve ever seen her. This was a great win for her.

What’s next for Clark? This is a tough one. Perhaps Lina Länsberg? That could be a fun stand-up battle that Clark could use to get up into the No. 10-12 spot in the rankings with a win.

Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Mara Romero Borella

Silva defeated Borella via armbar in round one, and there really is not a whole lot to say here.

Pretty quickly, the fight went to the ground with Borella on top. She seemed rather content there, whereas Silva, off her back, was working and looking for a submission; she found the arm. Borella seemed either unaware of what Silva was doing or she didn’t respect Silva’s ability to get it. Whichever the case, it was a mistake.

This makes two fights in a row where Borella seemed unaware until it was too late. Cortney Casey also beat her with a first-round armbar in May. The talent is there for Borella, but there seems to be a lapse where she becomes content and doesn’t realize what is being done by her opponent. This does not take away from Silva, though, who showed good intuition, saw an opening, and took it. This is a good confidence win for Silva, who was coming off her first defeat.

What is next for Silva? Perhaps a fight with Alexa Grasso makes sense? They are on the same schedule, with Grasso having just fought. It would be a good fight.

Mackenzie Dern vs. Randa Markos

The saying is to “never bring a knife to a gunfight.” Markos, in something she will surely watch and regret, tried to bring a knife to a gunfight. As a result, she was submitted via armbar by Dern in the first round.

After a brief exchange, Dern fell while attempting a kick. Markos took a second to think about it and then fell into Dern’s guard. Markos has good grappling for sure, but it’s a knife against Dern’s gun. Dern has the best grappling in the division. She can find advances, sweeps and submissions from anywhere, and she can do so in an instant. Markos will almost surely look back and wish she had instead allowed Dern to stand back up.

Once Markos fell into the guard, it was only a matter of time. Dern was able to reverse the position, get on top, and immediately seek out the armbar. Initially, she had a little trouble, because with her back so close to the cage, she couldn’t fully extend it. Eventually, she was able to get where she wanted to be and finished the fight.

In my first article, I said I wouldn’t criticize a fighter, as I hate to be criticized myself, especially by a fellow fighter. However, I realize it would appear as though I’m criticizing Markos. What I am saying, though, is something Markos will most likely say herself: she should have allowed Dern to stand. In the heat of the moment, you don’t always think these things out as well as you do when you watch video. I know I have had fights where I’ve looked back and said I should have or could have done something different.

Dern, for her part, showed once again that she can be a threat in this division. Her striking continues to improve, and if she gets a fight to the ground, she is capable of beating anyone.

What is next for Dern? I saw this suggested on Twitter and immediately loved the idea. Dern should go up against Virna Jandiroba. This is something of a dream fight. I don’t care if it makes sense or not, I would love to see it. If there is someone who can at least compete with Dern on the ground and, while maybe not submit her, at least survive down there and give her a sweat, it is Jandiroba. Would it be 15 minutes of fun grappling? Would neither woman want to take the risk and instead choose to stand for 15 minutes? I don’t know the answer, but I want to know the answer. The only way to know it is to see it.