Mackenzie Dern (T) (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

UFC Fight Night: Dern vs. Hill Preview and Predictions

The UFC returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend, after a couple weeks on the East Coast. The women’s strawweight division will take center stage this Saturday, as Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill square off in a five-round main event. Dern, a world champion Brazilian jiu-jitsu player, stormed into the UFC, and looked like she would make a hard charge for the title, but has stumbled recently. She has lost two of her last three fights and needs a win to keep her name on the list of women who could challenge for the belt in the near future. Her opponent, Angela Hill, is a grizzled veteran who has never been able to put together a title run of her own, but, win or lose, she always proves to be a tough test for anyone trying to get past her and use her name as a springboard into contendership.

The penultimate bout of the night is a middleweight showdown between highly touted prospect Edmen Shahbazyan and Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez. After a hot start inside the UFC, Shahbazyan fell on hard times, as he dropped three fights in a row and was stopped via TKO in two of those three contests. He recently rebounded with an emphatic victory over Dalcha Lungiambula and looks to continue to regain the momentum he once had in the division. To do that he will have to stop the three fight winning streak of Hernandez, who is coming into his own as a fighter as he nears his thirtieth birthday. These two both need a victory if they want fans and UFC executives to have their names on the front of their minds as they think about the future of the middleweight division.

UFC Fight Night: Dern vs. Hill airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.


Mackenzie Dern has dropped two of her last three fights; can the jiu-jitsu ace get back on track against longtime standout Angela Hill?

Sumian: Not to be rude, but does anyone actually care? The fact that this fight is a main event just proves that there are way too many fight nights the UFC is contractually obligated to put on every year. At best, this fight would be a preliminary fight for a UFC pay-per-view. Nevertheless, here we are, and predictions need to be made.

It is time to admit, as MMA fans, that Mackenzie Dern is simply never going to live up to the hype that followed her into the UFC. The prolific grappler’s talent on the ground is unquestionable, but she will never become a top contender in the talent-rich women’s strawweight division. Her last three losses are to top-tier fighters in Yan Xiaonan, Marina Rodriguez, and Amanda Ribas. Dern put together a solid four-fight winning streak before losing to Rodriguez in Oct. 2021 and is quickly losing the steam that made her an interesting signing when she joined the UFC in 2018. Dern desperately needs a convincing victory to stay relevant given how strong the strawweight division continues to be.

Angella Hill is always game – plain and simple. She is also the perfect gatekeeper who is capable of shutting down up-and-coming talent if they are not ready for the big leagues. Like Dern, it is unlikely Hill will ever fight for a UFC belt, but she is definitely capable of remaining a top-ranked strawweight given how well-rounded she is. Hill has been a victim of poor split decisions, and this definitely impacted her record and standing in the division. She is riding a two-fight winning streak and can easily take Dern’s spot as a top-10 strawweight with a victory.

I do not like to be negative when it comes to previews, but this is going to be a very boring fight. These two will exchange for 25 minutes, and it is likely going to end in a split decision given the low level of output I expect. This time around, Hill will get the nod on a split decision victory, and this fight will do very little for either women’s standing in the division.

Petela: I don’t think this thing goes 25 minutes, but I agree that this fight isn’t exactly main-event quality. Angela Hill is kind of a high-level gatekeeper who never really had a chance at winning the strawweight title, but she’s proven to be a tough out for a lot of high-quality fighters.

With that being said, the Prince George’s County native is 38 years old, and her best days are behind her. Much like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Hill has never said no to a fight, and she’s always going to be in the good graces of the UFC brass. But this won’t be a standout performance for the veteran. Mackenzie Dern will exploit her grappling weakness early and immediately show the vast difference in skill level. Before this fight gets out of the first round, it will all come to a close with Dern locking in an armbar that forces Hill to tap.

The story of this fight won’t be that Hill is slowing down, but, rather, that Dern is still a relevant player in the division. She’s dropped two of three, and the lone win came by split decision, so this finish over a remarkably durable opponent will reintroduce her as a force to be reckoned with at 115 pounds.

Edmen Shahbazyan snapped a three-fight losing streak in his most recent bout; can “The Golden Boy” keep the momentum going and defeat a streaking Anthony Hernandez?

Petela: Nope. I’m off the Edmen Shahbazyan hype train. When he came onto the scene a few years back I thought he could make a run towards the top of the middleweight division. That ship has sailed, and he is going to wind up being a good, but somewhat run-of-the-mill UFC fighter. His ground game is rudementary, and his cardio is subpar.

This fight will be a showcase for Anthony Hernandez who is becoming a heck of a fighter in his own right and he could be the one out of these two prospects who becomes a real contender. I expect Hernandez to outclass Shahbazyan from start to finish, which will probably come midway through the second round.

Sumian: I unfortunately agree with my colleague, despite my love for Shahbazyan. Not only is Hernandez a better fighter at this point in time, but he is also a nightmare matchup due to slick submission skills. This will be another clean victory for Hernandez as he showcases his skills on the co-main event stage.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Sumian: This is likely the end for the once top-ranked lightweight Carlos Diego Ferreira. I expect him to lose to Michael Johnson by knockout and fall to 0-4 in his last four UFC appearances. Given the opponents he has lost to, he will probably get one more shot in the UFC, but his time as a UFC lightweight is quickly coming to an end.

Petela: Viacheslav Borshchev. He has lost two in a row, and those two fights weren’t particularly close, nor were they all that exciting for the casual fan. When he drops his third straight fight, there won’t be much incentive to keep him around so expect the UFC to give him his walking papers.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Tough to pick a sleeper fight on a card that frankly is lackluster at best. However, it’s always fun to see a Chase Hooper fight. Whether he gets absolutely pummeled or if he is able to snatch up a submission, his fights are never boring. So I’ll go with Chase Hooper vs. Nick Fiore to steal the show early.

Sumian: Andrew Fialho vs. Joaquin Buckley is the clear fight to watch on this card. Both are powerful punchers, and someone will go down in this fight so do not blink.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Sumian: Anthony Hernandez for pulling off a slick second round submission and once again putting a halt to Edmen Shahbazyan’s rise as a UFC middleweight. On paper, this is a nightmare matchup for Shahbazyan and it will be Hernandez who continues his climb as a UFC middleweight.

Petela: Mackenzie Dern. She’s going to submit Angela Hill and probably take an arm home with her as a trophy. Her performance will stand out on this card that is going to be rather uneventful otherwise. That will be more than enough to earn her an extra $50K

Pair this card with…

Petela: Your remote control. This fight card is a glorified regional show that is going to end with a lot of decisions and not too many highlights so make sure you have your remote handy to check what else is on when the fights disappoint.

Sumian: Anything else. This is not an event to saddle up for so I personally suggest tuning into the Lakers vs. Nuggets game or the highly anticipated boxing match between Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Fight Sumian’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
Women’s StrawW: Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill Hill Petela’s Pick
MW: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Anthony Hernandez Hernandez Hernandez
Women’s CatchW (120 lbs.): Emily Ducote vs. Lupita Godinez Godinez Ducote
WW: Andre Fialho vs. Joaquin Buckley Fialho Buckley
LW: Michael Johnson vs. Diego Ferreira Johnson Ferreira
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
LW: Maheshate vs. Viacheslav Borshchev Borschev Maheshate
Women’s StrawW: Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Vanessa Demopoulos/td> Kowalkiewicz Demopoulos
WW: Orion Cosce vs. Gilbert Urbina Urbina Cosce
HW: Ilir Latifi vs. Rodrigo Nascimento Latifi Nascimento
LW: Chase Hooper vs. Nick Fiore Hooper Hooper
Women’s FlyW: Victoria Leonardo vs. Natalia Silva Silva Silva
WW: Takashi Sato vs. Themba Gorimbo Gorimbo Gorimbo