Potential UFC superstar Mackenzie Dern must realise she's on a very dangerous path
Mackenzie Dern probably doesn't want her career to follow a trajectory similar to that of Sage Northcutt.
Like Sage Northcutt, Mackenzie Dern had a lot of buzz behind her prior to debuting in the UFC. Northcutt is a supremely gifted athlete, has youth on his side and is improving from fight to fight. However, being rushed by the promotion has really hindered his development.
After winning some fans with his super enthusiastic attitude on Dana White's Looking For a Fight, Northcutt was wheeled out at every opportunity. At 19, he fought three times in four months in the UFC's Octagon. After knocking out Francisco Trevino in his debut and submitting Cody Pfister in his sophomore bout, the promotion tried to let the good times roll. One month after beating Pfister, Bryan Barberena derailed the hype train.
Northcutt was widely mocked for the manner in which he lost, tapping to an arm-triangle from half-guard. Not even his strep throat excuse could silence the slagging. Although his first defeat could have been coming anyway (he has lost again since and had one incredibly dodgy decision win), the ludicrously quick turnarounds meant he was unable to put in the requisite hours in the gym to improve. He was training for fights, not training to become better, as fledgeling fighters with buckets of potential should do.
The UFC's, the fighter's and his team's gamble didn't pay off.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) March 15, 2018
Since Ronda Rousey's abrupt exit to professional wrestling, there has been no standout female draw in MMA. Cyborg is probably top, Holly Holm is up there and Rose Namajunas could be the next big thing, but they haven't come within an ass's roar of replacing Rousey. Many experts see Dern as one of the few who could become that superstar WMMA is crying out for.
Dern was a star before signing for the UFC. Her professional MMA debut, her fight against a male judoka and her jiu-jitsu loss to Gabi Garcia have garnered over 3.5 million hits on YouTube. Another 2.5 million people watched her on UFC 222 Embedded. And, unsurprisingly, the viewership of that card peaked at 1,076,000 during her bout with Ashley Yoder.
The UFC realise they have something special with Dern, but they run the risk of ruining it with quick turnarounds. Dern was impressive in her UFC debut, but she showed obvious frailties in the stand-up and the wrestling department, particularly the latter. The decorated Brazillian jiu-jitsu practitioner's strengths lie on the ground, but she struggled to get the takedown multiple times.
The Yoder fight showed that she still has a long way to go before she works out the kinks in her game. If she was to go against the division's elite, even one as young as women's flyweight, those holes would be exploited very quickly. Yet, just two months after her debut, the 25-year-old will make her first PPV main card appearance against Amanda Cooper at UFC 224.
Even Dern knows things are moving too quickly, as she explained at the UFC 224 media lunch (via MMA Fighting).
"For sure, I want to be able to evolve at the same speed as my fights. I think I'm fighting a little bit more than I'm evolving. But every fight is a different fight. Amanda's different from Ashley. No matter if I have a lot of time or short amount of time, I'm going to have to face new challenges. So, I'm excited."
"Definitely after this fight, I want to take a break. It's a little bit too much. But man, I couldn't miss to fight in Brazil. I wasn't injured, you know. As long as I'm not injured and I'm able to train and I'm feeling confident, then I'll take the fight for sure."
Here's hoping it works out well for her. There's a notable dearth of stars in this sport. The sooner that gets rectified, the better shape it will be in.