Yan Xiaonan faces Mackenzie Dern in the main event of UFC Vegas 61. After back to back losses the Chinese fighter will be looking to turn her career around and has been handed the opportunity to headline a card for the first time.
She remains at #6 in the rankings and despite the recent losses Xiaonan has her sights set firmly on the strawweight belt,
“My goal is the belt. When I first entered the UFC, my goal at that time was just to get in the UFC but right now my goal is to win the belt,” she told UFC.com.
— UFC (@ufc) March 6, 2022
She is coming off a split decision loss to Marina Rodriguez that was extremely controversial. Xiaonan appeared to have done enough to win two out of the first three rounds but only one of the judges saw it that way.
It leaves Xiaonan potentially staring down the barrel of a third straight defeat. Fighters have been cut for less although being ranked in the top 15 on the women’s pound for pound list means she is probably safe for the time being.
But while a fight with the #5 ranked strawweight Dern is clearly high risk it also represents a major opportunity. Xiaonan is headlining the entire show so there will be plenty of eyeballs on her.
🗣 by UD!
🇨🇳 Yan Xiaonan improves to 6-0 inside the Octagon.
— UFC (@ufc) November 8, 2020
She also knows that a win over an opponent in the top five propels her straight into the title mix and Xiaonan thinks she has one major advantage over the Brazilian submission specialist,
“If the fight stays on the feet I’m definitely faster than here. My punches are the biggest weapon I have (and I) can hurt her.”
Dern is a BJJ black belt and has won too many gold medals to count during her submission grappling career. The only losses that the Brazilian has suffered as a mixed martial artist have come by way of decision.
Dern has never been knocked out and Xiaonan has not finished any of the eight opponents she has faced in the octagon so far. But the 33 year old believes that could all change this Saturday,
“If we exchange punches I believe I have the power to knock her out.”