Yan Xiaonan put on a show for the fans — make that fan, singular — in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Yan got the better of Mackenzie Dern in standup fighting and survived relentless grappling threats by her multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion opponent to earn a majority-decision victory in a meeting of top-10 strawweights headlining a card at UFC Apex.
There were no fans or media in attendance for Saturday’s card other than Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and guests. Zuckerberg was seen on TV sitting in the front row after arranging to have the building all to himself. UFC president Dana White had denied the existence of an arrangement with Zuckerberg earlier in the week.
Yan (16-3, 1 NC), who is No. 5 in ESPN’s 115-pound rankings, ended a two-fight losing streak, but the victory did not come without moments of trepidation. In the second and fifth rounds, Dern had Yan in deep trouble on the canvas, transitioning from one submission threat to another. But Yan defended well, and afterward she expressed pride in that effort.
“I know her jiu-jitsu is amazing,” Yan said through an interpreter. “She’s a black belt. I’m a white belt. So I knew what I should expect in this fight. But I trained so hard — four times, five times on grappling during this camp — so I knew I could do this.”
The sixth-ranked Dern (12-3), a 29-year-old from Huntington Beach, California, has lost two of her past three after compiling a four-fight winning streak.
Dern began competing in jiu-jitsu at age 5 and has won a dozen medals in world championship tournaments. She has earned four of her seven UFC wins by submission, the most of any 115-pound fighter.
In Saturday’s bout, Dern had difficulty getting the fight to the mat, landing just two of her 11 takedown attempts. But when she did manage to get Yan down, Dern was fluid in threatening everything from chokes to armbars to leg attacks. But she couldn’t finish the job.
Two of the three judges scored the bout 48-47 for Yan, and the third scored it 47-47, awarding a 10-8 fifth round to Dern, who took Yan to the canvas in the opening seconds and threatened a finish nearly to the final horn.