MACKENZIE DERN VS. AMANDA RIBAS
There are other bouts on this card with greater divisional significance and that will catapult the winners into better opportunities next time out, but this may be the most compelling contest taking place in Tampa on Saturday night.
Dern, who gave birth to her first child just four months ago, has been one of the most talked about prospects in the sport since transitioning to MMA in 2016. A world-class jiu-jitsu player, the 26-year-old has maintained her unblemished record since arriving in the UFC, following up a split decision win over Ashley Yoder in her debut with a first-round submission victory over Amanda Cooper at UFC 224.
While Dern debuted backed by a ton of hype, Ribas stepped into the Octagon for the first time chased by questions, as the American Top Team representative had been out of competition for a number of years and faced a step up in competition against Emily Whitmire. But Ribas showed no ill effects of her time on the sidelines by running through Whitmire, collecting a second-round submission to push her record to 7-1 overall.
Although both women are still early in their careers and capable of reaching great heights, this is an crucial matchup that will establish the victor as the top young female grappler in the division and propel her to greater opportunities in 2020, while the vanquished competitor will be forced to regroup before starting a new push towards the top of the strawweight ranks next year.