UFC 256 Betting Pick: Mackenzie Dern vs Virna Jandiroba

One of the biggest years ever for the UFC is finally coming to a close. For the rest of the world, it looks like 2021 is going to be just as bad if not worse than 2020…

No. Can’t be. I guess we will see. I am just happy the UFC stepped up to the proverbial plate and essentially knocked one into the bleachers this year when they were the first major sport based in the USA to restart.

There have been positive COVID tests and fights lost but the company has never stopped scratching and clawing. There is probably a plan B, C, and D for every fight they try to put together.

There are some fun intriguing scraps ahead of us at UFC 256 this weekend. The fight we are going to talk about today may be the most intriguing of them all. It’s hard to argue against the “co” main event of Tony Ferguson vs Charles Oliveira is tough to beat.

Those are two excellent submission artists and so are Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba. The former was a multiple time world champion player before she made the switch to MMA.

Forgive me for calling Mackenzie Dern Brazilian today. Her father is Brazilian and a black belt himself but she did grow up in the states. Mackenzie even speaks with an accent. I think you pick it up naturally, though.

American Jiu Jitsu legend and Las Vegas school owner, Robert Drysdale, has it from the extended period of time he spent in Brazil. You can’t really learn the language correctly without the accent so give the girl a break.

This one is a tough call, though. Mackenzie has the edge on the mat but Virna may be good enough to survive in top position. The latter has very good takedowns. Her double leg to the inside trip is some beautiful chain wrestling.

Gillian Robertson, who was supposed to fight on this card but will take on Talia Santos next weekend, is another woman who hits the takedown with regularity.

Who has the edge in striking, though?

Ooweee…Neither has shown to be very competent on their feet but the two women are so dominant on the mat, they haven’t really needed to be.

BetOnline.AG has the betting odds for this fight. Let’s take a look at those and make our prediction for the matchup between Mackenzie Dern vs Virna Jandiroba.

Mackenzie Dern (-185) vs Virna Jandiroba (+160)


This line has moved quite a bit overnight in the direction of Mackenzie Dern if I’m not mistaken.

She opened at (-140) and was holding steady at (-160). Now we are getting up there with her.

I’m not sure if she is worth a bet at 2 to 1, though.

Mackenzie has come out and said that she believes that her and Virna have the best BJJ in the division but I’m sure if you ask her who is better…

We know where that one is going. These fighters have to have such an almost unhealthy undying belief in themselves to do what they do. It’s incredible, really. I was always too reasonable.

I guess that’s what led me here and not still in the cage or ring. I would look across the ring and be honest with myself. This guy is faster, bigger, stronger, and has better technique so he probably has a 60% chance of winning, blah blah blah. That is not the right answer. I gave him 60 percentage points too many. Fighting is still a lot of fun! The repercussions of it, the injuries, the time away from family, work, and friends…those are all the bad things but the actual fighting part is a blast.

I digress. Dern has been working her boxing with Jason Parillo in SoCal at the private RVCA Gym. I think that is a great move for her. She is already a world champ and seems like a private gym with a camp centered around her is a better fit.

Dern has legit power in her right hand. If you think about it, her boxing isn’t as bad as her wrestling. How the two women match up in these two skill sets will determine your winner on Saturday night.

I give Mack the edge in boxing and Virna the edge in wrestling.

Now, is Virna going to try to get this fight to the mat against a submission artist as dangerous as Dern?

This, we don’t know. That is without a doubt her game plan generally speaking but everything changes when you’re fighting such a specialist. If Jandiroba could fall back on another skill, I think she has a much better chance of winning this fight.

She can’t, though, and I think Mackenzie Dern will come in here with the game plan of keeping the fight standing and landing one of her big bombs. That is really the best advice I could give her and I think Parillo will echo this.

In Colombia, they say “tranquilo” and in California it’s “relax, maaannnn”.

I can hear the anxiety just watching her compete. Dern never settles in and commits to the striking exchanges. Even if she doesn’t want to strike with her opponents, she could still at least try to sell it.

She’s kinda like Ronda Rousey fighting Holly Holm. She just kept going after her. Forward forward forward…There was no angle, no push/pull, no turns…just run your face into the punch like this.

If only she had….


This audio with the fight video is just too cringe. Check out ol’ Edmond.

I’m sure you remember that fight. Ronda alllllmost got Holly to the mat, though, and I have no doubt an armbar was on the way but Holly got her hips lower and used her athleticism and strength to defend.

I don’t want to stray too far from the point here. Mack just needs to settle in. That’s it. We have seen her power on full display. She hits as hard as anyone in the division and she also has the best submissions in the division.

The problem is her wrestling and when she doesn’t settle in, the problem worsens because the element of surprise is long gone.

I believe she will listen to her coach and you will see a much calmer and key word here-confident-Mackenzie Dern on Saturday night. If she just tells herself: Hey, this is my fight on the feet and if the takedown comes, it comes, if not then I will punch her in the face and cash my check.

Virna has more experience in her career but also has a couple of questionable split decision losses in the past couple of years.

For me, the only path to victory for Virna is a takedown to control and likely a decision win but that is going to take a lot of confidence as well as the ability to do that to one of the most decorated female grapplers in history.

Dern can sprawl and brawl and also take Virna down, jump her back, win with control or get the submission.

Mackenzie has options but she will need to know this and apply a more relaxed and confident style to her game.

I think Mac is gonna crack her with an overhand right!

Now, will she be able to go in for the kill?

That remains to be seen but what I did see is this: Mackenzie Dern is (+300) to win by decision.

Virna has never been finished and I think this one will play out on the feet where both women are considerably less skilled and dangerous.

This fight is so difficult to predict that I think we should just take a step back, put away the Tarot Card deck and take a flyer out on Dern here.

  • Virna could out-wrestle her and stay out the subs. That is a worry.
  • Dern could take her down and submit her.
  • We could see a staring contest on the feet with Mackenzie winning a decision by landing 12 strikes per round.

There are a lot of ways this one could go and for that, let’s take the pressure off.

We will play the (+300) decision line and only bet half of a unit.

My Pick
Dern by Decision!

In Conclusion

Virna and Mackenzie are two of the best grapplers not just in the women’s strawweight division but in the entire UFC. One has the edge in wrestling and the other in submissions.

That right there makes this a tough call.

That’s why I suggest being a total coward and just take a shot at Dern by decision. When you are as surprised as I was at the line, though, it usually means a play is in order.

Please Note:
We are in the business of picking winners, yes, of course, but we are also responsible for identifying betting lines that are off. I’m not talking-oh I think this should be (-140) and the sportsbooks say (-130) so we will make a bet.

No! First of all, you need a larger edge on the books to make a smart play that will make you money in the long term. Second of all, get over yourself! I feel egotistical enough saying I think a hypothetical fight is a 67/33 instead of 60/40. If someone is that locked in, then by all means, follow them and let me know also.

I would like to make more money as well.

There are a lot of outs either way. I could see Dern getting the sub, TKO, or decision. So, let’s say hey look: Both women are high level. Sure Mack could get the TKO but these are still strawweights and decisions are very likely.

Get your play in now, team!

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.