Mackenzie Dern lauds training sessions with Henry Cejudo for UFC 295 camp vs. Jessica Andrade

NEW YORK – Mackenzie Dern changed things up ahead of her return at UFC 295, and she’s hoping that shows in her performance.

The decorated jiu-jitsu competitor and top strawweight contender fights Saturday on the UFC 295 main card against former champion Jessica Andrade. But while prepping for the fight, Dern’s main gym, RVCA in California, closed, and she was forced to change her training.

That meant hitting up Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and former UFC two-division champion Henry Cejudo.

Dern (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) says Cejudo was instrumental for her fight against Andrade (24-12 MMA, 15-10 UFC), and expects to show a new version in the octagon.

“It was great,” Dern told reporters at the UFC 295 media day on Wednesday. “He’s like my size, so he was my training partner and helped me literally hands-on kind of thing. He’s someone who’s an Olympic champion in his own sport and was able to transition that to MMA, which is totally different.

“One thing that I felt I was missing a lot was range, the range of a fighter. Grapplers, we have no distance or range – we’re just in each other’s personal space all the time. So I would hit someone, land a shot, I’d feel that they feel it and I kind of run into them and I wouldn’t keep a distance. I didn’t realize that I had my own distance and my opponent has their own distance. … Just now I’m understanding that and that’s something that Henry (showed me). It’s a dance. They take one step forward, and you take a step back. …

“It helped me a lot, even though he wasn’t giving me 10,000 wrestling takedowns. I’m not chasing with my head down. I’m probably still going to do judo takedowns in the end.”

Dern is coming off a unanimous decision win over Angela Hill in May. She’s hoping to continue her unbeaten run in 2023 and notch a second victory. Dern is confident she can not only get her hand raised against a former UFC champion, but also stop her.

“I see a finish for me,” Dern said. “She’s a tough opponent. She’s someone that you can’t make a mistake (against). That’s why I think I was so hard on myself this camp, and I was very emotional for the camp, just wanting everything to be perfect and feeling frustrated and kind of going to bad habits and trying to go in and close the distance and doing things that I did like maybe four fights ago.

“I would get very emotional and I was thinking, ‘I just can’t be emotional in this fight. I need to be strategic. I need to be smart, and I need to make sure I don’t get into the dogfight with her.'”

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie