Mark Zuckerberg watches as Yan Xiaonan's submission defense shines in impressive win over Mackenzie Dern

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 01: (R-L) Yan Xiaonan of China elbows Mackenzie Dern in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Yan Xiaonan moves to 16-3 and closer to a strawweight title shot after her win over Mackenzie Dern on Saturday. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC) (Jeff Bottari via Getty Images)

Mackenzie Dern is one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu artists ever to compete in the UFC, and that ability may yet lift her to a world championship.

But it was Yan Xiaonan’s ability to fight off Dern’s dogged submission attempts, particularly in Rounds 2 and 5, that boosted her a step closer to a championship shot. Yan won a majority decision Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas by scores of 48-47 twice and 47-47, with judge Mike Bell giving Dern a 10-8 in the fifth to account for the draw. Yahoo Sports had it 48-47 for Yan.

“I know her jiu-jitsu is amazing,” said Yan, who entered the bout ranked sixth at strawweight, one spot behind Dern.

But Yan was equally amazing on a card fought without media and fans other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, his wife, Priscilla Chan and some Facebook employees. Yan was the underdog but came into the bout with a decided striking edge and used her strikes to keep Dern off balance for the most part.

Dern took the fight to the ground for a long stretch at the end of the second and for a huge part of the final round, when coach Jason Parillo told her she was behind and needed to finish. Dern did exactly what Parillo asked, blazing out of the corner and into the line of fire to open the fifth.

It paid off when Dern took Yan down, but try as she might, she couldn’t get the finish. That was due, Team Alpha Male coach Urijah Faber said, to a steady year of grappling work.

“She put in so much work over the last year, [and] she moved specifically to [Team Alpha Male] to work on grappling,” Faber told Yahoo Sports. “Her fighting Dern wasn’t our choice, but thank goodness she come a whole year in advance. We needed that entire time.”

UFC president Dana White raved about not only Yan’s performance, but also Dern’s. But he conceded he would have had a hard time believing Yan would have made it to the finish had he known beforehand that she’d spend so much time on the ground with Dern.

That she did earned her huge respect from White.

“We were just sitting here talking and when I talked to Mackenzie, Mackenzie just said ‘She’s an absolute samurai warrior, never say die, and she was so tough,’” White said. “To last four minutes on the ground with a highly motivated Mackenzie Dern says a lot about Yan.”

White had plenty of praise for Dern, saying she has both “the jiu-jitsu and the chin to be a champion. Man, can she take a shot.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 01: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook/Meta, is seen in attendance during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg applauds the action Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas at UFC Vegas 61. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC) (Jeff Bottari via Getty Images)

Dana White, Mark Zuckerberg becoming buddies

The Apex was closed by White because Zuckerberg attended the card. White said that Zuckerberg is an MMA fan and invited White to his home to have dinner.

That set the stage for Zuckerberg and Chan and a few Facebook employees to attend the show, without either media or regular fans. Yan’s father flew in from China for the show but watched his daughter’s biggest win from the locker room.

Asked if Zuckerberg were interesting in buying the company or getting involved, White laughed but never directly answered.

“I guess, let me put it to you this way: He hit me up and asked me to meet him for dinner up at this house,” White told Yahoo Sports. “I did. I flew in and we had dinner. We had a blast and we hit it off. He’s a huge fan of the sport. He’s a huge fan of the sport. I set it up so that him and his people could come watch a fight. I said, ‘Pick a fight,’ and they came down.

“Obviously, I can’t tell you everything that’s going on, but he’s a big fan.”

Upon that, Yahoo Sports asked, “So he wants to be involved in some way?" White responded, “I don’t know, buddy. I don’t know.”

Pressed later on why he chose to close Apex to fans and media when many significant celebrities have attended UFC fights at Apex, White was mum.

“There are reasons,” White said. “I wouldn’t close it off unless we had to but there are reasons. But I’m not going to talk about that publicly.”

UFC president White raves about Santos’ comeback win

Daniel Santos’ second-round KO victory over John Castaneda was a wild back-and-forth affair which won Fight of the Night and would have had the crowd roaring through.

Castaneda was dominant in the first round and nearly finished the fight on several occasions.

But Santos weathered the storm and came back in a big way. The beginning of the end came in the second when he landed a huge knee to the chin with Castaneda’s back to the cage.

Castaneda immediately went down and it was stopped.

“Amazing heart because I thought he was out and he came back, he wore him down and eventually wound up breaking him,” White said of Santos. “The fight was unbelievable and of course it was Fight of the Night.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 01: (L-R) Daniel Santos of Brazil punches John Castaneda in a 140-pound catchweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Daniel Santos (L) dropped John Castaneda with a vicious knee to the head for the KO win Saturday at UFC Vegas 61. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC) (Jeff Bottari via Getty Images)