A highly anticipated battle between top-ranked featherweights Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega ended in rather disappointing fashion, with an injury bringing the fight to a close in the opening round of their UFC on ABC 3 headliner.
During a grappling exchange in Saturday's main event at UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., Ortega's right shoulder visibly popped out of socket, and "T-City" rolled to his back, audibly screaming in pain, awarding Rodriguez a TKO victory at the 4:11 mark of the first frame.
"Guys, I'm so f-cking sorry, man," Ortega said after the bout. "I don't know how this happened. I wanted to keep going, but this thing came out. As you can tell, I've got two shoulder surgeries already, and I might need a third. Who knows?"
Rodriguez's speed was on full display early, as he landed crisp jabs and straights at the start of the fight before moving to avoid Ortega's counters. Unfazed, Ortega walked through the shots to deliver big punches of his own and then moved to the clinch, driving the action to the cage. Unable to take the action to the floor, Ortega was forced to separate, walking through a few more punches and driving inside again for a second look at a takedown, which he converted.
Once on the floor, Rodriguez worked with an open guard and tried to tie up his opponent's right arm. As Ortega extracted the limb, he suffered the injury, immediately rolling to his back in excruciating fashion.
"I was not in submission danger, so I felt good," Ortega explained. "I tried to clear the leg, and then my arm just popped out."
Rodriguez (14-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) was hoping to earn a shot at reigning UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski with a victory, but with the unexpected result, it's unclear if that will materialize. Meanwhile, Rodriguez said he would be happy to one day run it back with Ortega (15-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC), a man he considers a friend, but hopes that it would be with a title on the line.
"He was doing a great job keeping me on the cage," Rodriguez said after the fight. "I was just trying to do as much damage as I could so I could take away his movement on his feet, and it's unfortunate that he dislocated his shoulder or whatever.
"I already told him that we can run it back anytime. We can do this, but I would rather do it for a championship instead of in a situation like this, but whatever the UFC decides, I'm OK with whatever."
Complete UFC on ABC 3 results include:
MAIN CARD (ABC, ESPN+)
- Yair Rodriguez def. Brian Ortega via TKO (shoulder injury) – Round 1, 4:11
- Amanda Lemos def. Michelle Waterson-Gomez via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 1:48
- Li Jingliang def. Muslim Salikhov via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:38
- Matt Schnell def. Su Mudaerji via technical submission (triangle choke) – Round 2, 4:24
- Shane Burgos def. Charles Jourdain via majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
- Lauren Murphy def. Miesha Tate via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN, ESPN+)
- Punahele Soriano def. Dalcha Lungiambula via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 0:28
- Ricky Simon def. Jack Shore via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 2, 3:28
- Bill Algeo def. Herbert Burns via TKO (retirement) – Round 2, 1:50
- Dustin Jacoby def. Da-un Jung via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 3:13
- Dustin Stoltzfus def. Dwight Grant via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Emily Ducote def. Jessica Penne via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.