Yair Rodriguez was landing clean, hard punches and had just connected on a front kick. Brian Ortega had just taken Rodriguez down, where he wanted the fight to be.
It was shaping up to be the great fight that everyone expected and wanted to see, and in an instant, it turned into a massive disappointment.
Ortega’s shoulder popped out in the final minute of the first as he was grappling for position with Rodriguez, and he was unable to continue. The fight was halted at 4:11 of the first and Rodriguez was declared the winner.
It was anticlimactic given the anticipation surrounding the featherweight bout.
“I prefer to win and I guess I did, but that’s not the way I wanted,” Rodriguez said. “He dislocated his shoulder. I’m sorry it happened, but it’s part of the game.”
As they were battling for position, Rodriguez tried to grab for an armbar. As Ortega tried to defend, his shoulder popped and he immediately fell back and laid on the canvas. Rodriguez noticed right away and didn’t throw a punch against a defenseless, and injured, opponent. Referee Keith Peterson then noticed and halted the bout.
Ortega entered the fight second and Rodriguez third in the featherweight division. Rodriguez was hopeful he’d get a title shot with a win over Ortega, but what happens next is now going to be unclear.
Ortega was bitterly disappointed and said he may be facing another surgery.
“I don't know how this happened,” Ortega said. “I wanted to keep going, but I’ve had two shoulder surgeries already, and I might need a third one. Who knows?”
The fight was fast-paced in the first four minutes. Ortega was pressuring and Rodriguez was connecting with solid strikes. He landed a clean right cross and then a front kick right before Ortega got the takedown.
Ortega, though, felt he was doing what he set out to do, which made the injury all that more disappointing.
“The fight was going good,” Ortega said. “Everything we planned was going but when I got him down to the ground, we got stuck in a situation. … I didn’t feel I was in submission danger. I tried to clear my leg and my arm just popped out.”
Rodriguez was in a similar situation before, when he poked Jeremy Stephens in the eye and Stephens couldn’t continue just 15 seconds into the bout. But that was stopped by an inadvertent foul and declared a no-contest.
Rodriguez got a rematch there and scored a victory.
What happens next is unclear and probably won’t be decided until the extent of Ortega’s shoulder injury is determined.
A rematch at some point, though, seems inevitable, and it will carry just as much hype with it as this one did.