The injury occurred during the first takedown in the fight as Sterling planted Dillashaw on the canvas and the two-time 135-pound title holder immediately started favoring his arm. Referee Marc Goddard allowed the action to continue but Sterling was not stopping until he put Dillashaw away.
The end mercifully came at 3:44 in round 1 after Goddard could not allow Dillashaw to suffer any more punishment from Sterling. It turns out Dillashaw actually told Goddard before the fight that his shoulder would likely pop out after he suffered a similar injury in his training camp and that ultimately led to his undoing on Saturday.
“The guys actually pointed it out to me. I had no idea [he suffered the injury],” Sterling said afterwards. “I made sure I kept the pressure on and did what I need to do. Anaconda, human backpack, I take you down, it’s a wrap, wrap.
“I always talk s*** to my opponents, I like to put something on the line. Fortunately it was my night. What’s up.”
As soon as the fight started, Sterling wasted no time rushing forward and snatching a takedown to bring Dillashaw crashing down to the canvas. That’s when Dillashaw grabbed his arm and it appeared that he might tap out yet he continued scrambling to try and break free from Sterling’s grasp.
Before long, Sterling was hanging on his back looking for the rear-naked choke submission. Sterling was relentless with his assault as he continued hammering away at Dillashaw looking for the finish.
The fight eventually got back to the feet and it was clear that Dillashaw’s shoulder was completely compromised. Between rounds, Dillashaw’s coaches were able to get the shoulder back in place and for better or worse, he was allowed to continue.
On the restart, Sterling once again looked for the takedown and this time there was no getting up for Dillashaw as he started eating punches in succession with no real path to escape. Dillashaw did his best to stay out of trouble but eventually Sterling’s ground-and-pound was just too much, which led to Goddard stopping the fight.
“It popped out right way,” Dillashaw said about his shoulder injury. “I completely blew my shoulder out the end of April. It probably dislocated a good 20 times during training camp. I told the ref in the back my shoulder would most likely pop out.
“Hats off to Aljamain for doing what he does. I apologize to the weight class. I took up a position but I wasn’t going to wait another year for a shot.”
While the injury was unfortunate, Sterling did exactly what he needed to do to get the job done to retain his title and leave Abu Dhabi as champion. Following the win, Sterling mentioned names like Henry Cejudo, Sean O’Malley, Marlon “Chito” Vera and Cory Sandhagen as potential opponents as he looks to continue his reign over the bantamweight division moving into 2023.