An anticlimactic ending closed out the UFC’s latest trip to New York after Brian Ortega dislocated his shoulder in the opening round in his fight with Rodriguez, bringing the main event to a close. Following a few exchanges on the feet, Ortega turned to his grappling, with Rodriguez trying for a submission of his own to break free on the ground.
That’s when Ortega pulled his arm out of Rodriguez’s guard — but rather than advance his position, the two-time UFC title contender fell to his back in agonizing pain.
A replay showed Ortega’s shoulder popping out of socket as he wrested his arm free, which obviously brought an end to the contest.
The official stoppage came 4:11 into the first round, with Rodriguez declared the winner by TKO due to injury.
“It’s unfortunate that he dislocated his shoulder or whatever,” Rodriguez said afterward. “I already told him we can run it back any time. I’d rather do it for a championship instead of being in a situation like this. Whatever the UFC decides, I’m OK with whatever.
“It’s unfortunate. I prepared to win. Not the way I wanted. All my respect to him. I’m sorry this happened. It’s part of the game.”
Prior to the stoppage, Rodriguez was looking fast and dangerous with his hands, clipping Ortega with several stiff shots as the featherweights traded strikes on the feet. Ortega eventually slowed the action by looking for the takedown, which resulted in the featherweights jockeying for position against the cage.
Once Ortega finally secured a takedown, he sought to use his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to turn the tables on Rodriguez, but that’s when the injury happened that forced the fight to end.
“I’m so f****** sorry,” Ortega said while apologizing to the crowd in attendance. “I don’t know how this happened. I wanted to keep going, this thing came out. I’ve got two shoulder surgeries already. I might need a third one, who knows.
“We got stuck in a situation and his body was tight and I don’t know, it just yanked. I was not in submission danger. I tried to clear the leg and my arm just popped out. Yair, congratulations — if you don’t get the title fight, or whatever happens, let’s do this right. I want both of us to leave it all in here. Because I know that’s what we came to do.”
Prior to the fight, Rodriguez revealed that the UFC told him a win would earn him a shot at the featherweight title, but now it’s unclear if that will still be the case considering the circumstances surrounding his victory on Saturday.
“Of course, I want to fight for the title,” Rodriguez said. “If I said different before that I didn’t have respect for the current champ [Alexander Volkanovski], it’s because I didn’t know better. Now I know he’s a f****** beast. All my respect to you. Hopefully you get better so we can do this s***.”
Volkanovski is also sidelined right now with a hand injury following his win over Max Holloway at UFC 276, so he’s not likely to return until the latter part of the year. Considering the way the UFC Long Island main event ended, Rodriguez may be stuck in limbo unless he decides to book another fight to secure his place as the No. 1 contender in the division.