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UFC’s Brian Ortega injures shoulder in loss to Yair Rodriguez

Everything was going as expected, Brian Ortega said. And then his shoulder happened.

The South Bay featherweight suffered a shoulder injury late in the first round, resulting in a TKO loss to Yair Rodrigez on Saturday in the UFC on ABC 3 main event in UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y.

Ortega and Rodriguez went to the mat with about a minute left in the round. In the ensuing scramble, Rodriguez went to trap Ortega’s right arm from underneath and possibly secure an armbar.

Ortega (15-3, 1 NC) went to extricate his arm, then fell back to the mat in agony. Rodriguez (15-3, 1 NC) initially went to pounce, but realized the situation and stopped as the fight was waved off at 4:11 of the opening round.

“Everything that we planned was going and we got knocked to the ground and we got stuck in a situation … and I don’t know, it just yanked,” Ortega said in his postfight interview. “I was not in submission danger, so I felt good. I tried to clear the leg and then my arm just popped out.”

Brian Ortega is seen on the canvas with doctors after suffering a shoulder injury against Yair Rodriguez during their UFC on ABC 3 main event Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

It was an unsatisfactory finish for a highly anticipated bout between two of the top 145-pounders, each with a penchant for exciting fights.

While the severity of the injury is unknown, Ortega suffered a torn labrum while training in September 2016 that sidelined him for nine months. He tore the labrum in his left shoulder in 2011.

Rodriguez, 29, had said before the fight that he had been told a victory would ensure a shot at champion Alexander Vollkanovski, who defeated Ortega by unanimous decision in September. Whether that title fight comes as a result of such a victory is to be determined.

“I already told him, you know, we can run it back anytime we can do this, you know, but already do it for a championship instead of in anticipation like this” Rodriguez said in his postfight interview. “But whatever the UFC decides, I’m OK with whatever.”

Acquaintances for some years, Ortega, a Mexican of American descent, and Rodriguez, a native of Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, were respectable leading up to the fight and wanted to showcase their Mexican warrior pride. Each walked out to a Mexican song Saturday and was determined to put on a show.

Brian Ortega, left, exchanges blows with Yair Rodriguez during their UFC on ABC 3 main event Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Brian Ortega, left, exchanges blows with Yair Rodriguez during their UFC on ABC 3 main event Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

For four minutes, Rodriguez fared better on the feet, often cracking Ortega with crisp strikes. Blessed with a hearty chin, Ortega kept coming forward, trying to pressure and negate Rodriguez’s range.

Ortega, 31, worked a clinch and they stayed locked onto each other for more than a minute against the cage before Ortega slipped on a throw and Rodriguez broke free.

Rodriguez did wear some damage within the first two minutes, as Ortega opened a small cut under his right eye.

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