UFC featherweight Yair Rodriguez was one of the organization’s brightest rising stars when his career was temporarily derailed by a brutal one-sided beatdown administered by former champion Frankie Edgar in May 2017.
Rodriguez is officially back on track.
The 26-year-old finally returned to action Saturday night and capped a thrilling UFC Fight Night 139 main event with a spectacular knockout of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung by landing an elbow at an awkward angle with just one second remaining on the clock in the fifth and final round.
“Craziest finish ever,” UFC president Dana White said on the post-fight show of the stunning conclusion of a bout Jung would have won on the scorecards. “There was one second left on the clock when he landed that elbow. ‘Zombie’ had the fight in the bag, he had one more second to go.
“Wow, what a finish.”
Both fighters landed in the hospital after the epic clash, with each posting a photo on social media of a reunion in the emergency room.
Rodriguez posted a video expressing his delight at a successful return to action.
”Hey to all the beautiful people who continued to support me for this fight, all the people who have kept their faith in me,” he said in Spanish. “I want to say thank you very much, God bless you. It was a fight on short notice, a pretty hard time has passed during my life and my career in recent months but I am very happy to have my job and to have my loved ones with me. I am very happy to have your support.”
”I hope I can continue to perform like that and I hope that you liked the fight. Today we are here about to take some X-rays for my feet and for my nose. My respects for the Korean Zombie, he is a warrior. I send you my respect, affection and appreciation. And to all your team too. Greetings to all the people of Korea, God bless you.”
Rodriguez had won his first six fights in the UFC before he was steamrolled by Edgar. He hopes to build on Saturday’s win, which came on the UFC’s 25th anniversary card.
Not flying away just yet
White didn’t officially confirm multiple published reports the organization was eliminating the men’s flyweight division, though he did indicate changes may be on the way.
Several flyweight fighters have announced on social media they have been released from the UFC and former champ Demetrious Johnson was essentially traded to ONE Championship, but bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw will drop down to 125 pounds to challenge flyweight champ Henry Cejudo for the belt at UFC 233 on Jan. 26, 2019 in Anaheim, Calif.
“Listen, we’re working on some things right now with that division,” White said on Saturday’s post-fight show. “Dillashaw wants to win two belts — there’s five or six guys who have done it — he wants to do it. Cejudo is absolutely fine fighting at that weight instead of going to 135, so we made it.”
More fallout from brawl
Several individuals are expected to be handed temporary suspensions this week for their roles in an October brawl at T-Mobile Arena following the lightweight title bout between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
McGregor and Nurmagomedov already have been issued temporary suspensions pending their scheduled disciplinary hearings in December.
The Nevada Athletic Commission is likely to add McGregor’s friend and training partner Dillon Danis, who was the target of Nurmagomedov’s aggression, to that list.
Zubaira Tukhugo, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Rizvan Magomedov and Esedulla Emiragaev are also expected to be issued temporary suspensions pending disciplinary hearings.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, UFC bantamweight Sean O’Malley is expected to enter into an agreement on sanction for his failed drug test pending a vote of the full commission.
The UFC will hold it’s first event in Argentina on Saturday.
Welterweight Neil Magny will meet Santiago Ponzinibbio in the main event of the card in Buenos Aires, which will air on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m.
■ Nov. 15: Bellator 209 (Paramount), Tel Aviv, Israel
■ Nov. 17: UFC Fight Night 140 (FS1), Buenos Aires, Argentina
■ Nov. 24: UFC Fight Night 141 (FS1), Beijing, China
■ Nov. 30: Bellator 210 (Paramount), Thackerville, Okla.
■ Dec. 1: UFC Fight Night 142 (FS1), Adelaide, Australia
■ Dec. 8: UFC 231 (FS1/PPV), Toronto, Ontario