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Looking back on 2018: Yair Rodriguez’ elbow heard around the world

Looking back on 2018: Yair Rodriguez’ elbow heard around the world

Yair Rodriguez celebrates his victory over BJ Penn (not pictured) during the UFC Fight Night event

If there is one word that would be best used to describe the year of 2018 in MMA, it would be “unpredictable.”

There were a plethora of incredible moments that took place in and out of combat sports enclosures. Some for better, some for worse, some that made us shake our heads and some that made us jump for joy.

At UFC Fight Night 139 in November, we had multiple moments that had us doing the latter. One of which was brought to us by the exciting featherweight pairing of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez.

This wasn’t supposed to be the main event of that night, however. The UFC’s 25th anniversary show was slated to feature Jung taking on the former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar rather than Rodriguez. Unfortunately for Edgar, an injury would force him from the contest.

Fortunately for the fans, this allowed for Mexico’s Rodriguez to enter in and save the day. And oh how he did just that.

A never-ending car crash

Stylistically, this fight was destined to be great from the moment Rodriguez was announced as the replacement. Both men are never ones that look to play it safe as evidenced by classics like Jung vs. Leonard Garcia 1 or Rodriguez’ crazy switch kick knockout of Andre Fili. Unpredictability couldn’t better describe either one of these fighters. Rodriguez in particular…

A back and forth war throughout that resulted in a fight of the year candidate, each man found plenty of success and despite the ever closeness in their total striking numbers, Jung’s 130 to Rodriguez’ 129, many saw the Mexican as clearly down on the scorecards as time dripped off the clock. After the fight, it was revealed that was indeed the case.

Jung’s boxing seemed to be the difference maker throughout as Rodriguez threw many more kicks and varied attacks. As time was winding down, it would be the strike that no one ever could have possibly imagined that closed the show.

It only takes a single second

Whether Rodriguez knew it at the time or not, he needed to make something big happen to avoid losing a unanimous decision to his Korean counterpart.

With the 10-second clapper echoing through the stadium at its mark, both fighters nodded and bit down on their mouthpieces.

Maintaining pressure for the majority of the bout, it would cost Jung in the very end. Looking to pour it on late against Rodriguez and in the process of doing so, Rodriguez would strike with a simply astoundingly precise duck under back elbow that would knock Jung completely unconscious with a literal second left in the fight.

At first, many had no idea what had even happened. What hit Jung? Did he make it past the end of the round? It was a strike that wasn’t in the mind of anyone in the entire arena that night or anyone that was watching on TV around the world… Except for Rodriguez, of course.

The simple fact that the strike was what it was and at the time that it was landed makes it absolutely without question the knockout of 2018. However, it was also a knockout that we have never even come close to seeing before and probably will never see again if not for a very long time.

Because of that, it can be argued that in 2018 we witnessed the greatest MMA knockout of all time.

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