For the first time in UFC history, back-to-back main events have ended with a “TKO due to injury” designation.
First, it was UFC on ABC 3, where Brian Ortega suffered a shoulder injury upon his escape from a Yair Rodriguez submission attempt. One week later, Tom Aspinall suffered a knee injury that ended his UFC Fight Night 208 main event vs. Curtis Blaydes in premature fashion.
While the term “freak injury” might not be appropriate to use when discussing a sport that is inherently dangerous, a dozen have ended in unforeseen injuries – broken legs, separated shoulders, eye pokes, etc. – that don’t typically come in the sequence of MMA combat.
Scroll below to see a chronology of UFC main events that ended in that nature.
Note: Injuries sustained on a TKO due to strikes or tapout due to a submission are not included, nor are retirements on the stool due to extended fight damage or exhaustion. Laceration-based stoppages also are not included since they come as an intentional result of the opposition’s attack.
UFC 90: Patrick Cote suffers knee injury vs. Anderson Silva
CHICAGO- OCTOBER 25: Anderson Silva (L) wrestles with Patrick Cote in the Middleweight Title Bout at UFC’s Ultimate Fight Night at Allstate Arena on October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Date: Oct. 25, 2008
Result: Anderson Silva def. Patrick Cote via TKO (injury) – Round 3, 0:39
Injury: All was going well for Patrick Cote against one of the future all-time greats until it wasn’t. One of the better performances anyone has put on against Anderson Silva ended with Cote holding his knee, down on the canvas due to a torn ACL.
UFC 163: Chan Sung Jung dislocates shoulder vs. Jose Aldo
Aug 3, 2013; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Jose Aldo (red gloves) fights Chan Sung Jung (blue gloves) during UFC 163 at HSBC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports
Date: Aug. 3, 2013
Location: Rio de Janeiro
Result: Jose Aldo def. Chan Sung Jung via TKO (strikes) – Round 4, 2:00
Injury: Shoulder dislocations happen in MMA, but none perhaps in a bigger moment than Chan Sung Jung’s long-awaited first UFC title fight. Midway through Round 4, Jung’s shoulder came out of its socket after a punch attempt. While the TKO win for Jose Aldo was ruled to have come from follow-up strikes, the shoulder dislocation was the reason for Jung’s initial retreat – he tried to lodge it back into place – and subsequent cover-up. The injury was serious enough that Jung needed surgery. He tore it again in 2021.
UFC 168: Anderson Silva breaks leg vs. Chris Weidman
Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva, UFC 168
Date: Dec. 28, 2013
Location: Las Vegas
Result: Chris Weidman def. Anderson Silva via TKO (injury) – Round 2, 1:16
Injury: In one of the most grotesque and high-profile injuries in MMA history, Anderson Silva snapped his leg. A result of great defensive technique from Chris Weidman, a leg kick from “The Spider” backfired in horrific fashion. Silva’s leg shattered; he broke his tibia and fibula.
UFC Fight Night 74: Charles Oliveira suffers neck injury vs. Max Holloway
Date: Aug. 23, 2015
Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Result: Max Holloway def. Charles Oliveira via TKO (injury) – Round 1, 1:39
Injury: In one of the more bizarre sequences in UFC history, Charles Oliveira grabbed his neck and went down against Max Holloway. As he rose to his feet against the cage, Oliveira grabbed his throat, seemingly untouched. Initial reports stated Oliveira suffered an esophageal tear. However, he recently revealed it was a reccurring neck injury that left his body tingling.
UFC Fight Night 120: Anthony Pettis suffers rib injury vs. Dustin Poirier
Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) leaves the fight against Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Location: Norfolk, Va.
Result: Dustin Poirier def. Anthony Pettis via TKO (injury) – Round 3, 2:08
Injury: There are tight body triangles and then there’s the one Dustin Poirier had Anthony Pettis in during their five-round lightweight main event showdown. With Poirier on his back, Pettis attempted to turn into his opponent. However, Poirier slid into mount and in the process, broke one of Pettis’ ribs.
UFC Fight Night 159: Jeremy Stephens suffers eye injury vs. Yair Rodriguez
Sep 21, 2019; Mexico City, MEX; Jeremy Stephens (blue gloves) reacts after being poked in the eye by Yair Rodriguez (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Mexico City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Date: Sept. 21, 2019
Location: Mexico City
Result: No contest – Round 1, 0:15
Injury: In one of the more memorable main event failures in UFC history (for all the wrong reasons), Yair Rodriguez poked Jeremy Stephens in the eye 15 seconds into their main event clash. Unable to see, Stephens couldn’t continue. The bout was called off. Mexican fans pelted the cage and Stephens with food and beverages – which even caused UFC commentator Brendan Fitzgerald to hide under his desk. The matchup was rebooked for one month later in Boston. Rodriguez defeated Stephens by unanimous decision.
UFC Fight Night 178: Tyron Woodley suffers rib injury vs. Colby Covington
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 19: Tyron Woodley (R) reacts after suffering a rib injury against Colby Covington in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Date: Sept. 19, 2020
Location: Las Vegas
Result: Colby Covington def. Tyron Woodley via TKO (injury) – Round 5, 1:19
Injury: A dominant four-round showing from Colby Covington was topped off by a fifth-round Tyron Woodley injury. What looked like a normal takedown attempt caused Woodley to scream out in pain – and referee Dan Miragliotta to intervene. An X-ray later confirmed Woodley broke a rib.
UFC Fight Night 187: Belal Muhammad suffers eye injury vs. Leon Edwards
Date: March 13, 2021
Location: Las Vegas
Result: No contest (accidental foul) – Round 2, 0:18
Injury: An unfortunate eye injury halted the biggest fight of Belal Muhammad’s career prematurely. In the early stages of Round 2, Leon Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad’s right eye. The foul resulted in visible damage and the fight to be called. Muhammad has since called for a rematch, but has yet to receive it.
UFC 264: Conor McGregor breaks leg vs. Dustin Poirier
Jul 10, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor holds his leg after suffering an injury against Dustin Poirier during UFC 264 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Date: July 10, 2021
Location: Las Vegas
Result: Dustin Poirier def. Conor McGregor via TKO (injury) – Round 1, 5:00
Injury: Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier – the rubber match. Who would’ve guessed it would end in the most high-profile leg break since Anderson Silva against Chris Weidman? But in MMA, expect the unexpected. Late in Round 1, McGregor stepped back and his leg caved under him. In between rounds, McGregor was deemed unable to continue – and for good reason. He suffered a broken tibia and fibula. Adamant on the stool the fight be stopped due to doctor stoppage/injury rather than “retirement,” McGregor got his wish.
UFC on ESPN 36: Aleksandar Rakic suffers knee injury vs. Jan Blachowicz
Date: May 14, 2022
Location: Las Vegas
Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Aleksandar Rakic via TKO (injury) – Round 3, 1:11
Injury: It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility Aleksandar Rakic could’ve earned a title shot if he beat Jan Blachowicz. Instead, the injury bug bit. In an early Round 3 exchange, Rakic’s knee buckled. He crumpled to the canvas and the fight was over. Later, exams showed he sustained a torn ACL.
UFC on ABC 3: Brian Ortega suffers shoulder injury vs. Yair Rodriguez
Jul 16, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; Brian Ortega (red gloves) reacts to fight against Yair Rodriguez (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Date: July 16, 2022
Location: Elmont, N.Y.
Result: Yair Rodriguez def. Brian Ortega via TKO (injury) – Round 1, 4:11
Injury: Everyone was seemingly hyped for Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega – a matinee main event on ABC. That’s why there was an audible murmer of disappointment on Long Island when the fight ended before it really even got started. While his submission defense succeeded initially, Ortega injured himself as he pulled out of a Rodriguez armbar attempt. He was rendered unable to continue.
UFC Fight Night 208: Tom Aspinall suffers knee injury vs. Curtis Blaydes
Jul 23, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Tom Aspinall (blue gloves) falls to the ground while fighting Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Date: July 23, 2022
Result: Curtis Blaydes def. Tom Aspinall via TKO (injury) – Round 1, 0:15
Injury: It could’ve been Tom Aspinall’s contendership coming-out party. Instead, it was a 15-second nightmare for the Brit. Aspinall threw a kick at Curtis Blaydes, stepped back, and his knee gave out. It was all over just like that.