UFC’s return to Mexico City on Saturday night culminated in an ugly scene, with the crowd pelting the Octagon with beer, popcorn and assorted other snacks and beverages. The main event of the card between local favorite Yair Rodriguez (11-2, 1 NC) and Iowa native Jeremy Stephens (28-16, 1 NC) lasted only 15 seconds before Rodriguez accidentally poked Stephens in the eye. Stephens was clearly having a great deal of trouble with his eye as the crowd loudly taunted him with derogatory chants. When referee Herb Dean waved the fight off, things quickly fell apart.
Fans hurled all sorts of objects at the cage, landing all around the cageside area. Stephens and his corners ran to the back covering their heads and ducking for cover. When Rodriguez showed remorse for the way the fight ended and respect to Stephens, he was jeered as well by significant portions of the partisan crowd. The audience squarely blamed Stephens for the fight not continuing and did not want to hear any positive words directed his way.
The frustrations of the Mexico City crowd built over the course of the evening. The event was anchored by seven bouts pitting Mexican fighters against fighters from other nations. Many of those fights did not end as many fans hoped they would. Canadian competitor Kyle Nelson (13-3) rocked Mexican star Polo Reyes (8-7) with brutal punches up against the cage and had Reyes out on his feet before the referee stepped in. Later, in a scary scene, American Steven Peterson (18-9) knocked out Martin Bravo (11-3) cold with a spinning back fist. Bravo was down quite some time before returning to his feet cautiously.
Following those emphatic setbacks, there were consecutive disputed judges’ decisions. First, Mexico’s Brandon Moreno (15-5-1) and Russia’s Askar Askarov (10-0-1) fought to a split draw (28-28, 29-28 Askarov, 30-27 Moreno). The Times scored the fight 30-27 for Moreno, who scored the hardest shots throughout and gained momentum as the fight progressed. The crowd loudly jeered when the fight was announced as a draw.
There was anger again after the next fight when Carla Esparza (15-6) was announced as the majority decision winner (29-28, 29-28, 28-28) over Alexa Grasso (11-3). The Times scored the bout a 28-28 draw. Esparza won the first two rounds on the strength of her wrestling while Grasso had a big round in the third but wasn’t able to finish Esparza with strikes. The resentment of the judges was strong enough that they were booed when announced for the main event.
It wasn’t all disappointment for the local fighters on the card. Mexican star Jose Alberto Quinonez (8-3) won a clear decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Peruvian competitor Carlos Huachin (10-5-1) on the undercard by using his wrestling. Likewise, Irene Aldana (11-5) made it look easy against Vanessa Melo (9-6) and won on the judges’ cards 30-26, 30-26 and 30-26.