In a bout that was billed as mixed martial arts versus professional wrestling, MMA came out on top in dominant fashion.
Tito Ortiz, the UFC Hall of Famer, defeated Alberto Rodriguez, better known as former WWE champ Alberto Del Rio, in the main event of Combate Americas 51 on Saturday night in Hidalgo, Texas. The finish came via rear-naked choke submission at 3:10 of the first round.
Ortiz was a -900 favorite, given his edge in experience and pedigree in MMA as the former longtime UFC light heavyweight champion. Ortiz is 44 years old and Rodriguez is 42.
Rodriguez, who has MMA and amateur wrestling experience, went for a lateral drop takedown to start the fight, but Ortiz reversed and got into top position. That was where the fight stayed, with Ortiz pinning Rodriguez to the mat and landing punches to the head. Rodriguez attempted to climb to his feet, but Ortiz took him down again, got control of his back and cinched in a rear-naked choke. Rodriguez tapped out.
Ortiz and Rodriguez had been feuding over social media and in interviews for several months about MMA, pro wrestling and politics. Ortiz put his UFC belt on the line in the fight, while Rodriguez, the former WWE champion, put up his WWE belt. Rodriguez handed over the WWE belt afterward, which Ortiz gave to his kids, who he said were huge WWE fans.
"My goal was always to be a WWE champion," Ortiz said, adding that this is better because he gets to grant the belt to his children. "The belt is for them. I worked hard for this."
Ortiz was to give $50,000 to Rodriguez's charity had Rodriguez made it out of the first round. Even though Rodriguez was unable to do that, Ortiz said he would still donate $10,000 to the charity.
Ortiz (21-12-1) said afterward that he has at least one more fight left on his contract with Combate Americas and might do several more after that. His most recent bout before Saturday was a first-round knockout win over longtime rival Chuck Liddell on Nov. 24, 2018. Ortiz is 5-1 since leaving the UFC after three straight losses in 2012. The California native held the UFC light heavyweight title from 2000 to 2003. He was one of the key figures in the UFC's rapid growth in popularity in the early-to-mid aughts.
Rodriguez (9-6) had not competed in MMA since 2010. He is best known for his work in WWE, where he was the first Mexican heavyweight champion. He won the WWE title and the WWE world heavyweight title twice apiece. Rodriguez most recently performed for WWE in 2016. From 2001 to 2010, he fought in mixed martial arts after a decorated amateur wrestling career. Rodriguez belongs to one of the most storied families in Mexican lucha libre. He is the nephew of lucha legend Mil Mascaras and went by the name Dos Caras Jr. in both lucha libre and MMA previously.
Combate Americas is an MMA promotion that markets itself mainly to the United States' Hispanic population. It is run by Campbell McLaren, who helped found the UFC in 1993. UFC star Jorge Masvidal was one of the commentators for the Ortiz vs. Rodriguez event.