This past weekend at UFC 169, Urijah Faber dropped his third title fight in the UFC becoming just the fourth man to do so.
He lost via TKO to Renan Barao who showcased why one little mistake means the end of a fight.
Faber looked great to start. He applied pressure and moved his feet which can pay dividends against a champion who has a reputation for exploding on you if even the slightest weakness is shown.
The first big shot on Faber was that straight. Right down the center of his guard, his dislodged his consciousness for a moment and having lifted one leg to defend against a potential follow-up kick just made it worse as he slammed on to his back.
After that it was all Barao who basically went blind with the thought of finishing Faber, which he did.
Immediately following the contest Faber argued that when Referee Herb Dean asked him to give him a sign that he was ok, he gave a thumbs up which should have prompted Dean to step back and give him some more time to recover.
A majority of viewers of this event agree with Faber that the stoppage was premature, I for one disagree.
The referee in MMA is at least 10% of victory in an MMA fight. Notice how Barao (like many others in the past), looked up at Dean to sort of hint that his opponent had wilted? That wasn’t for the safety of Faber. Barao didn’t just get done smashing him just to alert the referee that Faber was hurt, everyone in attendance and everyone watching at home knew that. That was instead a move that may have helped the fight end a bit sooner that it could have, although I still agree.
Barao’s training partner Jose Aldo is seen in a video put out by the UFC, calling Barao crafty for doing so and you know what?
Getting dropped once like that is bad but getting back up, absorbing several seconds of punishment, then going down again is worse. Faber wasn’t giving that thumbs up at first and holding on to a single-leg doesn’t mean you are working for anything in particular. Instead, Faber gave the thumbs when Dean asked for it.
Referee’s often look for movement before ending a fight. Faber didn’t show any which led to the fight’s end. A thumb’s up should have been meant with him posting up on his feet or rolling even if he didn’t put 100% effort in to it or if Barao stuffed it quickly. It would have done two things, shown the referee movement, and halted Barao’s punches at least for a moment. It’s easier said than done but an experience fighter like Faber who had 36 fights coming in to this one, should have made especially after getting rocked so badly. Seeing as he didn’t that likely means he either made a big mistake in not doing so while turtling up, or he was hurt badly.
It’s unfortunate because you find this when a fighter receives an eye-poke or a bad cut. The doctor or referee asks them if they want to continue and if not, the fight will be stopped. Fighters already come in to fights injured (Faber claimed afterwards that he had a torn hamstring coming in to UFC 169) and stopping a fight halfway through from a cut may not be possible for their psyche.
The stoppage was opportune yes but not early in the sense that a stoppage is meant to avoid further damage. A calm Barao with a full gas-tank is terrifying and with Faber hurt, we likely weren’t going to see a comeback. Anything can happen in MMA but the odds were low even in this sport.
If there is anything to criticize from Dean it is perhaps that he didn’t give much time between asking for a sign that he is ok, and seeing that sign. The intelligent defense of Faber was instinctual. He probably wasn’t underneath his arms in a state of calm but instead a state of urgency after already being hurt, badly. He made one attempt to move during the flurry on the mat but after a brief shift, he went back to being turtled up.
Faber is a fantastic athlete and he maybe could beat Barao somewhere down the line but in this fight, in those circumstances, the stoppage came at a time that the moniker ‘early’ simply doesn’t apply.
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