At UFC 169 in Newark, N.J., Renan Barao scored a first-round TKO victory over champion Urijah Faber to retain his UFC bantamweight title.
But the stoppage did not come without some controversy, with Faber saying in the cage after the fight that he believed he was fit to continue and had attempted to signal that belief to the referee.
After a fairly even first two minutes, Barao dropped Faber with a massive straight right hand that was plainly audible to television viewers. Faber survived an ensuing swarm of ground-and-pound and staggered to his feet but did not get the better of the wild stand-up exchanges that followed.
A big overhand right put Faber down again. This time, Faber turtled up completely, covering his head against a storm of hammerfists from Barao. Barao turned down the steam a half-notch and looked up at referee Herb Dean, seeming to wonder when the stoppage would come. A few seconds later, Dean waved off the contest.
All class in defeat but clearly frustrated, Faber told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight that he disagreed with the stoppage.
"It's very frustrating," Faber said. "I'm one of the most durable guys in the world. He told me to do something, so I gave him a thumbs-up. Herb is a great referee. I just wish I would have had more of a chance."
Faber also sent this tweet after the fight:
Whelp! Back to the drawing board. Thanks for all the support folks. Congrats to @RenanBaraoUFC— Urijah Faber (@UrijahFaber) February 2, 2014
Faber also added that he was holding on to Barao's leg. But because of Faber's turtled appearance and Barao's preceding rain of punishment, Dean and anyone else appears to have a case that a stoppage in that moment, at worst, appeared to only expedite the inevitable.
The win marks Barao's first defense of the UFC lineal bantamweight championship. Barao dropped the "interim" prefix from his business card after Dominick Cruz relinquished his belt because of an extended injury layoff.
Barao earned the interim title in July 2012 with a defeat of the very same Faber at UFC 149.
Barao, 26, has won 22 consecutive fights.
Faber, 34, falls to 30-7.