In under five minutes, Barao rocked Faber again and again, eventually forcing referee Herb Dean's hand after a knockdown left Faber turtled, defenseless and susceptible to a series of hammerfists.
Faber's bid at the UFC bantamweight title ended in defeat, but the loss was not without controversy.
In the post-fight press conference, Faber expressed that he was completely conscious and aware of what was happening around him. He knew Dean needed him to defend himself, so he gave a thumbs-up gesture to signify his state of affairs.
Backing Faber's words, a replay clearly showed his thumbs up, and he immediately protested the stoppage. He did not appear badly dazed or hurt.
None of that mattered. The fight was stopped, and that should bother you.
Yes, Barao was dominating the bout. Yes, Barao looked phenomenal.
And, yes, Barao already obliterated Faber once before for a full 25 minutes.
But justifying a poor stoppage because "that guy would have won, anyway" is fallacious.
MMA is not a game built on conjecture and "ifs." How many times do "experts" routinely blow fight predictions? How many times have you watched a fight where one man looked in total command, only to have his opponent snatch victory from the fists, knees and shins of defeat?
The latter happened literally three fights before Barao vs. Faber 2 at UFC 169, when Abel Trujillo came back from the dead to knock out Jamie Varner with a devastating counter right hook (gif courtesy of Zombie Prophet, @ZProphet_MMA).
To rob a fighter of a chance at a comeback can be a fatal error in MMA, and it can directly alter the way the bout would should have ended.
Let me clarify: I'm not against referee stoppages at all. I don't have to see a fighter faceplant to the canvas to realize a fight needed to be stopped.
I do have a problem, however, when a fighter is defending himself by keeping his off hand high while holding on to a single leg and giving a thumbs up.
I have a problem when the fighter in question is noted for his ability to absorb punishment and move forward.
Urijah was hurt but that was a bad stoppage. #UFC169— Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon) February 2, 2014
"It's unfortunate, being a guy that's very tough and prides myself on that in a big show like the one that we had today, where I don't get to fight until the bitter end," Faber said in the UFC 169 post-fight press conference. "If they're asking me to defend myself, I'm already defending myself, I have to do something, so I put my thumb up, but, ya know...It is what it is."
Faber was not done against Barao at UFC 169. I'm not trying to say that he was definitely going to win that fight.
But he did deserve the chance to mount a comeback, and Dean—who I still feel is one of the best referees in the game, for the record—robbed him of that.
Don't justify a terrible decision because you assume a particular end as an inevitability.
If you still want to, however, Pat Barry, Chael Sonnen, Pete Sell, Jamie Varner and countless others are happy to provide some notes for help you change your mind.