NEWARK -- For the third consecutive pay-per-view, UFC fans around the world were treated to a main event that will be talked about for years to come -- too bad it will be for all the wrong reasons.
While Renan Barăo looked absolutely dominant during his UFC bantamweight title defense against Urijah Faber, the ending left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone involved.
Entering their title fight both Faber and Barăo were riding some of the most impressive winning streaks in the entire organization with dominant stoppage wins.
While Barăo did come out on top in their initial meeting in the rather lackluster main event fight of UFC 149, Faber showed drastic improvement in his game and rattled off four victories in 10 months, all of which came in dominant fashion.
So a rematch only made sense, as they were clearly the two best fighters in the 135-pound division.
The opening round began with a short feeling out process, as neither man looked to eager to test their opponents counter striking. But after a failed kick, Faber slipped and fell to the canvas.
Barăo quickly swarmed on his downed opponent and began to rain down blows onto Faber's skull. While Faber managed to make it back to his feet and survive the onslaught, Barăo connected with a perfectly placed right hand right that visibly stunned his opponent.
Faber somehow managed to scramble back to his feet but was sent right back down with another powerful right hand from Barăo. Sensing blood the Brazilian leapt onto Faber and delivered a series of quick hammer fists.
As he covered up his head to protect himself from any more damage, Faber gave Referee Herb Dean a thumbs-up to signal he OK. But Dean must not have seen Faber's signal and only saw a downed fighter taking unnecessary shots to the head as he quickly jumped in to called a stop the action
Faber immediately protested the stoppage and pleaded with Dean he was more than alright to continue fighting. But the referee's decision was final thus awarding Barăo the TKO victory at 3:42 of the first round.
"It's very frustrating. I'm one of the most durable guys in the world," Faber said. "[The referee] told me to do something, and I gave him a thumb's up right before he stopped it. Herb is a great referee and I just wish he gave me more of a chance.
"I've had wrestling matches where I've been dazed before and had to do four or five matches in the same day. So it's unfortunate, being a guy that's very tough that prides myself on that, in a big show like the one we had today where I don't get to fight to the bitter end."
UFC president Dana White, a long time supporter of Dean, seemed to agree with Faber's assessment of the stoppage.
"You know you've heard me up here a million times talk about Herb Dean, I think he's the best referee in the business," said White. "He rarely ever makes mistakes, but he made a mistake tonight. Faber was blocking those shots, he gave the thumb's up. You know, [Dean's] the best in the business as far as I'm concerned. Tonight, he made a mistake."
Barăo, whose record now improves to an incredible 32-1 and 7-0 in the UFC, said he knew he hurt Faber but was also surprised at the premature stoppage.
"I've worked so hard to live this moment. It's my time. I never thought the referee could stop the fight early because Urijah looked like he could keep fighting. I landed a great punch -- the one good enough for keep this belt tight around my waist."
For Faber, this fight could very well be his last chance to capture the elusive UFC gold, as he's now 0-6 in title bouts over the last five years. However, as far as he's concerned he will always be one or two wins away from yet another opportunity to compete for the belt
"For those who know me, I don't consider this my last chance by any means," he said. "I took a great opportunity against a tough opponent. The whole camp didn't go my way and I was still optimistic that I was going to get this belt tonight, and I'm still optimistic that I'll be world champion."