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Great Expectations: What we expected vs. what we learned at UFC 169

At UFC 169: "Barao vs. Faber 2,” which took place last Saturday night (Feb. 1, 2014) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, veteran referee Herb Dean was called into question after stopping the main event in the first round, and many observers felt he was wrong in doing so.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Right off the bat, the predictions were favorable for two Brazilian Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) titleholders.

Many of us couldn't tell you for sure that both Renan Barao and Jose Aldo were going to retain their bantamweight and featherweight titles, respectively, yet if we had to bet the house, it would have been better to be safe than sorry.

You can't take anything away from Barao, successfully defending his belt for a third consecutive time over the likable veteran in Urijah Faber. "The Baron" looked unstoppable when attacking "The California Kid," perhaps the most lethal we have ever seen him up until this date.

After all, he won in less than four minutes (highlights here).

Barao pummeled Faber with punches, dropping him twice with sheer aggressiveness and power, then unloaded hammer fists. With no real shots doing any damage, the Brazilian looked at Dean the same way a child looks at their parent in a toy store after seeing something mesmerizing.

With Faber giving the referee a hard-to-see thumbs up, Dean called the fight off, and immediately, the tsunami of complaints ensued.

The first one being from the challenger.

It's safe to say we didn't expect that to happen, and after watching Faber tear through the opposition last year, working his way back up to a third title shot (and a second meeting against Barao in less than two years), it left a sour taste in almost everyone's mouth.

Fans familiar with Faber know of his gameness.

The broken hands he had to deal with against Mike Brown at WEC 41, the brutal kicks he absorbed that almost paralyzed his legs against Jose Aldo at WEC 48, and the cracked rib he suffered in his first fight against Barao at UFC 149.

Those are just a few examples of what Faber can live through when fighting.

Is this why the legions of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are so upset? Or, is it because the main event was cut short, on a card where the record was broken for having the most decisions?

Nobody has an issue with Barao being named the best fighter on the planet, alongside Aldo, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez, but some are quick to assume that the fight should have gone on.

In all seriousness, it was only going to get worse for Faber. It was one of those calls where we have some who saw it as a good stoppage, while others felt it was a bad call (including UFC President Dana White).

Let's reverse the roles, shall we?

Aldo scored a unanimous decision victory over Ricardo Lamas after four rounds of rinse and repeat, minus the fifth round, where Lamas started to have his way with the Brazilian on the ground. But what would have happened if the main event materialized like the co-main event did?

We would have been praising Barao for all the right reasons, saying we sort of believed he would do that to Faber again. We would have seen an exact replica of their first fight at UFC 149.

Now, if Aldo would have clocked and dropped Lamas, followed up with punches on the ground that weren't connecting properly, and Dean would have stepped in after Lamas gave him thumbs up, would we be in uproar?

Why not?

Is it because we would have expected Aldo to crush Lamas? More so than not, we would have credited "Junior" for the win, and assume that matters would have only gotten worse for "The Bully."

Why is this different for Faber? Is it because we are accustomed to seeing him persevere throughout his career?

A bad call is a bad call. But, one that has the fighter's protection on the line can be seen both ways. Dean wanted to protect Faber more than anything. If that still upsets you, there's no changing that.

Now, about those decisions.

White was not pleased about the record-setting decisions on one card, and even criticized Alistair Overeem for playing it safe. Keep in mind, Overeem was fighting for his job, and mental mistakes against Antonio Silva and Travis Browne saw him on the wrong end of highlight reel knockouts.

For what it's worth, he's even unhappy with the way Aldo fights... for not being a "finisher."

Sometimes, fights just suck (like the "Prelims" did). However, the promoter should not complain about fights going to a decision, especially when these fight cards are being polluted with fights like Nick Catone against Tom Watson and Neil Magny against Gasan Umalatov, the latter being equivalent to a Bellator "Prelim."

You want more finesse? Step it up.

Plus, not every fight card needs to have knockouts, submissions and impressive finishes. Look at the three of the best fights of last year: Jones versus Alexander Gustafsson, Antonio Silva versus Mark Hunt, and Gilbert Melendez versus Diego Sanchez, all went to a decision.

The difference is, they were great fights. Still, it has nothing to do with "decisions." It has something to do with the quality of match ups.

Hey, maybe everyone should go out on their shield like Jamie Varner, and require a CT scan after their fight.

Just a thought...

For complete coverage of UFC 169: "Barao vs. Faber 2" click here.

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