Saturday night Josh Barnett defeated Frank Mir by Referee Stops Contest (Strikes, Round 1, 1:56). However, the stoppage by the highly-regarded Rob Hinds was controversial.
"F---ing ridiculous stoppage!!!!" tweeted UFC presiden Dana White immediately after the stoppage. "The guys with experience make mistakes. That guy had no business being in the Co Main event!"Frank Mir too expressed similar sentiments at the post-fight press conference.
"Obviously I thought it was a bad stoppage," said Mir. "We're fighters. If every fight was stopped on any kind of a flash shot or anything like that — actually, I took the knee, and I remember going, 's--- I'm in a bad position.' And that's why I dropped my other knee out from underneath me so that could fall to the ground and make sure I didn't take a second one. I didn't belly out, I didn't flatten out, and I actually tried to redig my underhook so that i could get a single. And I actually looked at the referee stopping it.
"And then at first I thought, maybe I was out? Did I take a bunch of shots that didn't see? And then after watching it, I was conscious the whole time. Even when I stood up I wasn't wobbled, I was completely coherent. So at best your argument is it was a flash knock down. I didn't know fights stopped on that. If that was the case I never would have beaten [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira, I don't think we would have seen Travis Browne knock out [Alistair] Overeem last week. There are too many fights in our sport that are exciting, and you've got to let us fight. I didn't sign up for a tennis match. It's nothing against Josh, he's a great fighter and he did what he had to do."
"I think the fans got robbed. I got screwed over. The fact that I trained so hard for that fight to keep up a pace that I knew I could have driven hard through for three rounds. Say what you will about Jackson's camp and game planning, everybody comes in shape. I showed up in shape on the scale, I showed up in shape out there, with my motivation — it sucks to do everything right and just have the door shut on you."
Perhaps surprisingly Barnett too felt the stoppage was early.
"I actually do feel that it was an early stoppage," said The Warmaster. "I would always prefer to get the clean finish."
White: Josh Barnett dominant, but Mir stoppage was UFC 164's lone disappointment
While he was thrilled with Saturday's event, where hometown hero Anthony Pettis claimed the lightweight title from Benson Henderson, White said the Barnett-Mir ending remains the lone disappointment of the evening.
"I think that Josh Barnett has more tools than Frank does," White said. "Josh's standup is better. Submissions would have been fun to see. Frank Mir is a beast on the ground. But you know, Josh fought the fight that Josh needed to fight. He went in and did exactly what you need to do to beat Frank Mir. You get in there, you start hitting him. You close that distance, push him against the fence, hit him with elbows, rough him up. Frank Mir does not like that.
" ... (But) if you had to pick one thing about that night that was disappointing, it was, could Frank Mir have taken a couple more shots? And that's it. It was a good night."
Barnett, meanwhile, returned for his first UFC fight and victory in 12 years. While it was a pivotal win for a fighter long on the outs with UFC officials, Barnett said he felt for Mir and understood his frustration.
After all, backstage before each of his bouts, Barnett said he instructs the referee to let the fight go on at all costs. He tells them he'd rather die than be the victim of an early stoppage.
Then again, early stoppage or not, Barnett felt he was going to defeat Mir.
"The potential was there for it to be (an) early (stoppage)," Barnett said. "I understood the ref just saw him drop and so he figured he was out. But I come from the old school. I remember watching guys getting mounted and the crap just pounded out of them, where they easily would have been stopped, and then watch the guy on top gas, get reversed and get finished.
" ... I understand Frank's frustration. But I feel like there was no getting out of that, personally. I feel it was the beginning of the end, but that's what I'm supposed to feel."