The two top lightweights met in the main event at UFC Vegas 58, and Fiziev appeared in control of the fight heading into the fifth round. “Ataman” clearly didn’t want to risk a decision and finished the former lightweight champion early in the round.
In a tweet following the fight, Sterling gave props to the track record of veteran referee Mark Smith but evidently wasn’t satisfied with how quickly Smith stepped in.
“Marks usually one of the better refs but that stoppage was way too quick. Tough break. Wish we got to see if RDA could recover. Rough ending to a great fight.”
The UFC bantamweight champion appeared to back track a little bit in a follow-up tweet and acknowledged that dos Anjos had clearly been in danger, but Sterling still felt it could have gone longer.
“Idk. I feel like fighters go limp all the time and ‘come-to’ really quick. It’s a fight, isn’t it? Take some and give some. I do think RDA was hurt BAD, but I kinda wanted to see ‘if’ he could recover or not. That’s the game we play tho. Game of inches. Great win Fiziev!”
Sterling Changes Mind On dos Anjos Stoppage
Days after Sterling shared his disagreement with the stoppage, he took to Instagram with a change of heart in tow.
“I stand corrected on the ref stoppage of Rafael Fiziev against Rafael Dos Anos. Unlike some people, I can admit when I’m wrong. Kudos to Mark Smith proving why he’s one of the best refs in the game!”
Dos Anjos: “He Won Fair And Square”
Even if he had managed to recover, dos Anjos would likely have needed a finish in order to snatch a win. Regardless of what Sterling may think about it, the former lightweight champion has dismissed any controversy around the stoppage and said Fiziev deserved the victory.
Competing in his first UFC main event, Fiziev picked up the biggest win of his MMA career and also extended his current win streak to 6 fights. There were some concerns heading into the bout about how the 29-year-old would perform in the later rounds, but he seems to have answered those questions with his fifth-round finish.
Sterling silenced a number of his own critics when he picked up a split-decision win over Petr Yan at UFC 273 to solidify his place as UFC bantamweight champion. The 32-year-old is expected to defend his title against former champion T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 279 in September.
What are your thoughts on Rafael Fiziev’s stoppage of Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Vegas 58? Do you think there is warranted controversy there?