White: UFC 169 was a ‘catastrophe’ with a cherry on top

Monday, February 03, 2014

UFC 169 had all the making of an extraordinary evening, with two title fights on the line, a massive heavyweight bout, and below that four fighters with a life commitment to throwing down – Ali Bagautinov,  John Lineker, Abel Trujillo, and Jamie Varner.

The undercard ended up being a nearly unprecedented series of decisions, some of them uninspired. But when the PPV card opened, it was a whole different world. Varner and Trujillo fought ferociously, with Varner, a late replacement, nearly taking it before being iced with a right that appeared to have been fortified with depleted Uranium.

And then the decisions returned.

For the next three fights, including a five round title fight, there was only one single round that did not go to the eventual winner. A new UFC record was set for most decisions, with 10. Of all the records in the sport, that is one fans probably least want to see broken. You would have to go back to most times a UFC heavyweight champion jumps as a high as he can warming up for a title fight lands on a pipe slips and hits his head cancelling the main event to equal it.

In the final fight, there was a stoppage, but that too was source more of contention than excitement.

Renan Barao was swarming on Urijah Faber, knocked him down prone, and hit him over and over as Faber hung onto a leg with one hand and covered his head with the other. Twice Barao looked up at referee Herb Dean beseeching him to stop the fight, and after some 15 unanswered strikes to the head, Dean called it.

However, pre fight back in the locker room, Herb Dean would have had a personal conversation with the fighter, in which he explained that he cannot always tell if a fighter is in trouble or not, and should that be the case, the fighter should let him know, without endangering himself. Dean will have emphasized that if stuck in a submission, don't stop defending, but that for example a thumbs up will let him know that all is OK, when it appears as if it could be otherwise.

Faber had his thumb up.
The moment the fight was stopped Faber explained he had had his thumb up, and  in the post fight interview, while offering Dean the highest praise for his skills as a referee, said it was the wrong call.

Given Dean's vantage point, which was the correct one given the attack, the thumbs up would have been difficult to see. While Faber does seem to have been OK, the math of the matter is that he took a dozen punches to the head without moving at all. That does not represent an intelligent defense.

Like Faber, White offered Dean the highest praise, and also thought it was not the right call.

“Faber was blocking those shots; he gave the thumbs up,” said White Saturday night post fight. “He is the best in the business, as far as I’m concerned. Tonight, he made a mistake.”

“They both kind of get screwed tonight. Barao gets screwed and Faber gets screwed. It’s the cherry on the 10-decision, record-breaking catastrophe this evening.”

So what did YOU think about UFC 169?