Posted 02/04/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC 169 Review

Urijah Faber first fought for a title way back in 2004. He forced Eben Kaneshiro to submit to strikes en route to winning King of the Cage’s bantamweight title. He was involved in a title fight every subsequent year, sans 2013, spanning three promotions: King of the Cage, World Extreme Cagefighting, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Saturday night, the eighteenth title fight of his career, may have been his last.

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With just over 3:30 elapsed in round one, leading MMA referee Herb Dean found Faber turtled up, clutching on to Renan Barao’s leg as Barao unleashed rapid-fire blows at Faber’s head. Faber’s left arm curled over his ear and caught the brunt of the attack. Dean stepped in. Faber looked up in disbelief.

The result likely wouldn’t have changed had Dean played laissez-faire. To that point, Barao had landed twice as many significant strikes and four times as many total strikes as Faber. He also scored a knockdown. Faber looked every bit the 3-1 gambling underdog.

Still, if anyone’s earned the benefit of the doubt in MMA, it’s Faber. In 36 professional bouts leading into Saturday, he’d been stopped just twice: by Tyson Griffin in Faber’s ninth professional fight back in 2005 and by flying into Mike Brown’s right hand in 2008. Faber’s the same guy who fought the latter half of his rematch against Brown throwing standing elbows because he broke both of his hands, the same guy whose leg looked like a case of gangrene after five rounds with Jose Aldo. Faber is one of the toughest sons of bitches in a sport full of them.

He was intelligently defending himself when Dean stepped in. Barao wobbled and flattened him with a right hand, and Faber instinctually grabbed Barao’s right leg and turtled. The left arm guarding the head formed an effective shell. Faber wasn’t in a good spot, but his defenses instincts were sound and he wasn’t taking unnecessary damage.

Dean’s short leas was his greatest sin. Barao threw fifteen or sixteen punches, of which only the first few landed with any clarity. It was the look he gave Dean, puppy dog eyes that asked, “How much more, sir,” that sold the finish. We can’t always expect referees to give a fighter the Edgar or Lesnar treatment, but a fighter intelligently and effectively defending himself should get more than then five or six seconds Dean afforded Faber.

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Jose Aldo outclassed Ricardo Lamas for three rounds, then hit the breaks and coasted through the last two, and now Dana White is butt hurt because he expects more from Aldo.

White’s frustration is understandable, at least in terms of a promoter wanting exciting fights, but there’s no incentive for Aldo to risk a finish. Maybe the weight cut tires him and maybe it doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter when everyone is talking before the fight about you moving up to fight for the lightweight title.

A shot at Anthony Pettis’ belt is the biggest money fight for Jose Aldo right now. After establishing your dominance and pocketing three rounds over an 8-1 underdog, what’s in it for Aldo? A highlight reel finish adds some marginal excitement to the Pettis bout, but is it worth risking a shot right on the jaw? Exerting yourself into an injury? That kills the fight that everyone’s looking toward.

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In other “Dana White butt hurt over fighter performance” news, Alistair Overeem is also in the doghouse for carrying Frank Mir through three rounds.

Again, let’s look at incentives. Overeem entered the fight coming off two losses to Travis Browne and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. In both of those losses, he went full Overeem, winning the early portion of the fight (and in the Silva fight, winning the first two rounds) before imploding. Overeem was concerned with picking up a “W,” securing his employment, and cashing a $285,000 check.

White refused to confirm or deny whether Mir and Overeem were fighting a loser-leaves-town match, but Overeem’s no dummy. He saw what happened to Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami, two fighters who earned more than the UFC deemed they were worth and cut at first opportunity. A third straight loss in the UFC, a loss to a guy on his own three-fight losing streak well on the downside of his career? Yeah, the writing’s on the wall there.

Overeem may not have finished Mir, but he sure beat the piss out of him. Total strikes: 139-5. Significant strikes: 62-3. Over 35 total strikes landed each round. A knockdown in the first. Overeem completely dominated Mir bell-to-bell, and that counts for something.

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As for Mir, he turns 35 in May. He’s lost his last 4, and he’s 4-6 since 2009. His loss column, though, is fearsome: Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnet, and Alistair Overeem. Each of those guys, aside from Barnett, has held one of the top three spots in the heavyweight rankings at some point over the last four years. If you’re going to lose four straight, it may as well be to a Murderer’s Row like that.

The question now is where he goes from here. He’s no where near title contention, and this latest loss puts him out of the top 10 (11, to be precise, in front of Gabriel Gonzaga, Rodrigo Nogueira, Stefan Struve, and Brendan Schaub; heavyweight MMA, ladies and gentlemen). I suppose he could stick around as a gatekeeper, or I guess a fight with Gonzaga or Schaub or a returning Struve might make some sense.

It’s unfortunate he lost his WEC commentary gig for expressing his desire to kill Brock Lesnar. Mir, for all of his Miguel Torres love aside, did a good job, and would be an improvement over some of the blowhards the UFC and Fox have utilized on telecasts.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter

Mike Fagan