The much-anticipated co-main event between heavyweights Frank Mir and Josh Barnett at UFC 164 ended in controversy when referee Rob Hinds called a stop to the action, what some thought might be prematurely. Barnett, who was physically controlling the action at the time, dropped Mir with a big knee late in the first round which prompted Hinds to intervene at the 1:56 mark of the first round.
Although he did drop instantaneously after being struck, Mir immediately got back to his feet to protest the stoppage. But by that point it was already official.
"Obviously I thought it was a bad stoppage," Mir said in the post-fight press conference. "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."
Mir insinuated that he thought Hinds screwed up the call, before correcting his wording.
"I think the fans got robbed," he said. "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, [but] 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."
The loss was Mir's third in a row since dropping his title bid against Junior dos Santos at UFC 146. As for Barnett, it was a triumphant return to the UFC since he defeated Randy Couture back at UFC 36 in 2002 to capture the heavyweight title.
Though Barnett said he was happy to get the victory, he also sided with Mir on the stoppage.
"It felt great to get this win here in the UFC," he said. "It's been a long time coming. And it's great to get this match-up with Frank. There's always been a likelihood of me and Frank fighting — we were always top ten in our division, it just never quite worked out until tonight.
"I actually do feel that it was an early stoppage. I would always prefer to get the clean finish."
Mir and Barnett weren't the only ones who thought the stoppage was premature. UFC president Dana White tweeted out his frustration just before the main event between Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis took place.
"F---ing ridiculous stoppage!!!!" White wrote. "The guys with experience make mistakes. That guy had no business being in the Co Main event!"