On his way to winning the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix, Bibiano Fernandes advanced past Joe Warren with an armbar 42 seconds into the DREAM.11 fight, but the semifinal win wasn't without controversy.
As soon as Fernandes released the hold, Warren stood up dumbfounded, essentially claiming there was no tap and that the referee stopped the fight too early.
"I don't think it was a position where I couldn't keep fighting in," Warren said afterwards of his position, where he was belly down with his left arm trapped in the armbar. "I don't think I was in danger. I think I would have overpowered him and killed him if I had a few more minutes with him. Third fight, problems. Not much I can say. Mistake I made but I think I could have fought out of it."
As bad as a position Warren was in, there is an escape. Warren could have pushed down his right hand towards the mat and hopped around to his left and over Fernandes into side control.
But the way Warren was trapped with his arm already straightened out, especially against a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt in Fernandes, more likely than not, Warren wouldn't have been able to.
From the video above, from that angle it appears Warren taps – albeit subtlety-- at least twice and the referee quickly enters to stop the fight. If you want to give Warren the benefit of the doubt, you can say that he was adjusting his hands, but that's quite a bit of a stretch. Another possibility is if it was a "phantom tap," where you tap in hopes of the referee not seeing but your opponent releasing hold and you keep on fighting. Only Warren really knows.
Warren's reaction after the fight may have also been less about how the armbar played out but simply due to the shock of the loss itself. He's a three-time gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling coming off two straight upsets in MMA and had thoroughly convinced himself that he would win the entire tournament.
"I'm not used to losing, It's a new feeling for me," Warren said. "It doesn't feel good. I'll go back to the drawing board and I'll be better next time."