Referee: Timing of Barao-Faber stoppage by Herb Dean was ‘really weird’

It wasn't necessarily the fact that referee Herb Dean stopped the UFC 169 main event that made it a bad call. It's when he did it that seemed odd to veteran ref and ref trainer Rob Hinds.

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Herb Dean had multiple opportunities to step in and save a clearly hurt Urijah Faber on Saturday night at UFC 169. Yet he waited until Faber was in a relatively safe position to do it.

Veteran referee Rob Hinds thought it was odd when Dean stopped the fight – not necessarily that he stopped it.

“The timing of it was really weird,” Hinds told FOX Sports. “I know Herb gave him a verbal command to improve or to work or do something. At that time, not one single one of those hammer fists got through. Barao was basically hammer-fisting Faber’s arm and shoulder.”

Hinds, an Association of Boxing Commissions-certified referee and judge trainer, said the issue is one of positioning and widening your view. Dean was looking directly at Barao hitting Faber, so he couldn’t see Faber giving a thumbs-up sign to indicate he was fine. Hinds said in this instance a referee has to look at everything, from the fighter’s eyes to the rest of his body in the event something goes limp.

Herb was laser focused on the striking only and not anything else.

--Rob Hinds

“Herb was laser focused on the striking only and not anything else,” Hinds said.

Faber said afterward that he felt like he was defending himself. Though he was facing downward on the mat, he had a hold of Barao’s leg and his hand over his face to defend strikes. UFC president Dana White said Dean “made a mistake” and the controversy over the finish marred what was a devastating performance by Barao.

Hinds said in rules meetings he will tell fighters that he will give them a “last-chance” warning. Basically, if a fighter hears “it’s your last chance” from him he or she absolutely must do something to convince him the bout should not be stopped. Hinds felt like Dean didn’t give Faber enough time to prove he was OK.

Referee Herb Dean did not see Faber’s right hand with the thumbs-up gesture at UFC 169.

“If you can give me an indication that you’re still in this thing, I’ll let it continue,” Hinds said. … “I know Herb warned him. I don’t think gave Herb gave him a last-chance warning.”

Hinds himself was criticized after what some felt was a quick stoppage in an August fight between Josh Barnett and Frank Mir. Barnett hit Mir in the head with a knee up against the cage and Mir fell limp to the canvas. Hinds stepped in to stop it and just when he was doing that, Mir sprung to life like he was fine. Mir, to this day, believes he was robbed in that bout.

“What made me stop that fight was Frank went face down, palms down, legs straight out, not looking at his opponent,” Hinds said. “There was absolutely no sign of intelligent defense at all. … That knee to the temple, I saw Mir’s lights go out for a brief second. He lost all neurological control. Realistically, if I don’t physically see that, I’ll actually give a couple seconds to see if they recover.”

Maybe Dean saw something like that in Faber, but it’s not likely. Barao was hammering away at Faber’s arm and shoulder and Faber, though hurt from previous blows, wasn’t taking any damage to the head. He didn’t seem to be in imminent danger.

White has said time and time again that Dean is the best referee in MMA. Most of the time, Dean is right on. But not everyone is perfect. Hinds said taking lumps from promoters and the media is all part of the occupation.

“If you’re not OK with that, you really shouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “It’s not a reward-filled job.”