Barnett fought for the first time in the UFC at 164 since winning the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 36 becoming the youngest heavyweight champ. Barnett defeated Randy Couture for the title at 36 and was quickly stripped of the title after he tested positive for PEDs.
Barnett flirted with a return to the UFC over the last several years but was finally able to make a deal a few months back. UFC president Dana White welcomed Barnett back with a big challenge, a fight with a former heavyweight champion. Barnett was not going to get an easy road. He had to get through Frank Mir first and there were some that thought he’d never overcome that roadblock. They were wrong.
Barnett looked great in his return to the UFC. Barnett opened up immediately and charged after Mir. Both guys clinched and exchanged a series of punches. It was an exciting fight from the start with Barnett pushing the pace. Barnett trapped Mir’s wrist and went after the body. Barnett dropped Mir with a vicious knee strike and the fight was immediately stopped at 1:56 of the first round.
The win gave Barnett his fifth first-round victory in his last seven fights. The victory was certainly not without controversy. Mir popped up quickly after the stoppage and protested. I thought upon looking at the replay that the stoppage was fine, not great. Barnett told Joe Rogan after the fight that he’d do it again later tonight or any other time. Mir was not happy.
UFC president Dana White immediately vented his frustration with the stoppage on Twitter.
“F#$king ridiculous stoppage!!!! The guys with experience make mistakes. That guy had no business being in the Co Main event!” – @DanaWhite
A win is a win and the heavyweight division just got a huge boost tonight. With Travis Browne dropping Alistair Overeem at the UFC on FS1 event, the division was without a true number one contender. Fabricio Werdum was in the mix and of course Browne, but those aren’t money fights. Barnett challenging for the UFC title, never actually losing it for the first time in over a decade is big money!
Tainted win or not it is a huge step back towards the UFC heavyweight title for Barnett. The UFC finally has a top contender in the division that can draw some money with the champion. Irate or not I’d be shocked if White does anything but shoot Barnett straight to a title fight in 2014.