NEWARK, N.J. - Renan Barao was on a tear, trying to put away Urijah Faber with a series of fists to the head.
Faber attempted to flash a thumbs up — a sign he could still fight. Barao and an early stoppage didn't let him get that chance.
Barao made quick work of Faber in his latest title defence, dropping the challenger with a right and pummeling him with a series of shots to the head while retaining his 135-pound championship in the main event of UFC 169 on Saturday night.
Referee Herb Dean stopped the fight once Barao pounced on Faber and pounded away on The California Kid. Barao won by TKO at 3:22 in the first round and had Faber in all kinds of trouble from the start. But Faber said he could have kept fighting and wanted the chance to continue in the five-round bout.
"It's my time," Barao said. "I never thought the referee could stop the fight early because Urijah looked like he could keep fighting. I landed a great punch, the one good enough (to) keep this belt tight around my waist."
Jose Aldo retained his 145-pound championship by unanimous decision over Ricardo Lamas in the co-main event. Alistair Overeem beat Frank Mir by UD in a battle of former MMA heavyweight champions at the sold-out Prudential Center for UFC's Super Bowl weekend show.
Faber dropped to 0 for 6 as the challenger in title bouts since 2008. He choked out Michael McDonald just six weeks ago on a UFC on Fox card, and was pressed into service Saturday night when injury-prone Dominick Cruz pulled out with a torn groin.
Barao rocked him with big rights and never allowed Faber a chance to recover. Barao has defeated Faber twice.
"You get caught with punches, man," Faber said. "I just wish I had more of a chance."
UFC President Dana White said Dean shouldn't have stopped the fight.
"Rarely does he make a mistake," White said. "He made a mistake tonight. But he's the best in the business."
Aldo ran his UFC record to 6-0 on the strength of a series of leg kicks from the opening round. He was only in trouble once, late in the fifth when Lamas finally landed a series of strikes and elbows to the champ. Lamas couldn't finish him, and his flurry came too late in the bout.
Aldo has won 14 in a row in both UFC and World Extreme Cage Fighting.
The two smaller weight-class fights headlined a card that featured a heavyweight bout that could have been the main event of a PPV five years ago.
Overeem, the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, stayed away from the ground game and toyed with Mir for three rounds. He bloodied the former UFC heavyweight champion early in the three-round bout and connected with a hard right in the third. Overeem's corner yelled at him to "take your time," and he tried to play it safe with so much on the line.
Overeem snapped a two-fight losing streak and won for the first time since he beat former heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar at UFC 141.
"I proved to everybody I'm back tonight," Overeem said. "Frank is a very experienced fighter, his game plan was to take me down, but I'm a well-rounded fighter, too, so I dominated him. This victory has motivated me a lot to go back to the gym and get ready for fighting again."
With rumours swirling that Lesnar, now with the WWE, might want a UFC return, Overeem stood inside the cage and told the crowd he'd welcome the challenge.
"I'll be here waiting for him," Overeem said.
It might be a long wait. White said there is no deal with Lesnar.
At 34, Mir may have fought inside the UFC octagon for the last time. Mir has dropped four straight bouts and this match was considered a deciding factor for the UFC to keep either fighter. Mir put up almost no fight and was on his back for a good chunk of the bout. White refused this week to proclaim Mir-Overeem a "loser leaves town" bout, but said both fighters needed a great fight to stick around. Mir failed to deliver. White said he could make a decision this week.
The UFC ditched Las Vegas for the Prudential Center for its traditional Super Bowl weekend show. The UFC went to the New York-New Jersey area and piggybacked on Super Bowl week with rousing success. The main event fighters were invited to the NFL's media day, and the UFC even hit Madison Square Garden for its own media day — staging it at a venue the promotion can't use because of New York's MMA ban.
With New York closed to MMA, UFC 169 is already the fifth card the Las Vegas-based promotion has run in the Prudential Center since it opened in 2007.
The UFC switched its traditional Super Bowl show from Las Vegas to New Jersey at the request of its broadcast partner, Fox.
The Prudential Center is less than 10 miles from MetLife Stadium, the site of Sunday's Super Bowl. There were a few fans in Broncos jerseys and one fan near the cage held up a neon Seahawks sign that brightened his part of the darkened arena.
Abel Trujilo opened the PPV card with a crushing right hand that knocked Jamie Varner out cold at 2:32 of the second round. Varner went down in face-first heap that had the crowd going wild.
Ali Bagautinov used some late-fight theatrics in his unanimous decision win over John Lineker. Bagautinov flexed and gave Lineker the thumbs down sign as he turned him over and flattened him on the mat.