American lightweight prospect Austin Hubbard picked up one of the biggest wins of his career, but his LFA lightweight title win was marred by some truly awful officiating in the closing moments of the contest.
Hubbard defeated previously-unbeaten Brazilian contender Killys Mota in the dying seconds of their five-round lightweight title bout in the main event of LFA 56 in Prior Lake, Minnesota on Friday night.
But his impressive title-winning performance was overshadowed by referee Joe Fipp, who inexplicably allowed the fight to continue way beyond the point most referees would call off the fight.
Hubbard started the fight slowly and appeared to be behind after the opening round. But the Colorado-trained athlete came storming back into the contest to dominate Rounds 2, 3 and 4.
And in the fifth and final round he turned up the pace against an exhausted opponent to claim a late, late TKO stoppage as the referee belatedly stepped in with just 15 seconds remaining in the fight.
The fight was over as a contest with 45 seconds remaining, with Mota curled up against the fence having already taken a barrage of uncontested strikes.
But referee Fipp refused to intervene and the barrage continued. Remarkably, Mota found the strength to briefly get back to his feet, but was immediately dropped back down to his knees to Hubbard, who relentlessly poured on the pressure.
But still Fipp wouldn't step in, and it took another sustained salvo of strikes to the grounded Mota before he finally decided he'd seen enough.
Overall, Fipp allowed Mota to receive a torrent of unanswered punishment for more than a minute before calling a halt to the contest.
AXS TV commentator Ron Kruck and former UFC champion Pat Miletich had started the night in jovial fashion, donning festive suits to celebrate the time of year.
But the duo finished the night shouting into their microphones in disgust as Fipp allowed Mota absorb a plethora of unanswered strikes in the final minute of the contest.
With boos ringing down from the stands, Kruck shouted into the microphone: "Fans are booing here in Minnesota. This is a joke! He's not defending himself!"
And his broadcast colleague Miletich joined him, as he shouted: "Stop the fight!"
The referee's failure to intervene at the appropriate time led to criticism from across the MMA world, with longtime MMA outlet Sherdog slamming Fipp for allowing 35 unanswered strikes to be landed in the final 23 seconds of the contest.
And one of the most respected officials in the world, British referee Marc Goddard, retweeted the video with his own reaction, saying: "People have no idea how much I've lambasted myself if I think a fighter took one maybe two shots too many under my watch, it's a difficult game that few truly understand.
"But this, THIS breaks my heart, angers & infuriates all in one. Good God!"
People have no idea how much Ive lambasted myself if I think a fighter took one maybe two shots too many under my watch, its a difficult game that few truly understand. But this, THIS breaks my heart, angers & infuriates all in one. Good God! https://t.co/MkB6yaM12u
— Marc Goddard (@marcgoddard_uk) December 8, 2018