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NEWARK, N.J. – Just when it was looking like Michael Bisping was headed for an impressive, dominant victory over Alan Belcher, controversy reared its head yet again at UFC 159.

Late in the third round of a fight he’d controlled with his precise striking and unrelenting pace, an accidental eyepoke by Bisping dropped Belcher to the mat and forced a premature halt to the bout. At that point, the fight went to the judges’ scorecards, who awarded the unanimous technical decision to Bisping via 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 scores.

The middleweight bout co-headlined today’s UFC 159 event at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and Facebook.

Bisping dominated the first two rounds, repeatedly landing his right hand flush on Belcher’s jaw, which prompted Belcher’s corner to implore him to look for the finish in the third. But Bisping continued to out-strike Belcher in the final frame, right up until the eyepoke dropped Belcher in a heap and forced him to clutch his face in anguish.

After the fight, Bisping apologized for the inadvertent foul and admitted that he was “looking for a finish, but Alan was tough as hell.”

“My apologies to Alan,” Bisping said after the bout. “It was a complete accident. That’s just the way it happens sometimes.”

Belcher (18-8 MMA, 9-6 UFC) drops his second fight following his decision loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 155. Bisping (24-5 MMA, 14-5 UFC) bounces back into the win column after his TKO loss to Vitor Belfort in Brazil in January.

Up-to-the-minute UFC 159 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC 159, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.

Matt Erickson and Steven Marrocco contributed to this report on-site in Newark.

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