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Many Unanswered Questions Following Henderson's Win Over Fedor

Dan Henderson celebrates after his win over Fedor Emelianenko.StrikeforceDan HendersonFedor Emelianenko

was notable for many reasons. The duo are two of MMA's all-time warriors, champions who helped raised the sport from adolescence to adulthood, authoring memorable moments along the way.

The finish though, was tinged with at least a small hint of controversy, after renowned referee Herb Dean stopped the bout shortly after a wild momentum swing saw Henderson hammer Emelianenko with an uppercut as well as a pair of punches from the top that led to the finish. Whether Emelianenko was truly out of it or simply on the way seems the only two choices though, and while he was in big trouble, we'll never truly know if he would have been able to author a comeback from the assault.

The result will stand as a victory for all time, and Henderson will move on, the victor in six of his last seven fights, while Emelianenko suffered his third straight loss. Aside from the black and white of victory and defeat, there are several other questions stemming from the fight, waiting for answers.

What does the win mean for Hendo's career?


cage on Saturday on the last fight of his contract. A loss would have cost him valuable negotiating leverage with Zuffa brass. Now riding a three-fight win streak, Henderson has earned the right to walk into his contract talks with swagger. His age aside -- he'll turn 41 in August -- Henderson has become one of MMA's most exciting fighters. Once derisively nicknamed "Decision Dan" for his tendency to go the distance, Hendo has finished four of his last five opponents.

UFCRandy Couture

, and no offense to "The Natural," but Henderson is the more exciting fighter of the two. It may not get him every last dollar he's worth, but his Saturday win offers hope for keeping him in the fold.

What does the loss mean for Fedor's career?
It's very possible that it means the end. Emelianenko has entertained the idea of retirement after each of his previous two fights, and another loss can only compound those thoughts.

Even if Emelianenko doesn't feel like he was hurt as badly as ref Herb Dean thought, he has to know he was at least stunned badly enough for it to look troublesome. Fedor seems to be at peace with his place in the world these days. He didn't rant and rave after the stoppage, even though he disagreed with it. It was almost as if he was accepting of his fate. That makes you wonder if his mind is totally committed, or if he's just going through the motions because he feels that's what everyone wants of him. While I assume it's the former, Emelianenko has given enough to the sport to walk away without apologies to anyone. Losing to Henderson is no shame. Emelianenko is likely to be cut by Zuffa, and whether he chooses to call it quits or fight elsewhere, his is a career to be applauded.

Was the stoppage justified?
This is a question without a hard answer. Herb Dean is among the most seasoned of referees, and rarely makes errors, so I am inclined to accept his decision even if my initial reaction was to disagree. It seems as though most believe he made the right call in pulling Henderson off Emelianenko with 48 seconds left in the round, after a Henderson uppercut caused Emelianenko to fall face-first to the canvas.

The punch definitely hurt Emelianenko, but I'm not sure it was a knockout shot. Within one second, he had managed to move to his back, but it was just as Dean moved in to call a halt to the action. Henderson may have finished more decisively given a few more seconds, or Emelianenko might have bought time to recover. It's clear Hendo hurt him, but we'll never know which would have happened. My slight hesitation to agree with Dean is tempered by my belief that it's better to stop a fight too early than too late. After watching the replay several times, including in slow motion, I still don't know whether it was right or wrong, but that speaks to the degree of difficulty involved. It's just another reminder that refereeing fights is among the most thankless jobs in sports.

Were Hendo's finishing shots legal?
Yes. There have been complaints that Hendo's last two or three shots to a grounded Emelianenko were to the back of the head. When Emelianenko semi-face planted during that finishing sequence, he fell nose-down. Henderson's first punch landed on the right side of his face and turned Emelianenko's head a bit to the left. He followed up with two shots. One was borderline illegal but is never called in such an instance when the defending fighter is twisting away. If the offensive fighter starts his punching motion and the defending fighter's movement causes it to land in an illegal spot, it's almost never called. That's a referee's judgment call that goes beyond the black-and-white of the rulebook, and it's one that is necessary in the split-second action of MMA.

Will both Hendo & Fedor say goodbye to Strikeforce after Saturday night?
It is a real possibility. After three straight losses, Fedor and his big paydays could certainly be cut. The alternative exists that Strikeforce management asks him to take a pay cut, but a release seems more likely.

As for Henderson, his deal is also up. Winning six of his last seven, he's not going to want to take less money in a new deal, but since Strikeforce doesn't have the cash flow of UFC, he's unlikely to get the same offer that originally brought him to the company. He could play hardball and hold out for top dollar, but Zuffa hasn't suffered fools lightly lately, and at nearly 41, Henderson doesn't have time to wait things out. It's quite possible that he asks for a big number and Zuffa declines and invites him to try his luck elsewhere.

If that were the case, Strikeforce could lose Henderson, Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem all within 72 hours.

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