“If I was to do it again – if I see a fighter face down receiving shots, I’m going to step in and stop the fight. I can’t predict how long he’s going to be unconscious for… The fight is over when he’s unconscious. Because he comes back swiftly after I’ve already stepped in and stopped the fight, I can’t restart the fight. Dan’s still throwing punches, but once I’ve touched Dan, I’ve stopped the fight… I stepped in to support him once he stood up because his balance was still not totally there. I believe his motor control was still questionable… Once I see an unconscious fighter receiving blows while unconscious, that’s my job to prevent him from receiving more blows, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
— Herb Dean explaining to MMA Junkie why he stopped the Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson fight
I’m not gonna lie, when I watched the fight live, I was pissed. It was so out of the blue and happened so fast, I thought it was an early stoppage at first. After seeing all the replays though, I don’t think you can fault Herb Dean for the call he made. Hendo nailed Fedor with an uppercut and he went limp. In that split second, Dean committed to stopping the fight which in that split second was the correct call. Once a ref commits to stopping the fight, they have to stop it. The worse thing a ref can do is be indecisive and back off after they’ve made their move. That opens up a whole another can of worms and isn’t fair to either fighter.
As much as I wish Dean would have given it another second before he stepped in, the call he made was justified. It stinks knowing that Fedor was coherent enough to continue by the time Dean was able to push Hendo off — who knows, Fedor could have grabbed an arm and pulled off a miraculous armbar knowing him — but that doesn’t make Dean wrong for waving it off when he did.
These fights aren’t scripted. Not every finish can come in a perfectly wrapped box with a bow on top.
Image via James Law for MMA Fighting