When Dan Henderson made Fedor Emelianenko fall face-first into the canvas with a hard shot to the chin on Saturday night, referee Herb Dean had a split-second decision to make on whether or not to step in and stop the fight. Dean chose to stop it, awarding Henderson the victory by technical knockout, but Emelianenko said after the fight that Dean's decision was the wrong one, and that he could have kept fighting.
On Monday's MMA Hour, Dean defended his call, saying that Fedor was unconscious when Henderson connected with the punch, and as a result Dean had no choice but to stop the fight.
"I saw Dan hit Fedor with a shot, Fedor fell down flat on his face, face down, his palms were facing up and I saw Dan continuing to punch," Dean said. "He hit him with, I believe, three punches, and I didn't see Fedor doing any movement. It seemed to me he was unconscious. I came in to stop the fight."
Dean said that although he had to make the decision instantly, he watched the replay of the stoppage and stands by his decision with the benefit of hindsight.
"When I made my decision to stop the fight, Fedor was face down, unconscious. When I touched Dan, Fedor was still face down. Once I touch him the fight is over," Dean said.
Dean has also faced some criticism from fans who said Henderson illegally hit Fedor in the back of the head at the end of the fight, but Dean said he saw no fouls there.
"I saw punches that may have been close," Dean said. "But I wouldn't have called those fouls because the way the action was moving, I couldn't say that he intentionally targeted that area."
Ultimately, Dean said, he's very comfortable with his decision to protect Fedor from further damage.
"Fedor was unconscious and unable to defend himself," Dean said.
Although fans watching from home didn't know it, Dean's stoppage was actually the second controversial call he made on Saturday night. In an un-televised undercard bout between Bobby Green and JZ Cavalcante, some fans thought Green had tapped out while Cavalcante had him in a choke. In reality, Dean says, the motion some fans thought was tapping was actually Green signaling to Dean that he was still conscious and not in danger of passing out from the choke.
"It was a very clear thumbs up," Dean said. "I got down close to the mat so I could see his face, made some effort to communicate with him, and he gave me a thumbs-up, clear as day."
Dean said he knows fans don't always agree with referees' decisions, noting that "Sometimes in doing my job I'm not going to be a popular guy." But after a night on which Dean faced major questions about the way he refereed, Dean says he can stand by the calls he made.
I can't really disagree with Herb he had the best view and in my opinion made the right call.