What's next for Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson now that both fighters Strikeforce contracts have expired?

Photo by James Law via MMA Fighting

Last night (July 30, 2011), Dan Henderson knocked out Fedor Emelianenko in the first round of their main event fight inside the hexagon at a Showtime televised Strikeforce event.

And they were both reportedly paid handsomely for their efforts. "Hendo" earned a cool $800,000 while "The Last Emperor" raked in an incredible $1.5 million. That's a pretty penny, no matter who the two fighters are.

As it turns out, this bout represented the final fight in each mans respective contract, meaning it's either time to find a new mixed martial arts home, retire or enter into negotiations with Zuffa.

It's an interesting situation for both men. Fedor has lost every bit of his negotiating power now that he's lost his third fight in a row. Henderson, on the other hand, is as valuable as he's ever been, thanks to his just defeating a man widely considered the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time while holding the Strikeforce light heavyweight title.

His value may be even higher than it was following his astonishing knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC 100.

However, there are plenty of issues both fighters face in the coming months. Let's try to make a little sense of what could be to come.

Fedor Emelianenko:

Where can he possibly go from here? Is there still a place for him in the current landscape of MMA? That's debatable for a few reasons, the least of which being his three-fight losing streak.

The very fact that he's declined so rapidly in such a short amount of time has killed any negotiating power he once had, not to mention the aura and mystique that once surrounded him so. 

During the post-fight press conference, Fedor said he's looking forward to heading back to Mother Russia to spend time with his new-born daughter.

At this point, he might want to make that a permanent vacation.

If it wasn't already clear that UFC President Dana White no longer has interest in dealing with Fedor and his management team, following Emelianenko's loss he immediately attacked him on Twitter and admonished those that questioned him for kicking a fighter while he's down.

And now that Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, there's very little hope in bringing back a fighter who hasn't won a fight since Nov. 2009 and has lost three straight, all finishes.

So if UFC and Strikeforce are both out of the picture, what does that leave?

It's possible he could end up in Japan, fighting for Dream but that seems unlikely for obvious reasons. BAMMA is beginning to make some noise in the U.K. but the list of heavyweights competing in that promotion reads like a blank piece of paper.

Essentially, the best play for Fedor seems to be for him to hang up the gloves and call it a career. There aren't many other options.

Speculation has run rampant that he's protesting the stoppage by Herb Dean in the hopes of setting up a big money rematch outside the confines of Zuffa, seeing as Henderson is also no longer under contract.

But let's just take that information for what it is -- a rumor.

Dan Henderson:

Talk about a big turnaround.

After Henderson knocked out Michael Bisping at UFC 100, he was soaring through the clouds, never to come down. Until, of course, the UFC played hardball at the bargaining table and he bolted for the greener pastures of Strikeforce.

The San Jose bosses immediately plugged him into a fight against Middleweight Champion Jake Shields, who had one foot out the door with just one fight remaining on his deal.

"Hendo" got the big marketing push and was featured heavily in every commercial in the build-up to the fight, totally at the expense of Shields. Except Henderson gassed -- bad -- come fight night and got his ass handed to him for four of five rounds.

Shields hauled ass to Las Vegas and the waiting arms of the UFC while "Hendo" jumped up a weight class to reinvent himself once again.

Did he ever.

Henderson proceeded to obliterate Renato Sobral to earn a shot at the 205-pound title before going on to blast past Rafael Cavalcante to take the championship for himself. Once it was determined there were no credible challengers, he moved up yet another weight class and soundly defeated the greatest heavyweight to ever live.

And so, once again, "Hollywood's" value is at its highest. That does not mean he's got any sort of leverage in his upcoming contract talks. Quite the opposite, in fact. He's basically at the whim of the Zuffa overlords.

That's because while Henderson was kicking ass and taking names in San Jose, Dana White and company were closing a deal to purchase Strikeforce and effectively take over the MMA world.

That means "Dangerous" Dan is right back where he started at just over two years ago. Riding high and feeling good but headed for a long game of hardball with some of the most ruthless sharks in the promotional waters of MMA.

Henderson has made it clear that he would like to return to Strikeforce to defend his light heavyweight title but he's not opposed to a unification match with whomever is the UFC champion whenever the prospective fight would be set up.

That's all well and good but if he's expecting to make anything close to the $800,000 he made to fight Fedor, he's dreaming.

However, suddenly there are plenty of interesting fights for Henderson back in the UFC. Maybe a rematch with Quinton Jackson, as their first bout was rather close and highly entertaining. Or possibly Lyoto Machida, who is currently in limbo for a bevy of reasons.

Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, hell, even Tito Ortiz. These are all intriguing fights that await Henderson if he can come to terms with the UFC.

If not? As noted previously in regards to Fedor, the marker is pretty bare. There's no question where all the top talent resides and if you want to be the biggest dog  in the yard, you've got to find a way to jump the fence.

And thanks to his lack of options, it certainly looks like that will be the case with Henderson.

Of course, I could be wrong on all counts here. What do you think? Fedor retires and "Hendo" heads over to the UFC? Or Fedor fights exclusively for M-1 and Henderson re-ups with Strikeforce?

Give us a likely scenario, Maniacs. What's going to happen?

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