And with one kick, it was all over.
Chris Weidman retains his UFC Middleweight Championship in his highly anticipated rematch with Anderson Silva, but not in the fashion that he, the fans or the UFC would have wanted.
Heading in to the fight, all sorts of questions were continuing to be asked after the bizarre conclusion to the pair’s first contest with many still disputing Chris Weidman’s possession of the belt. A vocal few saw Weidman as an impostor to the throne, assuming that he was merely maintaining the title’s upkeep before handing it back to Silva, even the Las Vegas oddsmakers had Weidman pegged as the underdog in this one. Weidman needed to put on a performance of the highest quality, one that would silence the doubters and provide a definitive assessment of his championship credentials with a conclusive outcome in his favour.
Prior to KO’ing Silva in their first meeting, Weidman had been on the receiving end of a series of hard, fast leg kicks from the then-champion Silva and in preparation for this fight, Weidman was keen to nullify his opponent’s most successful route of attack. Early on in the second round last night, Silva threw his first meaningful leg kick of the fight aimed at the inside of Weidman’s left leg. Utilising a technique that his head coach and mentor Ray Longo refers to as ‘The Destroyer’, Weidman would turn his leg in a way that would ensure that Silva’s careering shin came to an abrupt halt on his knee with the intention of both protecting himself from the shot whilst at the same time sending a painful message to Silva that he won’t be leg kicked all night again like last time. What happened next was wholly unintentional and worryingly definitive, just not for the reasons Weidman would have wanted nor required.
On impact Silva’s left leg shattered and in scenes reminiscent of Corey Hill, ‘The Spider’ crumpled to the floor and that was all she wrote.
This unsettling image may have provided an ending to the night’s drama, however this was not a definitive finish that will allow Weidman to move on from Silva’s sizeable shadow. Questions are bound to continue surround the American unfairly, as again some will feel that Weidman has not beaten the man and by right cannot be considered the man until he does so. The issue with this though is that any scenario involving Weidman and Silva sharing an Octagon any time soon is highly unlikely to happen.
Anderson Silva is 38 years old and prior to this fight Silva was already contemplating retirement, so with one foot already out of the door and the other now broken, any thought of a third fight is not only fanciful but altogether unwarranted.
What Silva achieved from 2006 to 2012 during his run of dominance in the UFC is unparalleled and will likely stand the test of time. 16 consecutive wins in the UFC, a UFC record; 10 consecutive title defences, a UFC record; and 2,457 days spent as champ, again a UFC record. Silva’s legacy is secure and is still rightly regarded as the greatest we have seen in MMA. However, anyone still disputing Weidman’s right to be heralded as the top dog in today’s 185lbs division is simply delusional.
In both of their encounters Chris Weidman bossed the opening stanza with takedowns and significant ground ‘n’ pound. Whilst on the feet Weidman refused to be intimidated or overawed by the fighter in front of him, continuing to flood forward when others have stood prone, dazzled by Silva’s movement and in-cage audacity.
In the first fight Weidman separated Silva from his senses and lightning nearly struck twice with Weidman connecting with a short, sharp right to the side of the head of Silva that dropped the Brazilian and nearly finished the fight there and then. As the fight progressed Weidman continued to grow and it was clear that he held no fear of Silva, stalking the former champion and actively hunting the hunter. Silva was unable to have his way with Weidman on the feet as he has on many other occasions with his previous opponents and the constant threat of the takedown from Weidman did enough to unsettle Silva forcing him to adjust his winning formula.
While many will continue to dispute the undisputed champ after another ending where it may appear as though Silva beat himself, Weidman has provided the answers to the many questions surrounding this rematch, he just cannot be held accountable if you refuse to accept them.