One kick. One block. And what could be the end to one of the greatest careers in mixed martial arts history.
Anderson Silva's attempt to regain the UFC Middleweight Championship ended abruptly at UFC 168, when his leg snapped in half on a blocked kick from Chris Weidman. Just 1:16 into the second round, Silva attempted a lower leg kick, but when Weidman checked it with his right knee, the Brazilian legend crumpled to the ground in agony.
The fight was immediately called off, with Weidman retaining the championship he took from Silva in July at UFC 162. That victory was seen as one of the biggest upsets in recent memory, as Silva had gone more than seven years without losing a competitive bout. Instead, now Weidman looks to be the face of the UFC middleweight division.
As for Silva, there are any number of possibilities. UFC president Dana White raised the possibility that this injury could end Silva's career, though he acknowledged it's almost entirely dependent on how he feels after surgery.
"He could come back, obviously, or it could be the end," White said, via Brett Okamoto of ESPN. "We'll have to see. He's going into surgery right this second."
Zuffa, LLC, which owns the UFC, also released a statement indicating that the surgery was successful:
Following Saturday evening's UFC 168 main event, former champion Anderson Silva was taken to a local Las Vegas hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a broken left leg. The successful surgery, performed by Dr. Steven Sanders, the UFC's orthopedic surgeon, inserted an intramedullary rod into Anderson's left tibia. The broken fibula was stabilized and does not require a separate surgery. Anderson will remain in the hospital for a short while, but no additional surgery is scheduled at this time. Recovery time for such injuries may vary between three and six months.
Anderson is deeply touched by the outpouring of support from his fans and the entire MMA community. There has been no immediate decision about his future, and he would kindly ask for privacy at this time as he deals with his injury and prepares to return home to recover."
Should this be the end, debate will rage on as to where Silva ranks among the all-time greats. At his height there may have been no better pound-for-pound fighter in the sport's history, and his reign atop the middleweight division set records that may never be broken. But for now, almost the entire sports community has spent their evenings and early mornings reacting to the injury.
In the wake of seeing the footage, many reached out to offer their condolences and words of support. Weidman himself was chief among them, sending out his thoughts while attending his post-fight press conference:
At the press conference! Thanks for all the support! Prayers go out to Anderson and his family! Love u all! pic.twitter.com/kjTB5XFutN— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) December 29, 2013
Actress Olivia Munn was at UFC 168, and she captured Silva being taken on the gurney:
Free-agent NFL quarterback Tim Tebow sent out his prayers while congratulating Weidman:
Congratulations to @ChrisWeidmanUFC on defending your title! Well done! Prayers go out to Anderson Silva!— Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) December 29, 2013
While typically associated with the WWE and film, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has also been known to have an affinity for MMA. After the fight, he sent out his congratulations to all of the night's participants while leaving fans with an image of him and Silva:
That mostly summed up the mood of everybody. Weidman may have won the fight, but most seemed to go out of their way to reach out to Silva, who is regarded highly by nearly everyone in mixed martial arts. Still, as Justin Timberlake pointed out, the image and highlights of the injury were jarring to say the least:
That slow-mo replay though... I have no words. #UFC168— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) December 29, 2013
Basketball Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller also seemed understandably shaken up by the situation:
OMG OMG OMG!!!! Praying praying praying....— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) December 29, 2013
In the immediate aftermath, many compared Silva's injury to that of former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and Louisville forward Kevin Ware. Blake Murphy of The Score suggested avoiding going down the rabbit hole of trying to decide which one was more scary:
Not recommended: Re-watching Anderson Silva and Kevin Ware injuries to decide which is 'worse.' They're both terrible.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 29, 2013
Tito Ortiz, whose own career in the UFC had a disappointing ending, doesn't think Silva will reach the same heights if he comes back:
@SpiderAnderson will never be the same.— Tito Ortiz (@titoortiz) December 29, 2013
Dan Henderson was one of Silva's victims at his peak. Henderson lasted only two rounds before being placed in a rear-naked choke at UFC 82. Even though the two have history, Henderson seemed to hope to see Silva back in the ring again:
Four words from Luke Rockhold may sum up the emotions of the night best of all:
I just got sick— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) December 29, 2013
Whether Silva returns to the octagon or not, it's fair to wonder if he'd be better off just walking away. He's accomplished so much that the only thing left to prove is that he can beat Weidman. With two losses in a row, Silva would need at least one tune-up fight to get another rematch, and that would come after months of rehab.
At this point, though, the only correct answer is to wish Silva well and hope that nothing like this mars another pay-per-view like this again.
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