Even so, no one predicted it would end like that.
With a checked kick and a howl of pain, the reign of the greatest mixed martial artist the sport has ever seen was over, officially punctuated with a TKO loss for the second time in six months.
However, there are very few people who feel a sense of closure.
It's a fascinating, unprecedented development in MMA and one that is entirely appropriate to one of the more bizarre competitive rivalries the sport has ever seen: Weidman beat Silva twice for the belt, and most would argue that he did it without having beaten him at all.
The story of the first fight is a matter of public record by now, a fight that Weidman won by knocking Silva out when the then-champion presented the opportunity. Writing those words is infinitely easier than completing that task, but there was still the question of whether or not Silva beat himself.
That brought us to UFC 168, where the bizarre machinations of a challenging Silva left murmurs around the globe for most of fight week.
He squared off differently at weigh-ins, what does it mean?
He's crouching on the way to the cage, what does it mean?
He's touching gloves for the first time in years, what does it mean?
"Ees normal," Silva would insist if you asked him, but ees it?
So when the time came to get the answer, the world watched with bated breath.
Silva looked full of malice in the early stages and it was a certainty that he would regain his belt. Weidman didn't agree, though, putting his man on the canvas with a short hook and pounding his face with elbows for the latter half of the stanza.
Perhaps no one was ready to admit it, but that answer was right at our fingertips. This was the changing of the guard, a young champion who many thought was defending a title against its rightful owner, now ready to prove those doubters wrong.
Only he never got the chance.
A vicious leg kick from Silva, the reverberations of which left his own leg snapped like the will of so many men he'd fought in the past, and it was all over.
Weidman celebrated again, but again the question lingered: Did he beat Silva or did Silva beat himself?
There's no question where the rematch was heading, and it was nowhere good for Silva. He was hurt worse in the first two minutes than he'd been in his previous 20 fights and spent nearly all of the bout's 7:16 runtime underneath the champion getting his head smashed.
According to Case Keefer of the Las Vegas Sun, even the technique that led to the win—a specific breed of check that Weidman credits to coach Ray Longo—was a conscious move that was borne of strategy rather than circumstance.
But do we really know? Do we truly have a satisfying answer as to whether Weidman is the better man, even after two wins over Silva?
No. The best we have is an educated guess that he is.
That's a horrible, terrible shame for the middleweight champion. This is a man who is undefeated, beat the best ever two times in a row after telling the world he'd do exactly that and looks like he could be the purest of terrors at a time when the UFC badly needs them.
His pedigree is undeniable in wrestling and jiu-jitsu, his striking is teetering on the border of 'good' and 'very good,' and he's got the type of All-American charisma that most athletes could only hope for. He gives honest answers when questioned, takes on all comers and carries himself as much like the guy living next door as he does a professional cage fighter.
Most importantly, though? He has the belt. It's too bad that he was robbed of the appropriate glory in earning it.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!