By now it's the Break Heard 'Round the World.
Anderson Silva, in his quest to regain the middleweight title from Chris Weidman, bent his leg around the knee of the champion at mid-shin, ending his bid for gold and quite possibly his career.
It's a disastrous way for the greatest mixed martial artist in history to go out, one that robs both he and Weidman of a concrete resolution to a fistic feud that spread across most of 2013.
But what if it didn't end that way? What if that kick landed or Silva's shin held up, and we got the remaining 19 minutes of billed main event action?
Sadly for Silva, the result would have been somewhere between 'similar' and 'exactly the same' on the scale of such things. He probably wouldn't have left on a stretcher and if his career was over at the end of the bout it would have been entirely on his own terms, but there was a very strong chance that the ledger would have seen a 'W' next to Weidman's name anyway.
From the outset it was clear that Silva was overmatched. His early attempts to bully Weidman in the clinch - his bread and butter for much of his UFC reign - were met with almost no success, a concern punctuated by the champion's ability to drop him with a right hand there with relative ease.
On his back, Silva, owner of a masterful defensive guard and an utterly underrated ability to open cuts from the position, looked completely overmatched. Shrimping and scrambling to make space, attempting a body triangle, and throwing up his legs when possible were essentially diversions from what appeared to be academic. UFC 168 would belong to Weidman unless something drastic happened.
Something drastic did happen, but not in the expected way. The Silva leg break ended things at nearly the exact second a knockout blow did in their first meeting, and the MMA community was awash with horror and bewilderment at the way things came to a close.
Make no mistake, however, things would not have looked much different if the fight had gone on. While Silva is a notorious slow starter, it was clear that he was struggling with Weidman from the outset. Not only was the predictable advantage in takedowns exposed by the champion, but he was outdoing Silva in areas where Silva excels.
He beat him up in the clinch. He beat him up in guard. He beat him up on the feet.
It's not impossible that the tide may have turned had his body held up, but Silva gave the world little indication that he was going to regain his title. You have to go on evidence, and the evidence in the cage showed a man whose time at the top was over. Anything else is simply counterfactual speculation.
The worst part of all of this is that two elite athletes had the chance to settle a score taken from them as a result of an injury.
But based on what we saw in the main event while it lasted, it may be no matter. Chris Weidman is the undisputed UFC middleweight champion and, injury be damned, it seems like it was only a matter of time before he proved it without question.
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