Anderson Silva met a most unfortunate end at UFC 168. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Nobody wants to win a title fight under lousy circumstances, but that is exactly how Chris Weidman defended the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown at UFC 168 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Though his second straight victory over the incomparable Anderson Silva will rightfully go in the history books as a technical knockout, for many it will do so with an asterisk attached.
That is how the situation has unfolded for the New Yorker. He dethroned “The Spider” in July and beat him again less than six months later. Yet, there are many who refuse to give Weidman his just due, despite the fact that he has toppled every opponent placed in front of him.
The first time Weidman fought Silva, he made the Brazilian pay for clowning around and sent him into La La Land with a left hook. The loss ended Silva’s historic reign over the middleweight division, but many pointed to his antics and not Weidman’s skills as the reason for his downfall. Many an expert believed that if Silva had not acted like Bozo the Clown at UFC 162, he would have retained his title. Such belief clouded Weidman’s historic victory.
With how the main event transpired at UFC 168 -- Silva snapped his lower leg on a checked low kick -- it seems almost certain that the Monday Morning MMA crowd will scoff at the notion that Weidman legitimately defeated Silva, not once but twice. “The Spider” TKO’d himself, some will say.
What it boils down to is this: Weidman is the undisputed middleweight champion and deserves to be embraced as such. Despite the detractors, the Serra-Longo Fight Team representative is now 2-0 with two stoppages against a man many view as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. Whether or not Silva’s shenanigans in the first fight were the impetus behind his being defeated, Weidman did not fall into his traps and capitalized on the opportunity. In their rematch, Weidman had the Brazilian reeling yet again, as he delivered a clubbing right hand to the side of Silva’s head in the clinch and followed-up with some heavy ground-and-pound in the first round. No one wanted to see their second battle conclude in the manner in which it did, but the truth compels us to admit Weidman was beating up Silva before the gruesome injury occurred.
The severity of the injury, coupled with Silva’s advancing age, all but shelves the possibility of a third encounter with Weidman. That leaves Vitor Belfort and a crop of others to vie for the 185-pound title.
There is no shortage of quality fighters in the middleweight division -- Ronaldo Souza, Michael Bisping and Lyoto Machida come to mind -- but it is going to be difficult for anyone to pry the belt from Weidman’s waist. He has more than enough drive and talent to hold onto the championship for a considerable time and only seems to be improving with each outing.
Belfort, one of the sport’s most beloved and controversial figures, looks to be next in line for a title shot. “The Phenom” -- with consecutive highlight-reel knockouts against Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson in his back pocket -- could certainly make it interesting early in the fight, but Weidman has the necessary tools to beat the Brazilian. His resurgence overshadowed by his use of testosterone replacement therapy, Belfort, 36, is 1-3 in UFC title fights.
As for Silva, this likely signals the end of a magnificent career, one that seems destined to stand the test of generations. He turns 39 in April and has nothing left to prove in the cage. Even prior to his rematch with Weidman, he sounded like a man who was burned out on fighting.
If Silva does elect to retire, it will be a disappointing end for everyone involved. Sports fans want their heroes to triumphantly ride off into the sunset. Unfortunately, reality oftentimes writes a different script. Let us remember “The Spider” at his best, not as a broken former champion writhing in indescribable pain on the Octagon floor.
You can follow Mike Sloan at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.