Sunday, December 29, 2013

UFC 168: 'Shattered' Dreams

Alas and unfortunately, the image seen at left will most likely be the last one we see of arguably the greatest fighter ever in the history of mixed martial arts inside the cage. The fighter is of course the great Anderson 'The Spider' Silva and sadly the image is of the seemingly invincible Silva clutching his broken left leg after Saturday night's rematch with UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.

In a night where two of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history were to take place and the first four bouts on the main card delivered nothing but fireworks and electricity in the air, all that was put out in an instant with the flick of one swift kick; a kick Silva (33-6, 20 KO's 6 subs) probably has thrown a thousand times in his life of competition, but this one time it failed him at no fault of his own. A left round kick thrown with his shin, intended to catch the inside part of Weidman's plant leg, instead caught Weidman's bent knee right at the most exact point of its vulnerability.

The result, as you can imagine, is the same result you would get if you whacked a broom stick against a fire hydrant. Some may think that is an unfair analogy, but if you stop to think about it for a minute, the tibia or shin bone is no thicker or wider than a broom stick handle. By the same token the knee bone is one of the strongest in the human body and when bent is multiplied in strength. However, let's look at it from another perspective; the perspective of the kick itself.

As a Taekwondo practitioner for 13+ years and a black belt for the last seven, I feel I may know a little something about throwing kicks to the body. That said, taekwondo fighters are taught to use the ball of the foot as its preferred weapon, versus the shin bone. Thus, a taekwondo round kick, for explanation sake, is being thrown with the head of the hammer as its point of impact. A Muay Thai round kick, which is what most MMA fighters use and is what Silva used on Saturday night, is thrown with the handle of the hammer. Sure the handle of a hammer is strong, but given a choice, which would you rather hammer a nail with?

I am in no way trying to correct Anderson Silva's form or question his or any other MMA fighter's methods. However, for argument sake, this is not the first time we have witnessed this same scenario inside the octagon. Five years ago to the month, Corey Hill suffered the same exact injury in the same manner when he threw a Muay Thai round kick to Dale Hartt's leg. At the time, and for good reason, it was considered a freak accident. However, when it happens again, this time to the greatest fighter to ever grace the cage, one has to wonder is this just a freak accident or an accident waiting to happen?

All that said, Weidman (11-0, 5 KO's 3 subs) retains his title and Silva, sadly appears to have ended an illustrious career on the most down of notes. Yet, isn't it pretty much the way it always ends for the truly great ones; as they hardly ever go out on top. The only other fighter in MMA history who can actually be in the argument for greatest of all-time, Fedor Emelianenko, though he ended his career with a couple of wins, had already been brought down to human reality with three straight losses before that. Nonetheless, this should never take away from their greatness.

Besides the actual injury to Silva, the saddest part about the whole thing is it took away the shine from the best fight of the night, which was the rematch between UFC Women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (8-0, 8 subs) and Meisha Tate (13-5, 3 KO's 6 subs). These ladies were not only the stars of the night for the UFC, but the stars of the year for the company. They reinvigorated a previously stale 'Ultimate Fighter' reality series and carried that momentum and disdain for one another into the octagon.

After two and a half rough and tumble rounds, where Rousey literally threw Tate around like a rag doll at times, it was the 'Rowdy' champion who went on to win with her signature arm bar submission. All respects due to Tate though as she did all she could to avoid the eventual outcome and at times had her own moments throughout. However, I and many others will forever question her continued willingness to attempt to clinch and take down the former Olympic Judo Bronze medalist. I'm sure she herself has to be asking, "What was I thinking?"

Regardless, it was an exciting fight to the finish, one that had the entire MGM Grand Arena resounding along with everyone else who watched. As was the entire card as a whole, which included three first round KO finishes before these two main event fights. On a positive note, the UFC ended the year with a blast and a shocking finish that was actually the lead story on ESPN Sportscenter afterwards. Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, for Anderson Silva and Meisha Tate, UFC 168 will most likely be remembered as a night of shattered dreams.

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