By Matt Saccaro
Chris Weidman knocked Anderson Silva out cold at UFC 162, but it didn’t count because it was just a fluke—or at least a significant percentage of MMA fans wrote it off as one. Their logic: Silva got cocky and paid the price.
The UFC 168 rematch was supposed to be different. Weidman and Silva were supposed to give MMA the answers it
wanted needed: Was UFC 162 just Weidman channeling coach Matt Serra’s predilection towards unlikely knockouts? Or was it truly the end of Silva’s time and the beginning of Weidman’s?
When Anderson Silva‘s foot turned to jello, these questions entered the ranks of MMA’s great counterfactuals and unsolved mysteries.
Before UFC 168 started, I had an article planned for each main-event outcome. In the case of a Chris Weidman victory, I was going to write about how defeating Silva a second time propelled him into living-legend status. Weidman would become the new Jon Jones—an insanely talented, legitimately clean-cut, polite fighter that the UFC can build the (near) future on.
I was going to claim I was ahead of the curve on the subject (though about a year off on my prediction), since I wrote about Weidman claiming the “Jon Jones” mantle back in 2012:
There will be the rise of a new “Jon Jones”—a nigh invincible superhero—in 2012, and his name is Chris Weidman.
Just as the current UFC light heavyweight champion ran through the ranks of his division and captured the title, middleweight Weidman is beginning to rack up impressive victories. In 2012, Weidman will finally earn the recognition among MMA fans and pundits that he deserves; he will become the “Jon Jones” of the middleweight division.
Because of his youth, skill set and training camp, he will dominate the middleweight division and become the 185-pound Jon Jones.
If Weidman smashed Silva decisively at UFC 168, such statements wouldn’t be hyperbolic. It’s a rare, special talent that can humble the greatest MMA fighter of all time twice in a row with only four years experience in the sport.
But Silva departed the cage on a stretcher because of a freak, Corey Hill-like leg injury, not because of a clean knockout or submission.
With this outcome, nobody wins.
One of the UFC’s last well-known names is gone. At 38 years old, his career is almost definitely over after such a devastating injury.
Furthermore, Weidman’s reputation wasn’t able to benefit as much as it could’ve from this win. Earlier this week, I wrote about how Weidman winning was essential for the UFC’s future. But did Weidman really win?
Yes, he controlled and nearly finished Silva in the first round. However, there will always be an asterisk next to this victory. Weidman didn’t beat Silva, fans will say. A highly unlikely, devastating, tragic injury bested the GOAT (even though Weidman stated that checking Silva’s leg kick with his knee was an intentional technique and not dumb luck). Winning in such a fashion robbed Weidman of borderline deific status.
Instead of becoming a legend-killer and potential star after UFC 168, Weidman will become something less enviable. Fans will view him as merely a benefactor of circumstances. He didn’t beat Silva the first time because Silva didn’t take him seriously. And he didn’t beat Silva the second time because Silva got hurt.
Weidman, despite incredible abilities and 12 lbs. of gold, did not steal Anderson Silva’s thunder at UFC 168. He became a victim of it, and always will be. His reign as middleweight champion will forever be haunted by one question: Was he really a better fighter than Anderson Silva?
We’ll never know.