LAS VEGAS â€“Â Itâ€™s not supposed to end like this. Not for anyone. Ever.
Even in a sport where broken noses and bleeding head wounds are practically part of the uniform, thereâ€™s some human carnage that just shouldnâ€™t happen, especially to a legend like Anderson Silva.
The former UFC middleweight champ entered the cage on Saturday night after a long, pensive stroll. He left it on a stretcher, his left leg having snapped halfway down his shin after championÂ Chris Weidman (11-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) used his knee to block Silvaâ€™s kick, leaving the Brazilian writhing on the mat in pain. Not only was it a terrible ending to an otherwise great night at UFC 168, not to mention a sickening visual (imagine an empty sock flapping in the breeze), but it could also mark the end of a great career, and on perhaps the sourest note possible.
Or, as UFC President Dana White put it, â€œItâ€™s a sh—y way to see him go out, but itâ€™s part of the game.â€
Which is to say, the game is terrible sometimes. But we knew that already.
Itâ€™s one thing to lose. Silva (33-6 MMA, 16-2 UFC) did that in his first meeting with Weidman, even though that one was weird in a different way. But to suffer an injury like that robs Silva — and the rest of us — of some much-needed closure. It also forces us to wonder whether a broken leg is the kind of thing a nearly 40-year-old fighter can come back from, assuming he even wants to.
On one hand, it seems like it canâ€™t end like this. The greatest fighter in MMA history can go out on a loss if he has to, but he can he go out on an injury? On the other hand, if it ends this way at least weâ€™ll know how to make sense of it. Weâ€™ll say Silva was great, then he got old. The knockout and the unusual injury both fit into that narrative, as depressing as it is.
You lose to the rising young champ, hey, thatâ€™s life. You stumble back after a terrible injury and lengthy rehab only to lose to some mid-level middleweight trying to make his name on whatâ€™s left of yours, thatâ€™s awful.
The good news is, Silva has some time to think about it. Heâ€™s also got nothing left to prove, at least to us.
For Weidman, the picture is murkier. He now has two wins over an all-time great, but both have different kinds of asterisks attached to them in the minds of many fans, through no fault of Weidmanâ€™s. In that sense, Silvaâ€™s injury was a cruel blow to him as well. After nearly stopping the former champ in the first round, he was denied the chance to follow up in the second. Would he have done it? Probably. Just like he probably would have beat Silva even if he hadnâ€™t clowned around in the first fight. But weâ€™ll never know for sure, which isnâ€™t how you want to start your title reign.
Not that thereâ€™s much Weidman can do about it now, of course. The best he can do is move on to the next challenge, which will likely come in the form of former UFC light heavyweight champ and current top middleweight contender Vitor Belfort. That, too, is part of the game. One broken legend carted off to surgery, while others leap up to try and take his place.
Itâ€™s cruel and more than a little unfair that this could be our last look at Silva, but there it is. Itâ€™s the hurt business, after all. Nobody ever said weâ€™d get to chose which bones get broken, or when, or why.
For complete coverage of UFC 168, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.