UFC 168 lived up to all the hype and more, but for different reasons with the favorites winning in the end.
Chris Weidman defended his UFC middleweight title when Anderson Silva broke his left leg on a kick in the second round, ending UFC 168 with a horrific injury Saturday night.
Ronda Rousey also retained her bantamweight title in the UFC’s year-end event, submitting Miesha Tate with a third-round arm bar. Rousey then walked away from her bitter rival’s offer of a post-fight handshake, earning ferocious boos from the MGM Grand Garden crowd.
Weidman (11-0) quietly celebrated his victory while medical personnel tended to Silva (33-6), whose left shin bent grotesquely while landing a kick on Weidman’s left leg 1:16 into the round.
“There’s no real excitement in a fight finishing like that, because you never want to see anyone get hurt like that,” Weidman said after his second straight win over the long-reigning champion.
Weidman, who earned his belt with an upset victory in July, also dominated the first round of the rematch. In the second, Weidman used his knee to block Silva’s kick with perfect technique, never anticipating the result.
Rousey’s sportsmanship was dwarfed by the abrupt finish of the main event. Silva’s injury cast a pall over arguably the UFC’s biggest fight card of the year, reminding every fan of the rapidly growing sport about the brutality at its core.
Although the injury happened too quickly to be seen by most, the sound of Silva’s cracking shin could be heard at cage side. Thousands of fans cringed audibly when the replay was shown once on the arena’s big screens.
“I knew coming into the fight that what he could hurt me most with was the leg kicks,” Weidman said. “We trained checking the kick a lot. The idea is to pull your leg and for their shin to land at the knee. That’s exactly what I did, and I felt his leg go right away.”
Referee Herb Dean waved off the fight when Silva fell back, clutching his leg with both hands. Silva left the octagon strapped to a stretcher with a brace on his leg, screaming in pain.
With his belt back around his waist, Weidman paid tribute to the injured ex-champion.
“He’s still known as the greatest fighter of all time,” Weidman said.
Silva’s nearly seven-year reign atop the middleweight division ended nearly six months ago when Weidman stopped the champion with a left hook at UFC 162.
With two straight wins, the former Hofstra wrestler has firmly ended the reign of Silva, who engaged in none of the preening and posturing that might have contributed to his first loss. Silva’s injury in the rematch conceivably could end the 38-year-old Brazilian’s MMA career.
Thousands of Brazilian fans - including retired soccer star Ronaldo - chanted, sang and waved flags for Silva and several Brazilian undercard fighters, creating a semblance of the huge home-cage advantage enjoyed by their fighters back home.
The show was heavy on violent stoppages. Heavyweight Travis Browne knocked out veteran Josh Barnett in the first round with a series of elbows to the head, earning the third straight early stoppage on the pay-per-view portion of the card.
Before the unsettling main event, Rousey (8-0) got the biggest test of her ascendant career.
Rousey had never seen the second round of a mixed martial arts fight after seven straight first-round wins, but Tate tested the champion with striking and tenacity. Although Rousey repeatedly tossed Tate (13-5) to the canvas and pounded on her, Rousey couldn’t finish until getting a weary opponent into her patented arm bar - the submission move she has used to end each of her eight professional fights.
Rousey and Tate engaged in a brawl worthy of their vicious rivalry, trading big shots and struggling with each other’s strengths. Rousey used her judo skills to drop Tate numerous times, but Tate landed plenty of strikes to Rousey’s head, particularly during a thrilling first round in which she tested Rousey’s chin.
But when Tate attempted to shake her hand, Rousey slowly rose and walked away. The crowd booed vociferously when the replay was shown in slow motion, but Rousey didn’t change her opinion of her opponent.
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