LAS VEGAS (AP) — 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.
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.
Weidman, who earned his belt with an upset victory over the long-reigning champion in July, also dominated the first round of the rematch.
“I did work on checking kicks,” Weidman said. “I figured if I (caught) him on my knee, it could really hurt him. Crazy how this happened.”
Ronda Rousey 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.
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 of the brutality frequently at its core. Although the injury happened too quickly to be seen by most naked eyes in Las Vegas, thousands of fans cringed audibly when the replay was shown once on the arena’s big screens.
Silva left the octagon with a brace on his leg. Weidman paid tribute to the injured ex-champion, calling him the greatest fighter in the sport’s history.
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.
Weidman, 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.
Nearly two years ago, Rousey defeated Tate by first-round arm bar to claim Tate’s Strikeforce title, cementing her meteoric rise from the U.S. Olympic judo team to the apex of MMA. Rousey and Tate have made no secret of their distaste since that bout, further stoked by their combative appearance as coaches on the most recent season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s competition reality show.
Tate got a rematch with Rousey only after Cat Zingano, who beat Tate earlier this year to become the No. 1 contender, was injured. Rousey felt Tate hadn’t earned the chance at the belt, and she proceeded to pound on Tate with judo throws and striking in the rematch until finally landing an arm bar.
Browne continued his ascent up the heavyweight ranks with an eye-popping knockout of Barnett, who went limp while leaning against Browne after absorbing several elbows to the head. Browne earned his third straight first-round victory and closed in on position for a title shot.