Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 | 2 a.m.
For a technique so devastating it could shatter someone’s shin, Ray Longo needed a sinister moniker.
Longo, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman’s striking coach, went with “The Destruction” for the move where a fighter crashes his knee into an opponent’s leg kick. It’s a move forever ingrained in mixed martial arts history now, after Weidman's destruction of Anderson Silva’s shin at 1:16 of the second round at UFC 168 Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“I’ve done it a couple times in sparring and guys take some time, about a minute off, and they walk around and they’re OK,” Weidman said. “It stops them from kicking you, but to break someone’s leg? I’ve never done that before.”
Longo had, though. Unintentionally mangled a training partner’s limb, in fact.
Armed with the knowledge of that experience, Longo knew “The Destruction” could come in handy for Weidman after Silva’s biggest successes in their first fight at UFC 162 in July came with leg kicks. Longo demanded knee-to-shin contact out of Weidman ever since they started preparing for the rematch months ago.
So excuse Weidman if he takes offense to anyone suggesting the injury TKO he used to successfully defend his title for the first time was a stroke of luck.
“I don’t think it was accidental when you try to check a kick and it works,” he said. “If I didn’t try to check the kick, I’d have a big bruised leg right now and he’d have picked me apart with leg kicks. You try to check kicks, and that’s what happens.”
What happened was a humbling experience for anyone familiar with Silva, who just six months ago had won all 16 of his UFC fights to become unanimously considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world at 38 years old.
An immobilized Silva shrieked in pain as he lay on a stretcher headed out of the arena and straight to an ambulance. The UFC’s private doctor tailed the emergency vehicle in his own car and Silva needed immediate surgery upon arriving to the hospital.
“There’s nothing worse than breaking your leg like that,” UFC President Dana White said. “Well, there are worse things but it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened here.”
Silva crumbled to the ground like an imploded building the moment Weidman checked his second straight leg kick. A few moments of confusion spread in the sold-out venue for everyone except Weidman and his corner men.
Weidman raised his arms in celebration while Longo and his other coaches rushed towards the cage. They didn’t need to wait for the replay, which elicited a jarring gasp from 15,650 fans, to figure it out.
The only thing the screens revealed to Team Weidman out of the ordinary was the severity of the injury.
“I don’t want to see Anderson Silva get hurt like that,” Weidman said.
White echoed how difficult it was to watch a man he championed as MMA’s greatest fighter of all time before the masses also jumped on board “go out like that.”
It’s expected to take at least a year for Silva to recover from the grisly damage. Silva will probably turn 40 years old before the next time he could take a bout, which almost certainly couldn’t be another title fight after losing two straight.
“I don’t want to count him out; I don’t want to count him in,” White said. “That’s really not the important thing right now. The important thing is he gets his surgery, heals up and we go from there.”
In four career rounds with Weidman, Silva never looked like the better fighter. The UFC 168 main event started with Weidman placing a powerful right hand behind Silva’s ear to knock the favored longtime champion down.
Weidman swarmed Silva on the mat with follow-up punches and thought he did enough for the referee to stop the fight. Silva recovered by the end of the round, but some believed Weidman did enough to warrant a 10-8 score.
“He looked great,” middleweight top contender Vitor Belfort said. “He was dominating the fight.”
Belfort, whom Silva notably knocked out in the first round three years ago, is up next for Weidman at an undetermined date. The 36-year-old has been an enigma for opponents in winning three straight fights via first-round head-kick knockouts.
Like “The Destroyer” on Saturday, however, Weidman is bound to develop some new wrinkles for Belfort.
“I think it’s a great matchup — a totally different opponent than Anderson Silva,” Weidman said. “It’s nice to move on.”