For all the talk that MMA fans & pundits like to have regarding legacy, passing the torch, and closure, how a fighter retires is a polarizing topic. From Fedor walking off into the sunset with a few wins over old timers in M-1, to GSP's "extended leave of absence" following a controversial split decision title win, to Anderson's tibia shattering gruesomely, there are plenty of ways an illustrious fighter's career can end.
Anderson Silva was an unusual kind of fighter, with an unusual propensity for violence, and an unusual propensity for the unusual. After tearing through every contender worth tearing in his initial run of UFC championship dominance, Anderson found several of the challengers to be so lacking (Leites, Maia) that he openly mocked them and fought with utter disdain. Some fight fans decried Anderson as an honorless bastard of the highest degree; I myself viewed it as strategic posturing. The highs and lows of Silva's quality of performance fluctuated more than Oprah's weight, but more as a function of Anderson's historic weakness to dominating top control specialists, and his complete refusal to engage them in that arena when they couldn't force him there. Aggressive fighters like Vitor & Chael didn't "bring out the best" in Anderson, so much as highlight what a badass counter fighter he was. Then along came Chris.
Weidman is a fighter who would've given Anderson fits even in his absolute prime, due to his physical gifts and well rounded, but wrestling/ top control centric skillset. In their first fight, all spectators agreed that something was off about Anderson's performance, with Anderson clowning around before being karmically knocked out for his disrespect. The refusal to touch gloves, the showboating- all of it fit Anderson's modus operandi for dealing with a grappler. But I believe that it wasn't indicative of a lack of moral integrity on Silva's part- it was an attempt to make Weidman break composure; given that Anderson's tactics weren't working against the overwhelming takedown prowess of Weidman, he took a gamble by clowning around and paid the price for it. Weidman, a seasoned athlete, isn't an easy guy to bait.
Which is why I'm glad Anderson actually tried his damn hardest in this last fight. He looked for every opportunity he had to hit Chris. He tried like hell to stay afoot, and in the clinch he was constantly jockeying for position to throw his signature clinch knees. When taken down, he clung onto Weidman's rock hard frame, trying to reign in the strong posture of the beastly New Yorker; when given the chances, he threw up whatever punches & hammer fists he could muster from guard. And when standing, Anderson stuck and moved, calmly but viciously throwing punches and kicks where he could find them. Unfortunately, one of those kicks found the hardest part of Weidman's shin in a display of textbook checking form, and Silva's 38 year old shin couldn't hold up.
For me, this fight was the perfect symbolic ending of Anderson's absolutely brilliant fighting career. It wasn't that Anderson wasn't still the violent genius that accomplished so many mind bending feats of violence. It wasn't that he "underestimated his opponent," or "wasn't motivated." It was that his body has eroded from the toll of years of training and fighting at the absolute pinnacle of elite competition.