UFC 168 was a phenomenal card, unarguably one of the year’s best. There was hardly a dull moment in any of the five main card fights, and all were finished in amazing and different fashions. The first fight opened the night up with a bang, and the buzz continued to grow through finishes by Miller and Browne before peaking at the beautiful violence between Rousey and Tate. What followed was spectacular, but the vibe surrounding the result of main event continues to be one of disappointment. The greatest fighter of all time brutally injured himself in a fluke accident, potentially ending his career forever and tainting Weidman’s victory. However, while the outcome of the fight was not one that anybody wanted, it was far from a let down; in fact, it was the opposite, and I’m going to tell you why.
The Live Viewing Spectacle
The UFC lives off its "OH SHIT" moments, and this may legitimately be the biggest "OH SHIT" moment in UFC history. In the most heavily promoted fight of the year, the UFC’s biggest star gets injured in the most grotesque fashion imaginable. Millions of people around the world gasped and shielded their eyes in shock and horror, but nobody turned off their TV bored or indifferent to what they just saw. It was an exciting, violent, and spectacular moment that few are likely to forget, and that is great news for the UFC. The case could be made that such a grotesque injury dissuades potential future viewers, but I’m not of that mindset. On the contrary, I believe that the cringe-worthy injury will generate more interest from potential future viewers, due to my next point…
The Social Media Effect
Right now, Anderson Silva’s injury is the hottest topic on the internet. Video clips of the injury are being shared profusely on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine. Following the fight, the injury was the number one link on the front page of Reddit. Essentially, people are saying "You GOTTA see this" to their friends. After all the online sharing, this may very well be the most viewed moment in MMA history. I dare say that by the end of the week, most people in America will have seen this clip. Would a vintage Anderson Silva front kick knockout yield the same result? I don’t think so.
Preserves Silva’s Legacy AND Legitimizes Weidman’s Win
Lastly, I believe that the outcome of this fight was a good outcome in that it effectively legitimized Weidman as the better fighter while preserving Silva’s legacy as the greatest of all time. Even though he lost, Anderson Silva held his own and looked pretty good doing it. Weidman by no means dominated the fight, and the fight could’ve gone either way up until the freak accident. If Silva had been finished a different way or dominated for five rounds, his legacy would be tainted significantly worse than it has been with this injury TKO.
Furthermore, should Silva choose to retire, the brutality of his injury safeguards him from any potential criticism he may face on departing from the sport. When Georges St. Pierre chose to take a break from fighting last month, he not only drew irate words from fans around the world, but got publically chastised by Dana White for being selfish. Thanks to his injury, Silva will surely avoid such criticism. Nobody is calling Anderson a pussy should he choose to retire now.
At the same time, few people are questioning the legitimacy of Weidman’s victory and defended championship. While both fights ended in a rather fluky manner, he has handily won four out of four rounds against Silva. In the rematch that took place yesterday, he beat Silva on the feet and on the canvas, even dropping Silva with dirty boxing in the first round. And this time, Silva wasn’t clowning around. While there is a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths, it shouldn’t be one of doubt. Weidman is the legitimate champion now and we should all look forward to his next defense, because he’s clearly a talent not to be missed.
Toby Imada’s inverted triangle choke of Jorge Masvidal did wonders for Bellator when the clip circulated through the internet in 2009. It effectively reached the audience of casual MMA fans and piqued interest in Bellator as a legitimate promotion. Anderson Silva’s injury could do something similar for the UFC. This clip will reach a much larger audience, and unlike the Imada submission, requires zero prior knowledge of MMA to understand.
At the end of the day, this moment will draw more eyes than any other outcome could have drawn. And that is why the main event of UFC 168 was a huge success for the UFC.