- Brett Okamoto
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As we all know, Silva, 39, fractured the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg during a TKO loss to Chris Weidman in December. Replays produced a lasting image: Silva's leg literally bending in a way it's not intended, as Weidman checked a leg kick.
It was a gruesome injury, but let's pretend for a moment it never happened. Let's pretend Silva finished the fight, but lost to Weidman and then announced his retirement. He sits out seven months, but then decides he wants back in and is booked to January.
As crazy as it sounds, this scenario would have left Silva in the exact same state he's currently in, medically speaking.
"I think that's a fair statement," said Dr. Timothy Trainor, consulting physician to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and a practicing orthopedic surgeon. "Assuming that bone has healed fine, that is safe to say.
"To be honest, the injury [Silva] had is probably a better injury to have than an ACL tear. Once you've put that rod in, it almost always heals without major incident. I'm not surprised at all that he's back within a year; absolutely not."
It is highly unlikely Silva's leg will ever break again, especially now that there is a titanium rod inserted into the bones. Typically, Trainor says if a re-break does occur, it is caused by something truly traumatic, such as a car accident. In other words, Silva should be fine throwing leg kicks.
Of course, this is not to downplay the significance of Silva's injury. Psychologically, Silva (33-6), who is widely considered to be the greatest fighter of all time, will have to deal with a range of potential mental hurdles to be successful again.
Physiologically, however, there is no reason to doubt Silva will be at a disadvantage. He will be 10 weeks removed from his 40th birthday by the day of the fight, which is past a professional athlete's prime, but his age shouldn't have affected his recovery.
"His age, you know, would he have healed a little easier if he was 25? Maybe, but not necessarily," Trainor said. "He's a very healthy guy. I wouldn't be concerned about his age coming back from this type of injury."
According to Silva's manager, Ed Soares, the Brazilian is still undergoing physical rehabilitation on the leg to restore muscle. Despite that, he is not limiting his activity in the gym and sparred with UFC middleweight Lyoto Machida this week.
Soares told ESPN.com that Silva was in high spirits Tuesday when the Diaz fight was announced. Black House MMA posted photos of Silva training Tuesday, in which he appeared in shape. Soares estimated Silva's current weight to be 205 pounds.
Silva's comeback to professional fighting has been one of the most intriguing stories to follow in 2014. Dr. Steven Sanders, the surgeon who operated on Silva, said the fighter asked, "When can I train?" right before undergoing emergency surgery on the night of the injury. That's fantastic stuff.
With a Jan. 31 fight now announced, the question on Silva will turn from, "Can he come back?" to "Can he be the same?" Amazingly, from a medical standpoint at least, he can.
When Anderson Silva steps into the Octagon to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, it will, in one significant way, be as if he never suffered a leg injury.