Commentary

Anderson Silva's legacy is secure

Originally Published: December 30, 2013
By Josh Gross | ESPN.com

Disbelief.

Then horror.

Both fights between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman triggered visceral reactions across wide audiences, and each will remain significant to mixed martial arts because they went well beyond water-cooler events.

I expect in time that Weidman will be given his due for accomplishing what he said he would. Beating the unbeatable "Spider" Silva to become UFC middleweight champion. Then doing it again to retain the title.

For this, Weidman goes down as my top fighter of 2013. People saying otherwise will hang their argument on a "fluke." That's bogus. Fluke really means blind, dumb, surprising luck, yet that's not how most people use the word. They intend it to diminish.

As if, without that miraculous, perfectly timed punch in the first fight, Silva was bound to put down Weidman like he had everyone else.

As if, without that miraculous, perfectly timed leg check this weekend, Silva was bound to put down Weidman like he had everyone else.

I'm sorry, no.

My thinking on Weidman's rise and Silva's fall starts and ends with this: I'm convinced the knockout in July and the leg break in December weren't serendipity saying hello.

The sooner some of you realize neither fight hinged on chance, the sooner you can find acceptance. And I'm telling you, the leg-check break didn't just happen. Weidman countered an offensive attack with a defensive response. Leg check done right is as high-level technique as you'll see in MMA. Few fighters do it because shin to shin contact hurts. It really hurts. Even for hardened fighters, it's the stuff of nightmares. Fighters often choose to absorb kicks to the meaty parts of their thigh in lieu of blocking them this way, which should provide some indication of how scary checking a full-force kick can be.

Of course it was shocking to see Silva fall both times. For obviously different reasons. But these weren't moments that simply happened to go bad for the Spider. Weidman made them turn bad, and people should realize this.

As for the cultural reaction to both fights, it's important. MMA and the UFC are thought of by many people as little more than harbingers of violence. Certainly not a theater for sport. That's why despite all of the growth and success of the UFC, mixed martial arts remains niche and will continue to be niche. It won't have mass appeal in the U.S. like the as-violent NFL -- not that it needs to because a global market, which is what the UFC is attempting to carve out for itself, is truly valuable and powerful.

The sports world tuned in Saturday night to see if the greatest example of a mixed martial artist could regain the title that represented his dominance. Instead, everyone saw something awful, which is all they'll remember, as if Secretariat went down in the homestretch at Churchill Downs and had to be euthanized.

Silva's legacy is set. Neither Weidman fight does a thing to diminish his status or accomplishments. Let that also be true for Weidman, whose victories this year should be celebrated instead of relegated to fate's random work.

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