Sometimes, things just don’t go as we want them to. Seven years of greatness in the UFC and it all came down to a leg check. In many ways, it was truly tragic and difficult to stomach. And as with any extreme injury, it can be written off as a freak incident. Freak incident that it was— little discussion needed there, but there are many technical and contributing factors as well.
That said, my sentiment is that there’s a lot to be learned from this fight. In MMA, the low-kick leads are often employed. What’s not common however, is effective defence against them. It’s common that in this combat sport, fighters are generally offensive and forward-oriented. Being constantly on the offence means being front-leg heavy, and being front-leg heavy means increasing the time-frame needed to defend the kick (*checking is done by raising the leg; front-leg heavy is downward pressure).
At UFC 162 Chris Weidman vs. Silva fight, we saw that Silva was able to land many low-kicks. The catch however, for the most part, it was outside low-kicks.
Let’s revisit the stance in Weidman vs. Silva I.
The Stance at UFC 162
1. Notice the wide stance that Weidman employs: being front-leg heavy and ready to go in on the offensive.
2. Also important is how Weidman hung his lead hand low. Hanging the lead hand low has utility, but one flaw is that it’s also in the way of raising the leg to check (therefore stalling raise even more).
3. The way Weidman’s foot and knee is pointed inward is quite critical. Pointing the knee inwards can often mean that the outside of lead-leg is more susceptible to leg-kicks.
Again, this is due to angle of of check—more time needed to turn and then check.
Result? Lots of switch low-kicks to the outside.
In the first fight, Silva landed more outside leg-kicks than inside:
The Times that Silva went for Inside Low-Kick and Landed:
Notice that in both instances that Silva went for the inside low-kick (and landed), Weidman was in a slightly more squared stance, where his knee is pointed more neutral rather than in. The slight difference does matter.
The main reason (for both inside and outside leg kicks) was indeed Weidman being front-leg heavy—often employing forward jabs or long left-hooks as his main choice of weapon.
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman II
In Silva vs. Weidman II, we saw less jabs, more movement in and out, and a stance more neutral.
The effect? Being able defend the kick by bring the lead-leg up with ease. It’s quite obvious that Weidman and his camp was plenty prepared for the leg-kicks.
Again, at UFC 168, Chris Weidman employed a lead-leg inward stance. However, the difference was that he kept his hands higher and was not nearly as front-leg heavy.
One of the more dangerous moves in kick-fighting is leading with the low-kick (with full-power)—especially with the rear leg. Due to the distance and travel-time, this kick would often require a good setup (against competent defenders). The rear-leg kick can be particularly dangerous against an opponent with an inward-stance in an orthodox vs. southpaw situation—this fight demonstrates it well.
At the time of the check, Weidman was shifting back, which means he was rear-leg heavy and ready to raise his lead-leg.
Silva fully-blasts a rear leg-kick so powerful that after going into Weidman’s inward-angled knee, it sends Weidman’s leg to the rear position. Silva’s kick also landed with the lower part of the shin—the weaker part of the shin—and that’s all she wrote.
Spiking the leg-kick with a knee is not an uncommon move in kick-fighting, as we’ve seen it before with Ernesto Hoost vs. Ray Sefo. Also relevent: here’s Bas Rutten’s explanation of the shin.
It’s not the first time a fighter injured their leg throwing a low-kick—nor will it be the last time—but it’s certainly the highest profile fight, with arguably the most brutal snap. Freak incident, but nonetheless, it had these contributing factors. In MMA, Silva vs. Weidman II may well serve as a reminder for others: full powered leg-kicks are either to be thrown with more caution, or better yet, with setup.
It’s truly tragic that Anderson Silva had to go out in this manner, but perhaps in more ways than one, he is a game changer.
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