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January 4, 2014

Estrada column: Tragic injury ends year

PORT ARTHUR — The year-ending UFC event is always a big one and UFC 168 held last Saturday was the grand finale for 2013.  The event dropped the jaws for UFC's high-viewership audience – but for a most unfortunate reason.

Anderson Silva, the Thomas Jefferson of mixed martial art’s Mount Rushmore, fractured his leg in a manner not seen since Joe Theismann broke his on Monday Night Football nearly thirty years ago. Like Theismann’s injury, Silva’s cannot be unseen.

After losing his UFC middleweight title to Chris Wiedman in July, Silva rematched him at the event.  During the bout Silva utilized an inside leg kick against Wiedman’s legs as a standard strategy to immobilize his opponent.

Silva launched one of his kicks and Wiedman “checked it” or raised his leg in a defensive posture to mitigate the blow.  

Silva’s shin connected with Wiedman’s knee and it snapped in rubbery-like fashion. He collapsed to the canvas and the referee immediately jumped in to stop the bout due to TKO by injury.  

I have an interesting anecdote to add. I visited my niece, Victoria, who was MMA training at Powerhouse Gym in Port Neches the day before UFC 168. Much of her training session was solely dedicated to checking leg kicks, over and over and over.  This, coupled with what transpired the night after to Silva, brought a quote and an old adage to mind:

• "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

— Bruce Lee

• “The best offense is a good defense.”

If Bruce Lee were alive today, he probably would apply his quote to kick "checking" as well.

Be it training locally or the national spotlight, women's MMA has taken off as a hobby and a sport.  Not to be overshadowed by the Wiedman-Silva men's UFC showdown, UFC 168’s co-main event featured the highly-anticipated UFC women’s championship bout between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.  

Tate showed tremendous resiliency against the undefeated Rousey, lasting three rounds. But Tate simply had the wrong game plan. It was Tate who surprisingly went for takedowns against Rousey who, as an Olympic Judo medalist, thwarted them almost instinctively and used them against Tate. In the end it was Rousey who forced Tate to tap out to her bread and butter armbar submission.

The end of the UFC's last event of the year left a lot of uncertainty.  The promotion took some unexpected knockdowns in the round that was 2013.  

In December, Georges St-Pierre announced he would vacate his UFC welterweight title and walk away from fighting indefinitely due to personal matters.  

Silva’s career, meanwhile, is in question after the complete snapping of his tibia and fibula. His tibia actually had a titanium rod inserted into it.

(Quick commentary: The state-ratified Unified Rules of MMA works; a cageside doctor was on hand to set the fracture, a mandated ambulance rushed Silva to the hospital, and he underwent the procedure within hours of the fracture).

If Silva's leg heals well, it could be six to nine months until he can start training again and possibly more than a year until he fights again.

Georges St-Pierre and Silva are two of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view draws. Detractors have predicted this will mean a downturn for the UFC and 2014 will be a dismal year.  

One can emphatically argue it’s quite the contrary. Doom and gloom was predicted when the then UFC’s largest draw at the time, Brock Lesnar, retired in 2011. Yet the UFC continued on its course of growth. As a two decade-long MMA follower I have learned that the greats leave and other greats arise.  

The year 2014 is bright for the UFC and MMA. Johnny Hendricks is expected to battle Robbie Lawler in Dallas for St-Pierre’s vacated crown. Silva was the longtime middleweight champion but the current champion, Chris Wiedman, will defend that title against Brazilian Victor Belfort.  

Rousey will have a quick turnaround and fight again in February.  The UFC will also effectively double the pool of its women fighters by adding a 115-pound strawweight division to go with its current 135-pound women’s bantamweight division.  

Jon “Bones” Jones seems to be the heir apparent as being the UFC’s superstar entering the year. His light heavyweight title victory over Swede Alexander Gustafsson in September was one of the most thrilling of 2013 and a rematch is possible in 2014.  

There will be a heavyweight contender eliminator to determine who faces UFC 166 Houston victor Cain Velasquez and the lightweight division is the deepest there is with “Showtime” Pettis currently reigning.  These are just a few highlights of what to look forward to in the coming year.  

The show will go on for the UFC in 2014.  Just don’t tell them to break a leg.

David Estrada Jr. is a Mixed Martial Arts columnist for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at DavidEstrada@DavidEstrada.com.

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