Was Anderson Silva’s leg injured on purpose? This is the chatter circulating around online mixed-martial arts forums regarding the champion Chris Weidman’s use of a hard knee check during UFC 168 on Saturday night. Are the arguments valid?
The technique, nicknamed “The Destruction” by Weidman trainer Ray Longo, involves using the thicker shin bone directly beneath the knee to contact the thinner bone traditionally used as a striking surface in martial arts. The results can obviously be described as devastating, even gruesome, but is this destruction on purpose? Is this, as some are calling it, a dirty tactic?
Leg kicks are a staple of a mixed-martial artists arsenal because they are swift, effective and often hard to defend against. A series of powerful leg attacks can render a defender unable to move properly or issue a counterattack. Anderson Silva is known to be particularly vicious with his leg kicks, and he put them to good use in his first match against Weidman. Even though Weidman won the first bout via knockout, he commented that he felt he needed to do a better job at checking Silva’s leg attacks.
Checking a kick is a fighter’s way of minimizing the damage done by a leg kick that cannot be dodged. Checks come in two varieties, the soft check and the hard check. The soft check, which is the one most often seen in MMA fights, involves the defender raising their knee high, taking the impact of the attack on the lower part of their leg. The flexibility of the knee allows the defender’s leg to swing with the energy of the attack. This type of check does not completely reduce the power of the attacking kick, but it also generally does not cause a tremendous amount of pain to either fighter.
The hard check, the technique that Weidman referred to as The Destruction, uses the stronger bone located in the upper part of the shin to defend. The thicker bone is positioned to allow the thinner tibia to strike it, deflecting the kick and sending a tremendous amount of force back into the attacking leg. The results can be extremely painful. Shin on shin contact without protective training pads often sends fighters reeling back in pain. The destruction of Anderson Silva’s leg was the ultimate example of a successful hard leg check.
The real purpose of a hard check, aside from reducing damage to the defending leg, is to force the attacker to thrower fewer, or softer, leg kicks. The pain that is normally associated with the hard check makes most attackers reluctant to commit their full power against an opponent who is utilizing the tactic. From this perspective, Weidman’s check worked exactly as designed.
There is nothing dirty or unsportsmanlike about using a hard check, as it is essentially a defensive maneuver, and it is the force of the attacker’s kick that actually causes the damage. Muay Thai fighters, and other practitioners condition their shins for years to promote harder and thicker bones that will allow them to throw more powerful kicks while feeling less pain. This is part and parcel of combat sports that allow low leg kicks and is a well-established technique.
The use of the hard check by Weidman in his UFC 168 did seriously injure Anderson Silva’s leg, and possibly his fighting career, but that was not its actual intent. The injury to Silva was not the point of the technique. In a post-fight interview Weidman stated that the purpose of the check was to stop Silva from kicking. This is smart fighting, not dirty fighting. The MMA community sanctions techniques that are considered too dangerous or too vicious, but the hard check does not fit into that category.
By Mark Clarke
Las Vegas Sun