Chris Weidman’s Knee Check Against Anderson Silva and the Realities of It


Last night at UFC 168 Chris Weidman retained his UFC Middleweight Championship with a TKO victory over Anderson Silva for the second time in row, although, for a second time in a row there are questions hung in the air surrounding the nature of the finish. While it’s difficult to doubt the validity of Weidman’s win the first time around; Anderson Silva dropped his guard to goof off and Weidman took the opening, the second time around things began to really get muddy. While going for an inside leg kick against Chris Weidman Anderson Silva’s shin made contact with Chris Weidman’s knee, causing a horrific, possibly-career ending break to Anderson Silva.

As a longtime Anderson Silva fan I’m sad to see a legend like him go out like this. It is exciting to see a new fighter climb up the rankings like Weidman has, but I do feel like Weidman has to feel a bit strange about the victory, if not a bit empty. This was to be Weidman’s chance to prove any of the doubters from the first fight wrong, instead yet another finish comes by a way of strange circumstances. I wouldn’t call Weidman’s win — either one — a fluke, in fact I thought that the fight should have been stopped in the first round here, but the injury that happened to Anderson Silva was definitely a fluke.

Ees not normal.

So yes, I know, you are already stewing over with internet rage. How dare this asshole in front of a computer screen detract from Chris Weidman’s magnificent victory over Anderson Silva. That was a trained technique! Chris Weidman drilled it all of the time and used it in training! He knew exactly what he was doing, so therefore it wasn’t a fluke injury, it was… Well, this is where things get kind of messy, right? If Weidman’s trainer calls it the “Destruction” and talks about breaking guys legs with it, Chris Weidman using it and knowing the possible outcome is a bit reckless, especially considering the outcome of the fight. If Rousimar Palhares was reckless and a danger, wouldn’t using a technique that you knew could end someone’s career be just as bad?

In case you didn’t catch what I was doing, that was not entirely serious. No, I don’t think that Chris Weidman intended to end Anderson Silva’s career or even break his leg. You know why? Because you can’t predict an injury like that, it is in its very nature a fluke injury and I’m going to explain why it was a fluke injury.

In Muay Thai checking a leg kick is a pretty standard technique and one of the first things that you learn outside of throwing your basic kicks and punches. Checking a kick happens by raising your knee and bringing it up so the intended target — usually the thigh or anywhere above the knee — is no longer in danger and instead the shin connects with shin. In a best case scenario you send a jolt of pain through the attacker because his shin connecting with yours was unexpected and painful and, on average, what happens is it connects somewhere on your leg and you are able to deflect the energy away and set up a counter.

What Weidman did differently is sometimes called a Knee Check and it is mildly controversial in Muay Thai. Why? Well, I think you just saw why. Good Muay Thai fighters will condition their shins, strengthening them so that they are able to throw hard kicks without injuring themselves and to inflict more damage. With that being said, it is still incredibly difficult to condition your shins against an injury such as this. When a fighter checks with their knee (or right below the knee) the attacker’s shin comes into contact with what is essentially an unmovable object. A regular leg kick there is some give as your leg naturally bends at your knee (duh) and it helps to absorb some of the force. When checking a kick higher with a knee the attacker — depending on the angle — is driving their shin into something with zero give to it. Consider the small area that is coming into contact from the attacker’s shin and then consider the larger area of the knee and how rigid of an area this is.

You’ll hear about Thai fighters using it in Thailand against foreigners to let them know that they don’t belong there, with most then moving away from utilizing the leg kick upon not only the inability to land the strike, but getting stung every time it connects. If you take Muay Thai there is a good chance that your instructor won’t even teach you a Knee Check, or if they do, it is taught as something you don’t want done to you and thus something that you don’t do to someone else as you could hurt them. The knee check is viewed same way that a lot of knee locks were looked at for a very long time in Jiu-Jitsu; potentially dangerous in the wrong hands and could seriously injure someone. In fact, in Muay Thai there is another technique to block high kicks where instead of having your arm bent to absorb it with your elbow facing down, you’d have your elbow facing out to where it’d make contact on the shin.

There is a reason why you don’t see this all of the time.

Now, as for the injury itself, you’d probably be able to count on your hands how many times it has happened in a professional setting across Muay Thai, Kickboxing and MMA within the past twenty years or so. A lot of the time it is an accident. Even then, you’d probably not be able to find that many occurrences where a fighter’s leg literally snapped like that. Here’s Ray Sefo vs. Ernesto Hoost from K-1 in 2002, note how Hoost only partially raises his leg up to check and that Sefo’s shin connects with the knee. Ouch. Also note that while Sefo was injured, his leg didn’t snap and flail around. Because a complete break like that is simply not normal.

Why is it not normal? Because both the tibia and fibula on Anderson Silva snapped clean. That means that the force of the kick was so much that not only did the larger tibia bone fracture, it completely snapped and the smaller fibula then snapped along with it. I’m kind of shocked to read so many MMA fans acting like such an injury is a normal occurrence and that it was a “known outcome” to using a knee check. It is a possible outcome, but the usual outcome is that it just stings a lot and will make the attacker stop using a low kick. To snap both the tibia and fibula? That’s indeed a “freak injury.”

I think that it is fair to give Chris Weidman credit for trying to stop Anderson from leg kicking him and I also feel that Weidman had won the fight in the first round regardless, but I think giving him credit for breaking Silva’s leg is a bit of a strange stretch to make.