Silva vs. Weidman: “Knee Destruction” and Dignity in Combat Sports


by Tariq Rahman

Last night at UFC 168 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Anderson Silva fractured his tibia on Chris Weidman’s knee after throwing a kick to the defending middleweight champion’s leg. The same injury has occurred in the past, in both Muay Thai and UFC bouts, and considering the length of time typically required to recover from such an injury as well as Anderson Silva’s age, it is doubtful that we will ever see “The Spider” inside the Octagon again.

At the post-fight press conference, Weidman stated, “Last fight, the one thing that he really capitalized on was legs kicks, so probably the most important thing we focused on for this fight camp was stopping his leg kicks. So, Ray Longo [Weidman’s coach] he’s actually broke a guy’s leg in training using it, what he calls “the destruction” which is knee on shin, so when he goes to kick you put your knee on his shin.”

When a reporter followed up on this statement, asking, “Were you consciously trying to do the knee on shin thing tonight then? Is that what you’re saying?” Weidman responded, “Yeah 100%. I didn’t want him to feel comfortable kicking me all night. If I don’t put the knee on his shin he’s going to kick me, he’s going to hurt me. So, that’s how you check a kick.”

Contrary to Weidman’s claim, “knee on shin” is not “how you check a kick.” The basic technique to check a kick is to use your shin, thereby causing enough harm to your opponent to make them think twice about using that technique again, but certainly not enough to leave them critically injured. “Knee on shin” is an adjustment of the basic shin check technique designed to attack the opponent, and apparently, with the knowledge that it can have catastrophic results.

This is an interesting quandary because in MMA (unlike Muay Thai, where both the leg kick and kick check are derived from) techniques intended to break limbs are utilized. However, such techniques are restricted to the “ground game,” and opponents have an opportunity to “tap out” before the worst-case scenario occurs. This is not the case in the “striking game,” where there is no time to comprehend the technique that is being employed against you and thus forfeit the fight for the sake of preventing a devastating and potentially lifelong injury.

The only precedent I can think of for “knee on shin” is the push kick to the knee. As with leg kick checks, there is nothing dangerous about the basic technique (push kicking an opponent’s thigh), but when the technique is modified (in this case, to strike the knee) it becomes capable of inflicting permanent damage and therefore such strikes are not used in either Muay Thai or MMA. Interestingly, the relationship between MMA fighters and push kicks to the knee is the same as the one that exists between Muay Thai fighters and “knee on shin,” which is that although the technique is legal, it is not to be done, at least not intentionally. Importantly, the rejection of potentially catastrophic yet legal techniques in striking should not imply that the style is less tough or more graceful than wrestling and Jiu Jitsu, but rather that the operation, and thus consequences of such techniques differ greatly between those worlds, as noted above.

Not too long ago, my Muay Thai trainer made the point that fight sports are not the same fighting. There are restrictions to every combat sport, whether they disallow punches to the face, striking, wrestling, weapons, etc. Unfortunately, not every rule can be codified, and that is where dignity is supposed to step in. The acknowledgement between fighters that they are playing a fight sport rather than fighting is the reason that there aren’t push kicks to the knee in MMA even when such strikes are not illegal. There are an infinite number of ways to win a fight, but there is only one way to win a game – by the rules, and with dignity, nothing else can be considered a victory. I am not suggesting that “knee on shin” should be made illegal or if that is even possible. What I am arguing is it is a dirty, and frankly, dishonorable technique, and one that has unfortunately ended the career of the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.


About Author

Former college student, activist, musician. In 2010 I was an amateur with a couple fights and a few years of training. I sold everything I owned and moved to Thailand with no plans to return. I lasted 10 months.


  1. Thank you for writing and posting this. I’ve seen so many comments under news articles asserting that the technique Weidman practiced and ultimately used is “precision mixed martial arts technique,” thus implying that knee-on-shin is accepted (even if not illegal).

  2. that was karma for all the time silva acted like a douche bag in the ring. it sucked it happened to him but now he we know he is humbled without a doubt. silva wants to act like a clown in the ring he gets knocked out. thats what he gets. thats what he got last weidman fight. silva wants to again play possum for the first round on the rematch. doesnt bring it the first round, does his little theatrical bullshit where he wants to seem vulnerable then actually start fighting in the later rounds so he can be praised like hes fucking rocky. when he is really just an arrogant douche who doesnt respect any fighters skill. so he should be getting those knee checks. he deserves them more than anyone in the league.

  3. I must admit,I’m a little biased here cause I despise Anderson Silva,but as much as I hate to admit it,I have to agree with SE,,its Kharma…I dont think Weidman intentionally attempted to actually break Silvas leg,(even though Ive heard some idiots claiming that)but his defense of Silvas low kick was spot on and in my opinion,100% legal and ethical in combat sports.

    But,,Jon Bones Jones is The only douchebag that is guilty of constantly attacking the knees of his opponents.His kicking technique of hyperextending his opponents knes is dirty and could potentially be career ending to men simply trying to earn a living in the fight game.

    • Are you saying Weidman lied? Or are you just on LSD?
      “Were you consciously trying to do the knee on shin thing tonight then? Is that what you’re saying?” Weidman responded, “Yeah 100%.”

      • Exactly where did anyone say anything about actually attempting to break Silvas leg??? A check Used as A deterrent to Silva devastating low kicks,,absolutely,and it worked to perfection.

        You Win by hurting your opponent,,this is Fighting remember,,or did YOU use too much LSD?

        • You’re right, a check is a deterrent. “Destruction,” as Weidman calls it, is something else, the optimal result of which is the breaking of the opponents leg, as Weidman himself noted. In combat sports you win by hurting your opponent. However, instant, catastrophic and permanent injury is usually not what fighters sign up for, and, in my opinion, that is what a technique that drives the knee into a full force leg kick has a relatively high likelihood of accomplishing. To high for my taste, anyway.

  4. yup. jon jones is a fucking immature douche. his coach greg jackson is a fucking straight up prick. hate that bitchass smug look on his face. and his dumbass wanna be jedi mind trick voice he uses in the corner……fucking idiot…. jon jones NEVER initially checks on his opponents after a devastating win but then you see greg jackson telling him to go check on his opponent as if he genuinely cares to make it seem like he’s not a total fucking douche. jon jones is the justin beiber of mma, who lost 100% his last fight with gustaffson.

  5. people were claiming that weidman might have done those checks like that on purpose because weidmans coach had told him he used them in the ring and his opponent broke his leg on his knee…and weidman admits in the post fight interview they were going to do EVERYTHING possible to make it uncomfortable for silva to get low kicks in. im pretty sure, and its obvious, weidman knew checking leg kicks in that fashion would have a far more unpleasant effect than with shins. that is 100% true.

  6. Agreed, it’s a gray zone where you cannot tell it’s illegal, but it is definitely not proper for a martial artist to do so. Still, my kru always taught us to kick downwards, to strain the thigh muscles if the kick lands, and also to avoid the knee check fracturing your leg. If the kick is thrown downwards instead of upwards, 9 out of 10 times you receive a knee block your leg will slip down and not get the 100% of inverse proportional strength from your kick.
    But yeah, you shouldn’t try to blast a guy’s leg, but this is UFC, a prostitution of MMA showing each time how it differs from PRIDE or King of Pancrase, all wrapped up for massive selling, nothing else. That is why I must say, the greatest of all time in MMA is between Wanderlei Silva, Fedor Emilianenko or Mirko Crocop Filipovic.

  7. Yeah, I don’t think anyone who is fan of combat sports in all of its forms really wants to see this happen. In non-martial arts circles, this will go down as a novelty video of what a barbaric “game” MMA is. Because of the high profile of the fight, PR damage control will be difficult and will probably be the first thing brought up when opponents of the sport want to keep it from spreading, politically and otherwise. Couple of thoughts:

    1. Ray Longo’s gym is not really known for its sophistication – think Jersey Shore in a gym, and that is basically the image of the place. With that, you get a certain level of class.
    2. “Destructions” are probably a part of many martial arts, but I’ve seen them in Filipino martial arts, specifically. As I understand it, there is an analog technique to guide punches into elbows to break hands, so that may be the next fad. MMA fighters wrap their hands, though, so maybe that would be a deterrent.
    3. I don’t think it is proper to say breaking bones are part of the ground game – you can tear connective tissue and muscles and the like, but there are no techniques I am familiar with which have their goal to break bones, per se.
    4. My impression is that these types of techniques are relatively ineffective, despite the results of this match. I think 99 times out of 100, they will not work as intended. In the martial arts world, there are all types of techniques that are possible but not probable.
    5. That being said, regardless of the actual effectiveness rate, I think it is dishonorable to intentionally look to injure your opponent in a game of any sport as a premeditated strategy. Like you said, there are many, many ways to win, and this kind of “fighting” is really anti-fighting; it is not against the rules, but it is against the spirit of competition. It’s the same reason small joint manipulation is disallowed in BJJ and judo – that kind of injury cannot be safely mitigated (like a choke, for example) and detracts from the game. It is is not the kind of competitive action 99% of sports fans want to see.

    I wonder the impact of this match on UFC and the sport, in general. There was a collective gasp and feeling of disgust as this happened to the most renowned fighter in the sport as millions, literally, watched. “What the f*** was that?” I think when the most common reaction to a fight is “cannot unsee”, there is a really big problem for the game. I think the fallout from this will be widespread and gradual, but it will have a detrimental effect on the sport, for sure.

  8. its funny how fast weidman knew sylva was KO’ed at the end of the fight and how calm he was. as if he saw people’s shins crack in half everyday….

    if he didnt know that was a possibility he would have paused and probably have a bit of shock on his face…

    besides drilling low kick checks 24/7 he was probably kneeing sand filled bags n shit…ha

    i also believe weidmans teams noted sylva’s chicken legs as being weak. they ARE freakishly small.

  9. I don’t know the problem is. One guy kicked and the other guy checked. Simple. Has anyone watched the fight between Stan Longinidis VS Dennis Alexio ? If your leg breaks during a match… guess what… you lose.

  10. I demand that you stop this nonsense right now. Weidman blocked the kick with the upper part of his shin bone, not with his knee.

    “the joint of the human leg connecting the tibia and fibula with the femur and protected in front by the patella”

    If he had blocked with his knee he would have been carried out of the Octagon right alongside Anderson.

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