Well, at least no one died. That's the best thing to be said for Saturday's UFC event in Las Vegas, which ended with Anderson Silva, the greatest fighter of all time, screaming at his own freshly misshaped leg. The prior fight -- it was the only other fight that mattered much -- ended with a male-dominated crowd of 15,650 booing Ronda Rousey, the world's best female fighter, because she doesn't care what a pack of musky Neanderthals thinks of her job performance. Really, it's a small miracle that no one died on the night that marked the death of whatever hope one could have for the UFC.
Silva's main event fight with Chris Weidman was a rematch for the middleweight title that Weidman won via knockout in July of 2013, but the fight's importance to the UFC was far greater than the sum of those circumstances. Georges St. Pierre's recent indefinite leave from MMA left Silva as the only pay-per-view star in a company that relies heavily on pay-per-view revenue. Heading into 2014 with a single proven star is one thing, but the prospect of having none is quite another. And then Silva threw the kick that terraformed everything below his left knee into a quagmire. Weidman reacted to the kick that was supposed to find inner thigh by raising his right knee to absorb the impact, a common and correct move. (You can watch the video here, but be advised: It's been rightly compared to the Kevin Ware and Joe Theismann injuries.)
Every once in a great while, physiology and probability produce a bastard of a result from this move. Those watching were reminded when Silva bent his leg around Weidman's knee at some ungodly angle and pulled back a floppily useless appendage pointing in all the wrong directions all at once. The fight was called off almost immediately as Silva's piercing wails soundtracked the sight of him clutching an imploded leg. Weidman promptly celebrated by draping himself in an American flag and thanking Jesus Christ, presumably for mangling a man's leg on his behalf.
Predicting what comes next is dicey, but the story of the 38-year-old athlete coming off a catastrophic injury doesn't usually come with a happy ending. Most are already making peace with their belief that they'll never see the greatest fighter to ever live ever fight again. Meanwhile, Weidman has the belt, but not an ounce of Silva's cachet. The UFC's promotional arm is the presumptive solution to that, but maybe not. Rousey, the women's bantamweight champion, has reasons to err on the side of not.
Rousey did what she was supposed to do on Saturday night, beat Meisha Tate, again. Their first fight in March of 2012 ended the same way Rousey's first seven fights ended, via armbar in the first round. This fight, Rousey's eighth, lasted into the third, but ended in the same way. Tate lasted six whole minutes longer this time by keeping her arms in tight and avoiding scrambles above all, but she was still overmatched and it showed.
The extended cage-time afforded Rousey the opportunity to test her endurance and flash some surprisingly stiff leather considering that she's a converted Olympic judoka. Still, it was the armbar that ended Tate's night because what else could it be? The typically brilliant synthesis of spatial reasoning and brutally efficient technique that accompanies a Rousey armbar is one of MMA's great pleasures -- when film critics like Armond White speak of the kinetic art inherent to great action films, the image of Rousey turning every bit of herself toward tourniqueting arm ligaments comes to mind as readily as any of John Woo's most orgasmic displays of mass destruction.
That Rousey punctuated her latest masterpiece by refusing Tate's handshake after the fight only added to her modern anti-hero cred, but the anti-hero role is not one that UFC fans are ready for a woman to take up. They booed Rousey during her walkout, they booed her during the introductions, they booed her as soon as she won and they kept on booing all through her post-fight interview. To her great credit, she did not care and was not at all hesitant to make that clear.
When UFC shouting head Joe Rogan asked Rousey during the post-fight interview if the boos were bothersome, she blithely mentioned how she's been booed in 30 different countries. A horde of beta-bros shaking their indignant little fists at an athlete who could snap them in half becomes much funnier when the athlete reminds them how little they matter. It would have been perfect if not for all those beta-bros being there in the first place.
One can argue imagined notions of sportsmanship into eternity, but the fact remains that Tate made a handful of unkind comments about Rousey's training partners -- a group she considers family -- and because of that Rousey chose to refuse both pre and post-fight handshakes. That doing so came with a guarantee of boos only marks it as a principled stand. Still, there were the boos and the reality that those boos will continue for as long as Rousey remains so wonderfully Rousey. The next round of boos is already scheduled for Feb. 22.
So yes, faced with a future at least temporarily devoid of legitimate pay-per-view stars, the UFC is running Rousey back out there to do all the promotional heavy lifting against... someone. The someone's name is Sara McMann and she's a talented fighter, but has all of one UFC fight and you've never heard of her. I've barely heard of her.
This is no knock on McMann, though; she can't do much about the UFC's failure to secure its own future. The organization gifted with a run of ready-made stars that made it into a vaguely mainstream presence is now at the point where promotional know-how is the make-or-break factor. Unfortunately for the organization, it seems to have assumed that legitimate pay-per-view headliners are a naturally renewing resource -- an especially asinine view since Showtime's boxing arm is actively laying out a replicable blueprint for successfully promoting fights in the modern age. Saturday was the death of hope for a reason.
The UFC won't be going broke anytime soon for sure, but one does not hope for something as simple as avoiding decay. The hope for the UFC has always been that it would grow into something better. Something that could be presented without constantly apologizing for the cheesy nu-metal riffs or the coked-up announcing team or the gleefully megalomaniacal president or the unforgivable idiots in the paid seats booing one of the best athletes alive. Hoping for all that was perhaps a bit much, but some of it would have been nice.
Now there's just the freedom of knowing exactly what the sport is and will be in the hands of the UFC. To get all that out of one Saturday night perhaps marks this UFC event as an odd sort of success. Really though, I'm just glad no one died.