For a man who has made a career out of crafting spectacular highlight-reel knockouts and unforgettable moments inside the cage, any time Anderson Silva fights, something about it is worth remembering.
Neither the viewing public nor the former middleweight champion himself will be able to forget the nature of how his highly anticipated rematch with Chris Weidman came to an end last Saturday night at UFC 168. It was an abrupt, unfortunate and ultimately painful end to the fight for the man regarded as the greatest fighter of all time.
The 38-year-old pound-for-pound great threw a left leg kick early in the second round that resulted in a severe break in his lower leg upon being checked by the undefeated champion. The fight was immediately waved off, and Silva was tended to inside the Octagon—which included his broken tibia and fibula being set on site by the cage-side physician.
He was then rushed to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he underwent corrective surgery for the injury.
On Monday, Dr. Steven Sanders, who performed the surgery, provided details to the media regarding the process Silva underwent inside the operating room.
"He was brought into the emergency room where he was assessed and had X-rays performed," Dr. Sanders said. "He underwent minimal blood work tests and was counseled on the injury and what would be proper and standard care for such an injury. He made the decision to proceed forward with surgery. He then was taken to the operating room, where under general anesthesia, he had a titanium rod inserted into his left tibia.
"The rod enters at the top of the tibia below the knee, then extends down the leg and across the fracture to a level about the ankle joint. Once the rod is in place, it is then stabilized to prevent rotation by placing a screw through the rod below the knee joint and another two screws just above the ankle. The screws go through bone, through the rod, then out the other side of the bone."
Dr. Sanders went on to explain that the other bone involved in the injury was not operated on because he believed it would be able to heal on its own. In addition to the surgery itself, Dr. Sanders addressed several other pertinent topics—such as rehabilitation and recovery—as he spoke with the media on the conference call.
"We are not even 48 hours from the surgery and tibia fractures can have a slower healing," Dr. Sanders said. "My prognosis, in general, would be a fracture healing somewhere in the nature of three to six months. But there is also soft tissue that needs to heal and a rehabilitation process as well. The limit[ing] factors would be the fractures and bone healing.
"If I had to make a guess less than 48 hours from the operation, I would say the fracture healing [within] three to six months, then attempting to train anywhere from six to nine months."
The doctor added that there is no rehabilitation for a broken bone. Dr. Sanders shared information on the severity of the break and what the former middleweight king will face on the road ahead.
"In terms of the injury, it was fairly severe," Sanders said. "It could have been worse. He could have torn the skin and had bone exposed to the environment right there in the Octagon, which would dramatically increase his risk of infection. He could have potentially torn a blood vessel, which would have challenged the blood supply to the foot.
"But for this particular injury, the real problem is that it was basically the skin holding the leg together.
"When that happens, that can affect the healing process because those tissues that surround the bone and normally supply the healing factors, those have been disrupted and those too will be challenged. That's why we strive to get stabilization as soon as possible because the more it moves, it's doing a little bit more damage to those soft tissues.
"The rehabilitation is in relationship to the soft tissues," he added. "It starts with the atrophy or muscle wasting that occurs through the recovery. The rehabilitation will also be in the ankle joint. It can become stiff because of the soft tissue damage that occurred above the joint. His rehabilitation will include range of motion of the ankle and knee. Due to the location of the fracture, he'll actually be allowed to do partial weight bearing some time in the near future as we get through this acute pain phase."
There is no secret that fighters endure rigorous training camps and are rarely 100 percent coming into fights. With Silva's gruesome injury at UFC 168, the question of whether there was at least some form of disruption to the leg prior to the fight floated around the MMA community.
Dr. Sanders also touched on that topic on the call.
"The character and quality of this bone was completely normal," Dr. Sanders offered. "There was no pre-disposing pathology in that bone that would have lead to this particular event occurring at that time."
While the doctor provided insight into the operation and recovery time Silva could expect, there was not a lot of information he could provide into the fighter's mindset—and for good reason. With the fight being just two days earlier and Silva still in the early stages of post-op recovery, few things are set in stone.
Two interesting tidbits Dr. Sanders did provide came in one pre-surgery interaction where "The Spider" asked him when he would be able to train again, and the fact that just 48 hours after having a titanium rod placed in his leg, the resilient legend was already up on crutches.
While that gives no concrete indication about whether Silva will return, the operation was clearly a success.
The former champion is recovering in a Las Vegas hospital for the next few days.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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