LAS VEGAS — Anderson Silva's attempt to recapture the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight belt ended Saturday night in a grotesque lower left leg injury that casts the 38-year-old's fighting future into doubt.

Silva, after being decked by a first-round right hand by champion Chris Weidman, tried a second-round left kick that Weidman (11-0) blocked with his own left shin.

The impact of the contact broke Silva's lower left leg, bending it as he crashed to the mat and screamed in agony while Weidman was declared the repeat winner 1:16 into the round at MGM Grand.

"I knew that he could hurt me most with the leg kicks. We trained checking the kick a lot," said Weidman, who beat Silva on July 6 by second-round knockout. "The idea is to pull your leg and for the shin to land at the knee. That's exactly what I did and I felt his leg go right away.

"I figured if I [caught] him on my knee it could really hurt him. Crazy how this happened."

Earlier Saturday, women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (8-0) successfully defended her belt in an action-packed fight against her bitter rival Miesha Tate, winning by a third-round submission by her patented armbar.

Rousey was roundly booed after failing to accept Tate's post-fight handshake, but that became the night's second-most prevailing image after Silva's leg cracked, making a distinct, horrific sound.

Silva (33-6) clearly wanted to keep the fight a stand-up battle after the first round, when Weidman pressed Silva to the cage and started a tussle of exchanged knees.

Weidman ended that with the massive right that sent Silva's eyes rolling back in his head.

The 29-year-old champion said he was expecting referee Herb Dean to stop the fight as he unleashed a flurry of follow-up punches to Silva's head on the canvas.

As Silva stood for the second, he tried a left kick. Weidman answered by kicking Silva in the stomach. That set up Silva's decision to kick at Weidman's leg again, a fateful moment that called to mind the broken leg that ended Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann's career.

Silva was taken to the trauma center at University Medical Center, according to a Nevada State Athletic Commission official.

"He's still known as the greatest of all time," Weidman said as medical workers put a cast on Silva's leg and carried him from the octagon on a stretcher.

Venice's Rousey endured her greatest challenge yet in mixed martial arts after seven prior first-round armbar wins, standing up to Tate's best punches and withstanding the athletic challenger's attempts to exhaust Rousey in a gritty battle.

The bout ended 58 seconds into the third round, when Rousey spun Tate (13-5) and pulled on her left arm until the challenger tapped out on Rousey's thigh.

"I have no excuses, she's the better fighter," Tate said in the octagon.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com