Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) capped off a whirlwind month of January with a mammoth pay-per-view (PPV) mixed martial arts (MMA) event this past Saturday (Jan. 31, 2015), as the former long-time middleweight champion returned to the win column for the first time in about 28 months in front of a sold-out crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Anderson Silva made his way to the cage in MGM Grand last evening for the first time in 13 months in the main event of UFC 183, having not stepped into the Octagon since his horrendous leg fracture back in late 2013. Although "The Spider" looked a bit timid early on, the former champion toughed it out for 25 minutes en route to an impressive unanimous decision victory over Nick Diaz (highlights here).
The co-main event unfortunately did not live up to the hype, as Tyron Woodley and Kelvin Gastelum put on a mediocre show in "Sin City." With the fight already hampered by Gastelum missing weight by 10 pounds on Friday, the two men simply refused to kick it up a notch over the 15-minute affair, leaving many fans frustrated and bemused. In the end, Woodley picked up the split decision victory, but he will definitely need another win before a title shot.
With that quick recap of the night's marquee bouts, it is now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make:"
Winner: Thiago Alves
Who Should He Fight Next: Tarec Saffiedine
After a troubling first round that saw Jordan Mein absolutely batter former No. 1 contender Thiago Alves, it seemed that "Pitbull" was essentially nothing more than a punching bag for "Young Gun" heading into the second frame.
Instead, Alves came out firing, blasting Mein with a brutal body kick that ultimately led the American Top Team product to a (technical) knockout victory just minutes into the second round (highlights here). The finish for Alves was his first inside the Octagon since his jaw-dropping flying knee finish over former champion Matt Hughes way back in 2008.
After a two-year sabbatical nursing injuries, Alves has now won back-to-back fights inside UFC, and should be ranked come Monday morning. With that being said, why not match up the brutal kicker with former Strikeforce champion and kicking aficionado Tarec Saffiedine?
Not only does the bout make sense in terms of the division rankings, but the on paper match-up would have fans absolutely giddy with excitement.
Winner: Thales Leites
Who Should He Fight Next: Gegard Mousasi
It is time we all stop doubting Thales Leites, and recognize the resurgent contender is no longer the one-dimensional jiu-jitsu specialist that fought Anderson Silva way back in 2009.
After a "Fight of the Night" performance that saw Leites and Tim Boetsch throw down for about 9 minutes, the Brazilian ultimately choked out his American counterpart with a beautifully set-up arm-triangle finish.
Since returning to the Octagon in 2013, the Brazilian has reeled off five straight victories, including three finishes in a row. His run that helped him earn back a UFC roster spot? Leites defeated three UFC veterans, two via finish. Needless to say, there are few fighters in the world as hot as Thales Leites right now.
Quickly becoming must-see television, the Brazilian absolutely deserves a crack at a Top-10 opponent, and I believe Gegard Mousasi fits that bill perfectly. I could see these men sharing a main event slot on a future UFC Fight Pass card, with the winner potentially earning a Top-5 bout their next time out.
Winner: Al Iaquinta
Who Should He Fight Next: Jorge Masvidal
How stacked is the lightweight division? Well, considering Al Iaquinta is not yet ranked, you have a pretty good idea just how good the 155-pound division is today.
After earning his third straight (technical) knockout finish, this time over the notoriously durable Joe Lauzon, "Raging" Al will undoubtedly break into the Top-15 this Monday. Considering he asked for a ranked opponent for his next bout, I would have no problem with the former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) runner-up taking on Jorge Masvidal his next time out.
With Benson Henderson moving up to the welterweight division to replace Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 61, the former lightweight champion left Masvidal without a dance partner for the co-main event slot at UFC Fight Night 63 in April.
Hopefully the Long Island native is up for a quick turnaround against a tough opponent in "Gamebred."
Winner: Tyron Woodley
Who Should He Fight Next: Carlos Condit
Tyron Woodley is in an odd predicament moving forward in the 170-pound division. Having already lost to Rory MacDonald, refusing to fight Hector Lombard, and unable to attain bouts against Johny Hendricks or Matt Brown, the No. 3 ranked welterweight is left with few options.
With that being said, I would be very interested to see "The Chosen One" rematch Carlos Condit when the former Interim champion is ready to return sometime over the next several months.
Back at UFC 171, The "Natural Born Killer" suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and partially torn meniscus during his co-main event bout against Woodley. With Condit stuck on the sidelines, Woodley essentially took his place in line over the last year.
With options limited for the former Strikeforce product, and Condit hungry for vengeance, I think a Fight Night main event suits these men just fine.
Winner: Anderson Silva
Who Should He Fight Next: No one
After his victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 183, "The Spider" shared with his fans that his family desperately wants him to retire and call his legendary career quits.
In my mind, I don't see any scenario or fight that is worth going against his family's wishes. In the end, Silva has absolutely nothing left to prove, and he has the rare opportunity to choose when he hangs up his gloves.
In MMA history, we have seen legends far too often have their careers decided for them. Whether it was Chuck Liddell getting knocked out in three straight fights, Randy Couture eating a devastating crane kick from Lyoto Machida, or Dan Henderson refusing to retire following a 1-5 stint, it is seemingly an unfortunate custom for Hall of Famers to "go out on their shield."
Forget Silva's performance last night for just a minute. Whether or not you enjoyed the show the Brazilian legend put on inside the Octagon at UFC 183, you must respect the former champion's resiliency and determination to return to the cage following his horrific leg fracture back at UFC 168.
Had Diaz absolutely wiped the floor with Silva last night, we still could have chalked up a moral victory for the former champion in returning from such a terrible injury.
In the end, Silva can opt to retire on top, and I am all for that.
That's a wrap!
For complete UFC 183 results and coverage of all the night's action click here.