Saturday’s collision between Anderson ‘the Spider’ Silva (33-6) and Nick Diaz (26-9) in the headliner of UFC 183 might not qualify as a Superfight (neither man is a champion and both are coming off a brace of losses) but the star power and enigmatic nature of both men, combined with so many unknowable factors make this a fight to get excited about.
A year and a half ago, Silva was the no.1 pound for pound fighter in the world and the consensus Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) but a knockout loss to Chris Weidman and a broken leg in the rematch dimmed his star and led to over a year on the shelf.
Now that he has returned, we can only wonder if Anderson can be close to the near-mystical figure he once presented in the Octagon. Will the first back-to-back losses of his career, a horrific injury and lengthy spell on the sidelines have diminished his skills, his passion?
It’s also worth remembering that Silva turns 40 in April, which is a truly impressive vintage for an elite level fighter, especially coming up against one of the most renowned cardio machines in the sport.
Diaz has long been considered one of the best Welterweights in the world, but frustrating decision losses in title matches to Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre and his typically difficult relations with the UFC management have led to almost 22 months in the wilderness. However, as Nick is eight years Anderson’s junior and does triathlons for fun, I don’t think we can read too much into that period of self imposed exile.
It is rare that a fight between two competitors on a combined 0-4 run and 35 months worth of inactivity attracts such attention, but in this instance we have a pair of the most popular, divisive and mercurial talents in MMA. Interestingly, right up until Anderson’s second leg break, this would be considered a drastic mismatch (indeed, many still see it that way) albeit one likely to provide a fun fight whereas now, it seems a little fairer…
Diaz gives up height, reach and weight to Silva and has never possessed the same aura against regularly top class opposition or displayed the same creativity in terms of striking prowess. However, with Anderson ageing and coming off a serious injury, Diaz’ confidence, relentless pressure, endless cardio and top notch boxing could be a nightmare for the returning ‘Spider.’
So much relies on how Silva’s mind and body have recovered from the reverses of the past few years and if either let him down, we could easily see Diaz swarm him and pick up a career defining victory. Nontheless, most will be assuming that Silva will pull off some implausibly creative knockout, as we’ve seen so often in the past…
Either way, we find ourselves with a truly compelling contest between two legends of the sport – and despite the exponential increase in the number of UFC cards and bouts, that’s not something we can say all that often.
Expect middle fingers from Diaz, hands down taunting from both men and a stark contrast between intensity and Zen-like calm.
Oh, and expect the unexpected. This is not one to miss.