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A. Silva facing career crossroad in UFC superfight with Diaz

Andrew Robichaud, TSN.ca Staff

7/30/2014 5:07:21 PM

When Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz enter the octagon on January 31, 2015, it will be the most unlikely superfight anyone could have ever imagined.

At the peak of the superfight matchmaking era, the former middleweight champion Silva was mentioned among former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as possible opponents. Diaz wasn't ever mentioned.

Fast forward to today's UFC, where Diaz has become one of the sport's biggest draws and the once-invincible Silva is coming off off two straight losses and a career-threatening injury.

For the former Strikeforce welterweight champion Diaz, who has lost two straight UFC welterweight title fights and subsequently retired after each loss, there is everything to gain from this fight - including another shot at gold.

But for Silva, this fight - No. 3 of the 10-fight contract he signed in 2012 - gives Silva the opportunity to re-cement his legacy.

Silva's fighting future was thrown into question when his shin snapped around the leg of middleweight champion Chris Weidman at UFC 168 in December.

"The pain was absurd. I only thought one thing: Is it over? Will I ever walk again? Am I alright?," Silva said in an appearance on Brazilian television station Rede Globo.

In the octagon, it was his second consecutive loss to Weidman after a record run of 16 straight wins and 10 title defenses dating back to the start of his UFC tenure in 2006.

Outside the octagon, the then 38-year-old was facing a lengthy layoff and a daunting recovery.

"This will be a tough thing to overcome and come back from at his age," UFC president Dana White told reporters at the post-fight press conference on Dec. 28. "He literally left here (MGM Grand Garden Arena) and is going straight into surgery."

But after less than six months of recovery, Silva (33-6) was officially cleared to begin sparring again in June. A month after that, Silva was booked in the main event for the UFC's flagship event on Super Bowl weekend.

There is no doubt that "The Spider" is arguably the greatest fighter of all time, but Silva has become complacent at different points throughout his career, chipping away at his greatness.

There have been times Silva has been too playful in the octagon with his opponents, drawing criticism from fans, other fighters and White - see his UFC 112 bout with Demian Maia.

His nonchalant behaviour, and perceived lack of respect for his opponent, cost him in his first bout with Weidman. Coming off a dominating, and overly playful, knockout of UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar, Silva did more dancing and feigning injury than he did fighting against the relatively untested Weidman.

As the history books show, Weidman made Silva pay, dearly.

In Diaz (26-9, 1 NC), there will be no fooling around. If there is anything "The Stockton Bad Boy" is known for, it's his scowl not his smile.

After his last loss in 2013, Diaz said the only two matchups that could bring him back to the octagon were a rematch with St-Pierre and a date with Silva.

Diaz got his wish just days after signing a three-fight contract on July 25.

If that wasn't motivation enough for Silva, then Diaz's plans to use him as a stepping stone definitely should be.

"I'd like to fight for the title," Diaz told UFC.com before the superfight was announced. "I think that would be a big deal and worth fighting for. I want fights that will lead to a title fight. Whoever is in line and whoever has the title, that's who I'm going to be fighting."

With a win over Silva, White told Bloody Elbow on Wednesday Diaz would earn consideration for a shot at the belt.

"Nick Diaz is a very popular fighter as it is. If he comes in and beats Anderson Silva, absolutely, he could fight for a title. He is right in there. It would be a huge, huge win for him," White said.

Diaz may have more to gain from the superfight, but it is Silva who has much more to lose.

Having a target on your back for the better part of a decade is taxing enough, the question is will Silva return to being a predator or is it the 39-year-old's time to be the prey?

"He is 100 percent healthy," White said. "He is kicking again, feels great, and is chomping at the bit to get back in the octagon."