Controversial UFC welterweight Nick Diaz will not be getting an immediate title shot when he returns to the Octagon in 2013, but that doesn't mean he won't have any challengers to face.
Over the past year, the 170-pound division has quickly become one of the most stacked weight classes in the world's largest MMA promotion.
With such top-tier fighters as Martin Kampmann, Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and a plethora of others looking to earn the No. 1 contender's spot, there are plenty of matchups out there for the former Strikeforce champ.
Let's take a look at the top five possible opponents who may greet Diaz in his UFC return.
Since dropping down to the welterweight division, Demian Maia has had an impressive run so far, taking out the likes of Rick Story and Dong Hyun Kim in back-to-back outings.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace would make for a great stylistic matchup against Diaz as both men are fantastic submission artists.
While Diaz would have a huge advantage standing up, a welterweight Maia may not be as easily overwhelmed in the striking department and could force the action to the ground.
Whether this battle ever happens in a cage or on a jiu-jitsu mat, Diaz vs. Maia would make for a great grappling war.
Two trash-talking welterweight villains coming off a loss, Nick Diaz vs. Josh Koscheck would be an amazing matchup for the pre-fight buildup alone.
Koscheck, who's battling back from an injury following his May loss to Johny Hendricks, is still a top ranked 170-pounder and would be a great opponent for the fiery Diaz.
Too bad Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen are booked as coaches for The Ultimate Fighter 17, because these two welterweight stars would make for great reality TV.
Rory MacDonald has quickly become the rising star of the welterweight division.
With his lone loss coming to interim champ Carlos Condit, MacDonald has rolled over the rest of the competition, currently riding a three-fight win streak that includes victories over Che Mills, Mike Pyle and of course, Nick Diaz's little brother, Nate.
If the young Canadian can get past BJ Penn this December, he should definitely be in the top-five mix of contenders and would be a game opponent for the former Strikeforce champ.
Plus, I'm sure Nick wouldn't mind exacting some revenge for his brother and Team Cesar Gracie.
Welterweight contenders Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks are supposed to be fighting for a shot at the title at UFC 154—although a George St-Pierre win may postpone this for a megafight with Anderson Silva.
Regardless, both men are considered the next in line for a crack at the belt due to their recent impressive runs.
Diaz, who's coming off a loss to Carlos Condit, would make for a great matchup against either Kampmann or Hendricks.
A win over the loser of this matchup would definitely help Diaz's case for a title shot.
Depending on who wins at UFC 154, Diaz may still receive a championship caliber opponent upon his return to the Octagon.
The Stockton native has had a war of words with both George St-Pierre and Carlos Condit and would definitely like a shot at either men.
One would think that Diaz may be more motivated to rectify his UFC 143 loss to Condit—which cost him the interim title—and would likely look to book this rematch if St-Pierre becomes the undisputed champ.
If the Canadian losses badly, however, a potential date with Anderson Silva may be scrapped for a more exciting bout with Diaz.
Regardless, if Diaz wants a crack at the title, he will likely have to go through one of these men to get there.