(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Wanderlei Silva made his MMA return to Japan on Saturday night for UFC on Fuel 8. But it wasn't just Wanderlei Silva who returned and fought Brian Stann—Stann got locked in the cage with "The Axe Murderer."
The epic back-and-forth main event saw both men have their moments, with each dropping the other numerous times in the first round and a good-sized cut opening up on Stann's nose. Harnessing the glory from his Pride days, Silva eventually knocked out Stann in what can only be described as an early Fight of the Year candidate.
There was a lot of discussion that this could have been Silva's final fight if he were to lose, but this kind of victory certainly changes that discussion. So what's next for the former middleweight champion of Pride?
Here are three potential options for Silva going forward.
James Te Huna unloads punches on Joey Beltran.
Given his age, it's hard to imagine that Wanderlei Silva will ever compete for a UFC title again. That said, we also would have assumed that about Dan Henderson and he was in the title picture for the better part of the past two years.
Silva could opt to take a simple move-up-the-rankings fight next, and if he does we really can't blame him. The guy is a legend in the sport and even if we don't think he is quite at that level anymore, who's to say he won't prove us wrong?
One opponent who could be considered is Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, who is currently serving a 12-month suspension that is due to be up in May. Although Cavalcante himself has suggested that he'd like to fight Ryan Bader when he returns, chances are good that he wouldn't turn down a bout with a legend like Silva.
Other possible opponents could include James Te Huna, Thiago Silva (when his suspension ends) or Vinicius Magalhaes.
Considering the depth of the 205-pound division in the UFC, perhaps Wanderlei Silva would be better suited just trying to put together some more fights like the one he had against Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel 8.
Silva's willingness to stand and throw with literally anyone has to be admired. Putting him in matchups with others who want to do the same thing could not only lead to some epic fights, but also really help to play into Wanderlei's strengths at this point in his career.
"Lil Nog likes to strike, Wand throws down, why not?" Martin asked.
This is the perfect bout to put on a fight card in Brazil. It could be an unbelievable standup war between two guys who are more than willing to put aside the need to win for the common goal of putting on a good show for fans.
Other possible suggestions for a pure standup war for Wanderlei could include Forrest Griffin or Brandon Vera.
This was widely discussed prior to the fight, especially by those who were predicting a highlight-reel knockout win for Brian Stann. Silva flipped that on its head and proved everyone who doubted him wrong once again.
In the post-fight press conference, Silva spoke up about the possibility of his retirement, noting that he isn't really considering it at this time.
"I fight one fight at a time right now. I feel healthy, having a couple injuries is normal, but sooner or later I'm going to need to stop this job," Silva said. "But I'm happy getting this feeling, this energy from my fans. It makes me happy to make this show for my fans."
Still, I don't necessarily believe that Wanderlei Silva's best decision is to continue fighting.
Certainly he's more than welcome to continue to fight and I will watch every bout with the same kind of excitement that I had tonight. But the point is that he doesn't need to do it anymore.
Wanderlei is one of the greatest fighters in the history of MMA. His resume speaks for itself. And seven years after his last title defense in Pride, Wanderlei proved on Saturday night that he is still one of the best in the world.
There's absolutely no shame in going out on top. For Silva, this could be the time to coast off into the sunset while fans still remember you as the guy who won his last fight in tremendous fashion.