Thiago Alves and 5 Exciting Careers We'd Love to See Back on Track

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2014

Thiago Alves and 5 Exciting Careers We'd Love to See Back on Track

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    Fighters sometimes fall off the map.

    We, as fans, don't want them to, but that's usually the natural order of things in this sometimes cruel world of mixed martial arts.

    Time moves along and these fighters are for the most part forgotten. Castaways that have been chiseled down to bone and extracted from the sport they put every last ounce of blood, sweat and fear into.

    However, a few stragglers sometimes get snatched from the quicksand, reinvented and rebooted, and thrust back into action to avenge the things they may have lost when they first fell.

    Here are six of those fighters and why we'd love for their exciting careers to get back on track.

6. Stefan Struve

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    Diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 2013, Stefan Struve's UFC career seemed beyond over.

    The dynamic heavyweight capable of sinking in perfected submissions or slinging precise kicks had finally met an opponent he couldn't defeat with his skills.

    As one of the best contenders in the heavyweight division—whose only promotional defeats came at the hands of Junior dos Santos, Roy Nelson, Travis Browne and Mark Hunt—Struve's immediate absence was truly a tough pill to swallow.

    However, as recently as this month, "Skyscraper" has been cleared to resume his fighting career. The news is not only good for fans who love guys who look to finish, but more so for the UFC who will regain a 7'0", 26-year-old dynamo.

    Let's hope Struve's transition back to the Octagon goes as smooth as possible. 

5. Gray Maynard

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    Gray Maynard was once an elite contender in the UFC lightweight division.

    By elite, I mean literally seconds away from securing a devastating finish over former champion Frankie Edgar in their first title fight.

    Since that infamous first round, in which sheer will protected Edgar from inevitable failure, "The Bully" has never been the same.

    He ended up getting knocked out by Edgar in their rematch, barely got past an elusive Clay Guida and has been finished early in the first round in each of his last two fights.

    Needless to say, Maynard has struggled to regain the divisional momentum and ferocity that he possessed just three years ago. However, that doesn't mean his chance to reclaim those glory days has passed him by.

    As one of the biggest and most athletic lightweights the promotion has at its disposal, the 34-year-old still carries weight moving forward. Not just for his marketability, but his ability to out-power and out-muscle most top contenders.

    If he can right the ship, just think how electric the 155-pound title picture would get.

4. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva

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    Just five months removed from arguably the best heavyweight fight in UFC history, it seems silly to put Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva on this list.

    However, when you consider the imposing Brazilian failed a post-fight drug test for elevated testosterone levels, things become a little bit clearer.

    At this point in the evolution of mixed martial arts, testing positive for something that you shouldn't be testing positive for could downright suffocate a career.

    It almost happened to Alistair Overeem and could very well be happening to Vitor Belfort, although "The Phenom" technically didn't fail anything.

    In any case, as one of the promotion's biggest draws, Silva brought a certain sense of brutality and violence to the Octagon that only a few other fighters matched. His spot within the heavyweight title picture has surely been missed.

    While the 34-year-old should make a quick return following his nine-month suspension, it will be his reputation around the sport that will require the most intricate repair.

    If—and only if—people are willing to give the former top contender a second chance, then the UFC will regain one of their most prized big men. 

3. Thiago Alves

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It was quite nice seeing Thiago Alves make his return to the Octagon this past Saturday at UFC on Fox 11.

    He may not have secured one of his patented knockouts, but "The Pitbull" looked fresh.

    What his return to the cage means for the UFC welterweight division is that it finally has some veteran persuasion to help fill the void that former champion Georges St-Pierre left.

    Alves is no GSP, but he has been around the block. At just 30 years of age, the bruising Brazilian has already recorded 18 promotional bouts.

    His experience alone is a welcoming sight.

    In any case, Alves' path to a glorious comeback will not fulfill itself until he captures the title. With time on his side and top contenders like Carlos Condit and Jake Shields dropping like flies, Alves may find it easier to regain his divisional footing than once suspected.

    As long as he can stay healthy and active, there's no reason why he can't scratch the division's Top Five by the end of 2014.

2. Dominick Cruz

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    Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz hasn't lost since 2011.

    He also hasn't fought since 2011.

    In actuality, Cruz has driven more race cars than he has fought since 2011. That's why an immediate return to action is just what the doctor ordered, as well as a clean bill of health.

    Plagued with more injuries than a beaten-up crash test dummy, the 29-year-old has not only lost his illustrious title due to his absence, but he has almost been cast out into MMA oblivion.

    Hanging on to his career by the skin of his teeth, a successful return by Cruz would be one for the story books.

    Not to mention, it would recharge a rather top-heavy UFC bantamweight division.

1. Anderson Silva

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    Sure, Anderson Silva was on the wrong end of a "fluke" knockout and unfortunate injury, but the former UFC middleweight champion has still lost two fights in a row.

    That's no party, especially for a guy who hadn't tasted defeat over seven glorious years prior to Chris Weidman's rise to prominence.

    Combine that with the fact that "The Spider" is attempting to return from one of the most horrific in-cage injuries that this all-seeing world has ever witnessed, and you have one magnificent career crying for a second chance.

    Being the Silva fans that we are, there's nobody under the stars that isn't pulling for the relentless 39-year-old to make a swift return to the Octagon.

    Even though Silva's track record and potential to resume the greatest career of all time trumps the rest of the names on this list, his spot at No. 1 was a given.


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