5 Fights for Anderson Silva to Take Upon His Return

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2014

5 Fights for Anderson Silva to Take Upon His Return

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Well, all is right in the world.

    The weather is warmer, the birds are chirping and former UFC champion Anderson Silva has been cleared to train again.

    Just five months removed from snapping his left leg on Chris Weidman's right knee, "The Spider" will be all hands on deck for an inevitable return to the Octagon.

    While predicting who Silva is going to face in seven months is borderline impossible, it's still fun to speculate about end-of-the-year matchups.

    Assuming Weidman retains his title, Georges St-Pierre doesn't pull off a Silva-like turnaround and Rich Franklin isn't thrown to the wolves, here are five fights for the MMA legend to take upon his return.

5. Chael Sonnen

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    Crazier things have happened, so hear me out.

    While a third fight with Chael Sonnen isn't going to catapult Silva back into a title fight sometime in 2015, it would most certainly get him back into the swing of things.

    Because even though his consecutive defeats at the hands (and knee) of Weidman weren't decisive to a tee, Silva still lost. That means he'll need an immediate win to maintain his top-level relevance in the middleweight division.

    Signing the dotted line to fight one of the most popular fighters in the sport (for good or bad) would not only push Silva back into the UFC limelight, but it would also give him the opportunity to test his post-op skills against a one-dimensional veteran.

    I'm sure a sack full of green paper can sway the former pound-for-pound king's mind one more time.

4. Luke Rockhold

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    Luke Rockhold has looked like an absolute beast.

    But as prolific as the former Strikeforce middleweight champion has looked in the first round opposite divisional gatekeepers, such as Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch, his loss to Vitor Belfort last May still sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Rockhold possesses the skills and youthful advantage to attack the rest of the division when he returns from a broken toe injury, but nobody knows for sure if the UFC wants to throw him into the lion's den with a dynamic entity such as Silva.

    On paper it looks like an entertaining matchup of skill, athleticism and precision, but as one of the newer faces to the weight class, bringing Rockhold along slowly may be the promotion's best play.

    In any case, his recent success as a finisher has certainly increased his popularity around the sport. That means that an end-of-the-year fight with Silva could be a highly touted showdown, assuming Rockhold doesn't want some midsummer action.

3. Winner of Mark Munoz vs. Gegard Mousasi

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    Michael Sohn/Associated Press

    While Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi aren't two of the most popular guys in the division, they're still good enough to test Silva's skills upon his return.

    As two guys coming off their own respective losses to top contender Lyoto Machida, Munoz and Mousasi are in desperate need of a win to stay afloat in the division's Top 10.

    Considering they're set to fight at the end of the month at UFC Fight Night 41, timing may be perfect for the winner to welcome Silva back to the Octagon in December.

    Munoz would probably be the better matchup for Silva, considering Mousasi has never been finished by strikes, but "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" does incorporate some nasty wrestling.

    Either way, these are two notable middleweights for Silva to fight before the calender flips to 2015. They not only offer a suitable test inside of the cage, but their names also hold weight around these parts.

2. Michael Bisping

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Michael Bisping has been waiting to fight Silva for years.

    Now while their end-of-the-year grudge match wouldn't be for the titlewhich is something "The Count" has coveted for so longBisping would be a fool to turn it down.

    Fresh off a five-round pounding at the hands of top contender Tim Kennedy, the aging Brit needs to make a notable divisional splash soon to maintain his top billing.

    Knocking off a legend such as Silva, return or not, would give the 35-year-old vet the biggest notch on his professional belt and the win to push him toward a 2015 title shot.

    That's easier said that done, especially considering Bisping is a striker and Silva is arguably the greatest standup specialist this sport has ever seen.

    Regardless, this matchup makes sense in more than one way and would be a no-brainer for the UFC on a promotional and monetary level.

1. Vitor Belfort

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    Andre Penner/Associated Press

    Well, well, well. Who do we have here?

    By George, it's former middleweight title contender Vitor Belfort.

    Yes, the same Vitor Belfort who has become the unofficial poster boy of testosterone-replacement therapy. Well, what's left of it.

    He's also the same Vitor Belfort who was on the wrong end of a Silva front kick back in 2011, which may very well be the most memorable knockout in MMA history.

    Now even though it seems as if Belfort has righted the ship and regained his natural level of testosterone production, it's still going to be a headache for "The Phenom" to get licensed in the state of Nevada, which is where an end-of-the-year rematch with Silva would presumably take place.

    That in mind, Belfort's long process of returning to the cage could very well mirror Silva's. Not to mention that the majority of the division's top contenders are locked up for the foreseeable future.

    If the UFC was smart, it would make this the biggest rematch in UFC history. If Belfort was smart, he'd want to avenge the most notable loss of his career and have ample time to prepare for it.

    If Silva was smart, he'd take a rematch against a guy whom he has already beat; it would be an international draw capable of putting him right back in the title hunt.

    If you were smart, you'd close your eyes right now and wish it was December already.

     

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