Anderson Silva to Return? 5 Potential Opponents for His Comeback Fight

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

Anderson Silva to Return? 5 Potential Opponents for His Comeback Fight

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    Hints are being scattered that Anderson Silva is looking to return to fighting after his leg heals. Silva's manager, Jorge Guimaraes, and his coach, Pedro Rizzo, are both saying he will be back.

    While that is by no means certain, it is still worth considering what, and who, could be waiting for him when he comes back. There are many moving parts when it comes to choosing an opponent, though. The biggest and most important, naturally, is the timetable for Silva's recovery.

    It is important to remember it will take at least a year for Silva to get back in fighting shape. When Corey Hill broke his leg in a similar fashion at UFC: Fight for the Troops 1, he was out for about 13 months. Initial recovery from the break and surgery ranges from four to nine months, and other surgeries that may be required after would push things back further. 

    That doesn't even address the fact that setting up a fight with Silva takes longer than most fighters.

    As such, if Silva is to return, it would likely not come until deep into 2015, which means he will be 40 years old by that time. That means he will be looking for "big" fights against an established name rather than fights that push him toward the belt. Who fits that bill?

    Find out right here!

Cung Le

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    Cung Le knocking Rich Franklin out cold with one punch feels like it took place forever ago. Still, the aging kickboxer's stock is on the rise with his prominent role on The Ultimate Fighter: China. Depending on how well the series does, and how big the UFC's Asian Expansion winds up being, they may try and lure Le into being a steady presence in the cage.

    At 41 years old, Le is one of the oldest fighters on the UFC's roster. However, he is likely relatively fresh compared to similarly aged fighters given his kickboxing base (which doesn't destroy a body the way wrestling does) and his somewhat light schedule (he has only fought 11 times and has spent a great deal of time shooting films). 

    It's unclear if Le is strictly in an administrative role with the UFC at this point, but things could change in an instant. If he gets back in the cage once or twice in 2014, Le vs. Silva is a deceptively strong draw. 

    It would be a big fight for both of them, and that makes it perfect...if both of them are still fighting by then.

Chael Sonnen

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    Speaking of "big fights," we've seen few bigger fights than Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.

    Sonnen, like Le and Silva, is in that latter stage in his career where he is looking for big fights rather than actually working toward a title shot. Sure, the door hasn't been closed on his championship aspirations, but "The American Gangster" is probably more than content fighting in the main event of bigger TV cards and co-headlining pay per views.

    Because of that, a third match between the two makes sense. 

    While it wouldn't draw nearly as well as the second fight, or even as well as the first, Sonnen's ability to promote a fight is legendary. There are few realistic options that could beat Silva vs. Sonnen 3 in terms of sheer drawing power.

Georges St-Pierre

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    The biggest option for Anderson Silva has always been, and still remains, a superfight with Georges St-Pierre. 

    Obviously, both fighters are currently on the sidelines, and both of them have completely uncertain futures. That, though, might just open up the door for the fight we've all been waiting for for an indiscriminate amount of time. 

    Silva, as said, isn't going to be looking for a shot at the belt. While St-Pierre is still young enough to stick around for a while, there's no guarantee he'll want to. In some ways, that makes this the best possible time for the superfight.

    There is no bigger possible payday for either fighter than this bout. While neither one needs the money, I doubt either of them would say they have enough.

Nick Diaz

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    While big fights are great, so are big, easy fights. Georges St-Pierre, Chael Sonnen and Cung Le are the kind of fights where you have to game plan and travel very hard for. 

    Nick Diaz, though, is a strong draw and would go after Silva in a way that plays directly toward his strengths. Add to that the fact that Silva would own a massive size advantage over the former lightweight and you have seemingly easy money for "The Spider."

    As with St-Pierre, though, his availability is anyone's guess. He is currently retired and reportedly turned down a rematch with Carlos Condit that would have potentially earned him a title shot. Where he'll be at mentally or professionally by 2015 is impossible to guess.

    However, he has specifically called for a fight with Anderson Silva in the past, and Silva's manager, Ed Soares, said he liked the idea. This is a solid choice for Silva's return fight.

Michael Bisping

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    Every middleweight in MMA wants to fight Michael Bisping. He's probably the UFC's biggest non-champion draw next to Chael Sonnen, but his striking-focused game makes him a preferable alternative to Sonnen and his tricky wrestling. 

    Silva specifically wanted to fight Bisping in 2013. In fact, if the Brit didn't have his head kicked in by Vitor Belfort, there is a very good chance that Chris Weidman and Silva wouldn't have met in the cage yet.

    Bisping bounced back and beat Alan Belcher at UFC 159, but has been out of the cage since due to eye surgery. Potential opponents are legion for him, but none are more appealing than Silva.

    The only trouble in terms of making this fight is that it relies on Bisping remaining outside title contention. If Bisping wins two or three more fights, the UFC will almost certainly give him a title shot, and if he winds up getting the belt, a fight with Silva wouldn't make sense.

    If he finds himself in a similar position down the line, though, this is a fight that both parties have been dreaming about.

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