Anderson Silva was recently cleared to return to sparring after suffering a gruesome leg injury in his December 2013 rematch with Chris Weidman.
Silva, 39, appears to be reaching the climax of his career, but wants another run at the best at Middleweight.
He is owed such consolation. His defeats to Weidman made him look older, frailer, and more injury-prone than we had ever seen him during his 16 fight win stretch from 2006-2012, which included a record 11 UFC title defenses.
The Brazilian is a legend to MMA, and, while most post-injury returns in combat sports are presented more eloquently by the promotion than the fighter himself, and it’s more likely to end in heartbreak than celebration — he’s earned his right to try to quiet the naysayers.
Here are the five best options for “The Spider” in his return to the cage:
5. Luke Rockhold
Luke Rockhold wouldn’t be the best opponent from a promotional standpoint, but the man from San Jose would pose a threat no matter where the fight went, and would test the readiness of Silva at all levels, but a defeat to Rockhold might be most disastrous.
4. Gegard Mousasi
Iranian-born Dutch fighter Gegard Mousasi is 35-4 in MMA contests. He’s been there, done that, and coming off of a win over Mark Munoz is looking to climb his way to a title bout.
3. Ronaldo Souza
A fight against “Jacare” would be one way of saying that your comeback is more than show. Souza is an animal, ranked # 4 at Middleweight, and is one of the most violent wrestlers/grapplers you’ll find. Not to mention, he’s also from Brazil.
2. Georges St. Pierre
This solely depends on Anderson Silva’s approach to his return, GSP’s willingness to do this fight at a possible catch weight, with a title on the line for these former UFC champions and living MMA legends.
1. Vitor Belfort
An old rivalry reignited by fate. It was sure to happen sooner rather than later back when Silva stood ahead of all in the Middleweight division. Now, with Silva looking for redemption, and Belfort looking for revenge, this could be even more meaningful.