The Spider Returns in Vegas (UFC 183 Review)

ufc_183UFC 183 was the chance for everyone to see the return of Anderson Silva and, to a lesser extent, the return of Nick Diaz. Both men had been out of the octagon for over a year, albeit for much different reasons. Silva was coming off of a broken leg that forced him out for just over a year while Diaz had decided not to return to the UFC unless he was able to get a big name fight. Both were making their return to the octagon to plenty of fanfare and in essence the matchup was between two very different people. On one side there was the always calm Silva who never seemed to let anyone under his skin and had always been the picture of a calm martial artists. Then there was Diaz who had always been the talker in the UFC with an anger that powered his aggressive style. Yet despite their major differences there was always a glaring similarity when they entered the octagon. It is something that not every fan loves and has put plenty of people in trouble, including Silva himself. That is taunting in the octagon. It has been seen often by both of these fighters and has often become a signature of either fighter. For Diaz it is all a part of his attitude when he fights as he never wants to be in a boring fight and when his opponents don’t lung in for a street fighter he often gets angry. That leads him to taunting the fighter across from him and trying to get that fighter to come after him. It is all fitting with his personality as more often than not he has spent most of the lead-up to the fight talking down to his opponent so why would it stop when they entered the octagon. This way he could attempt to goat fighters into the fight that he wanted which often gave him the upper hand. It didn’t always work though as his last few fights before his semi-retirement saw opponents stay calm and force Diaz to fight their fought, which he often lost. For Silva it is somewhat similar to the strategy of Diaz but for a different reason. Everyone came into a fight against Silva knowing that he was the best counter striker in the UFC. So not many fighters would go forward and give Silva the opportunity to counter. Silva began to get frustrated at this and started to taunt his opponents in an attempt to show them an opening only to take it away and earn his own big strike. The problem that Silva ran into was finding a fighter that was too good to taunt in Chris Weidman. While Silva was taunting in his first title defence against the American, Weidman reached forward and earned a big knockout punch to win the belt and become the first fighter to ever beat Silva. That may have made him more cautious and in his second fight against Weidman the taunting was not as prevalent, although it was still there. Taunting their opponents became a constant for both of these fighters and heading into the main event at UFC 183 there was no doubt that they would be doing the same thing. That was unless they got what they wanted as Silva was looking for Diaz to come forward in order to counter and Diaz was looking for a street fight. That was the difference between the two and remained the difference throughout the fight. The talking started early from Diaz as he immediately tried to get into the head of Silva and start a street fight. Diaz even went as far as to lay down, then lean against the fence, and stand as Silva circled him. It was clear that the tactics of Diaz had not changed as he was trying to get Silva into a street fight while Silva’s own strategy stayed the same as he looked to counter instead of push forward. As the fight moved on Diaz continued to talk and taunt Silva but the former champion stayed composed and picked his spots, eventually opening a big cut above Diaz’s eye. The fight continued with Diaz taunting and landing some big shots but Silva landing more shots and putting up more damage. When the fight ended Diaz was bloody while Silva looked like he had just walked into the octagon. The decision came down and Silva had completed his comeback. The unanimous decision win was the first in over two years and was a big win in his first fight back from injury 13 months ago. The loss to Diaz really does nothing as he will continue to take big fights and will not fight unless it is for a title or against someone with a big name. Silva now will decide if it is time to leave MMA or if he wants to try to get his title back as Weidman will not fight next month and could match up well with Silva for a third match.

The main event was a matchup of two veteran fighters looking to get back into the octagon after long layoffs but before they faced off a fellow veteran was looking to fend off the new generation. Kelvin Gastelum was the youngest TUF winner in the history of the show and since then has never lost a fight. Those accomplishments had put him to the #7 spot in the welterweight division and also made him a favourite in his co-main event fight at UFC 183. That is a strange spot for his opponent to be in as Tyron Woodley is not used to being the fighter that many expected to lose. That was especially true as Woodley had worked his way up to be the #3 fighter in the division. He was only a fight away from the title but after Rory MacDonald had his title shot taken away for a Hendricks-Lawler III fight the title picture grew a little muddy. So Woodley had to defend his spot among the best fighters in the division against a fast rising star that was meant to beat him. The match would provide the winner with an inside track on the title conversation as the group at the top is waiting things out and may need another fighter to enter the conversation. The match of an up and coming fighter against a UFC vet is one that provides plenty of intrigue. For one it was the old school against the new school as both fighters had wrestling backgrounds but Gastelum was a pure MMA fighter training in all aspects of the sport while Woodley has always been a powerful striker with good wrestling. The well-rounded young fighter had to take on the experienced fighter in an attempt to find out who belonged in the title conversation in the now very interesting welterweight division. The fight started with neither fighter showing their talents. It was a slow start to the fight and it did not get a lot better form there. The first round was a period of two fighters feeling each other out until Woodley finally began to get something going in the second. He started to land more shots in the next two rounds and a few times seemed to hurt Gastelum a few times. Gastelum stood tough though and never went down throughout the fight. Still it was clear that Gastelum missing weight and trying to cut at the last-minute had affected his performance while Woodley’s aggression had been dialed back. Neither fighter was that impressive in the fight but in the end it was Woodley who took the split decision win. The loss for Gastelum was his first and after missing weight a move up to middleweight may be next although he remains one of the most talented young fighters in the UFC. The win for Woodley was good but not impressive so don’t expect a title shot right away as he sits in line behind Johnny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald, and Hector Lombard but is sure to enter the conversation even more after his latest win.

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