We are only days away from one of the most anticipated returns to action in combat sports history when Anderson Silva steps into the Octagon for the first time since he gruesomely injured his leg against Chris Weidman at UFC 168.

There might not be another moment in the promotion’s history that left fans as stunned and saddened, not because Silva lost in his rematch against Weidman, but because a majority of us thought it would be the last time we’d ever see him fight again.

UFC 183 also marks the return — after over a year of a somewhat self-imposed exile — for the former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, but the temptation of fighting Silva was too tempting to continue his absence from the cage.

Diaz hasn’t competed since announcing a retirement from MMA after his loss to then-welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and turned down multiple offers from UFC until finally accepting the bout with the Spider, who is currently the favorite.

The card, which will conclude one of the best months in the sport’s history, is absolutely stacked from the Fight Pass prelims through the main events. With that being said, and the main event as hyped as it could be…

Here’s what to watch for at UFC 183: Silva vs. Diaz

Does the next flyweight challenger emerge?

We were supposed to see Ian McCall vs. John Lineker back in November at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. St. Preux, but it was postponed due to McCall getting a blood infection the morning of the fight.

McCall, still to this day, has given the flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson his toughest fight when he forced a majority draw in the UFC flyweight tournament semifinal in 2012. He lost in the rematch and then to Joseph Benavidez, but he has since rebounded with two back-to-back to wins against Iliarde Santos and Brad Pickett. With a win over Lineker, he’d put himself in the discussion for another title shot.

If he had been able to consistently make weight, Lineker might have already gotten his shot at Johnson. Lineker has missed weight in three of his seven UFC fights, but has successfully made weight in his most recent two. Because Johnson is so close to cleaning out the division, a successful weight cut combined with a decisive win over McCall would catapult him into contention.

Joe Lauzon looks to shut the gate on Al Iaquinta

I don’t think Lauzon has reached the “gatekeeper” status yet. Outside of maybe Donald Cerrone, there hasn’t been a fighter in the division that has produced exciting bouts every time he steps into the cage quite like Lauzon. He’s coming off two consecutive wins against Mac Danzig and Michael Chiesa, but he had to drop out of a fight with Diego Sanchez due to injury.

As if the lightweight division needed any more up-and-coming fighters, it can add one more in Al Iaquinta. The TUF 15 runner-up has 5-1 since losing to Michael Chiesa in the season finale including his two most recent bouts against Rodrigo Damm and Ross Pearson. Iaquinta continues to grow and develop through the Serra-Longo camp with middleweight champion Chris Weidman and beating Lauzon would make a statement that he is a force to be reckoned with at 155 pounds.

Kelvin Gastelum tries to sneak into welterweight title picture

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a fighter come out of The Ultimate Fighter with the same potential that Kelvin Gastelum has shown since he won. He has yet to lose an MMA bout and is climbing the ladder in the welterweight division at a lightning pace. UFC President Dana White has said that a win over Tyron Woodley would put him in the mix for a title shot. So far, it’s looked like Gastelum could be a staple of the 170-pound division for a long time to come.

Woodley, with a win over Gastelum, would also warrant a shot at the belt. A chance at the UFC championship has been within reaching distance for Woodley a few times since coming over with the rest of the Strikeforce roster. He’s positioned himself nicely to see his shot at UFC gold at #3 in the official welterweight rankings in case the winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Hector Lombard isn’t ready to go.

About The Author

Blane Ferguson
Associate Editor/Senior Staff Writer

Blane can trace his MMA roots, like many others, to the finale of the first Ultimate Fighter season between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. After watching that incredible fight and cleaning the local Blockbuster of any recorded UFC pay-per-views they had, Blane was hooked on watching the sport and he carried that passion with him to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Blane is a four-year broadcasting veteran of ASU's campus radio including a founder and co-host of the station's combat sports show, The Final Round.