On January 31, 2015, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for UFC 183.
The event features an attractive card highlighted by a Middleweight bout between former champion Anderson Silva and perennial number-one contender Nick Diaz, with both fighters looking to earn another title shot.
Before Silva and Diaz tangle, Tyron Woodley will face unbeaten Kelvin Gastelum in the Welterweight division, and Lightweights Joe Lauzon and Al Iaquinta will square off.
Let’s predict some winners.
Silva vs. Diaz
Anderson Silva (33-6, 20 KOs), who once won 16 straight matches including ten Middleweight title defenses, is the top contender in the division, despite being 39-years-old. The Brazilian lost his crown to current champ Chris Weidman in July 2013 via second round knockout; Silva taunted and goaded Weidman throughout the first round, dropping his hands repeatedly and even kissing Weidman on the cheek at the bell. But in round two, Silva finally got his comeuppance via Weidman’s stiff left hook.
In the re-match five months later, Silva was thoroughly dominated in round one before suffering a gruesome broken leg in round two. Now, the living-legend hasn’t won a fight since beating Stephan Bonnar in October 2012. That said, Silva is still considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and he recently signed a new 15-fight contract with the UFC, demonstrating that he has his sights set on a return to the top.
Silva’s opponent, Nick Diaz (26-9, 13 KOs), is coming out of retirement for three fights and expects to get a title shot if he can beat Silva. Diaz’s last two matches were both title shots in the Welterweight division. Diaz lost both via unanimous decision. In March 2013, he fell to Georges St-Pierre; and in February 2012, he was outpointed by Carlos Condit. His last win came over B.J. Penn at UFC 137 in October 2011, over three years ago.
Diaz is currently a 3-1 underdog against Silva. Though, the “Spider” is no longer in his prime, the same can be said of Diaz. And given that Diaz is moving up from his more natural 170 pound weight class, it’s hard to find a compelling reason to support him. We fully expect Silva to eschew his ring theatrics and come out on top.
Woodley vs. Gastelum
Tyron Woodley (14-3) is coming off of a first round TKO over Dong Hyun Kim in August. Prior to that, he lost a unanimous decision to Rory MacDonald in June. The former Missouri Tigers wrestling standout has five career wins by knockout and another five by submission, with notable victories over Carlos Condit and Josh Koscheck.
Kelvin Gastelum, meanwhile, improved to 10-0 after forcing Jake Ellenberger to tap in November (via rear-naked choke). Before submitting Ellenberger, he earned a unanimous decision over Nico Musoke in June, and won a split decision against Rick Story in March. The former Ultimate Fighter winner has three wins by KO and four by submission in his short but stellar career.
Though both Gastelum and Woodley have the ability to end this one early, Gastelum has never had a knockout in the UFC and Woodley has never won by submission. With Woodley’s excellent wrestling skills likely able to stifle Gastelum’s submission attempts, this one is could easily go the full 15 minutes. Woodley has lost his last two decisions, while Gastelum is 3-0 in fights that go the distance; we slightly favor Gastelum to stay perfect.
Lauzon vs. Iaquinta
In mid-2013, the career of Joe Lauzon (24-9) appeared to be on the decline. He was nearing 30 and had lost three of his last four fights. However, “J-Lau” has made a comeback of sorts since then, beating Mac Danzig (unanimous decision) in December 2013 and Michael Chiesa (doctor stoppage) in September of last year.
Al Iaquinta (10-3) has won five of his last six fights, including impressive TKOs over Ross Pearson and Rodrigo Damm in his last two. Iaquinta comes from a muay thai background and possesses fearsome striking, but he has also made a solid effort to improve his jiu-jitsu, training under former UFC Welterweight champion Matt Serra.
That said, Lauzon is a grappling specialist who has 17 submission victories, and all three of Iaquinta’s losses have come by submission. This should be another very competitive bout, but, given the submission history for both fighters, we expect the more experienced Lauzon to force Iaquinta to tap in the later rounds.
(Photo credit: Sports Illustrated (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons.)