'Spider' aiming to climb back

Anderson “Spider” Silva makes a highly anticipated return to the Octagon this weekend with mixed martial arts fans wondering if he can recapture the form that made him the sport’s greatest-ever exponent.  

After an indifferent 2014, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has started the new year impressively, and January ends with a clash of legends at UFC 183 this Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

Silva takes on Nick Diaz in an intriguing middleweight contest. Silva is returning from a gruesome leg injury in December 2013 which looked certain to finish his career. 

His left leg was broken in horrible fashion when he threw a kick at Chris Weidman at UFC 168. 

The Brazilian – who turns 40 in April – was hoping to regain from Weidman the title he held for seven glorious years, but that second defeat to the American was merely the next chapter in Silva’s career, not the final curtain, he insisted.  

The always exciting Diaz last fought at top level in welterweight championship bouts but lost and subsequently announced his retirement before returning – but not in the 155-pound welterweight division.  

He fights above 170 pounds for the first time since 2009 against Silva and is the firm underdog against a fighter obsessed with regaining his title.  

UFC president Dana White has tentatively assured Silva a title shot if Diaz is beaten convincingly and Spider comes out unscathed.  

White hopes that this match will be as spectacular as last weekend’s UFC show in Sweden on FOX 14 which featured plenty of well-matched bouts.  

It was headlined by American light Anthony Johnson against Swedish battler Alexander Gustafsson, who learned the hard way what happens when anyone grazes “Rumble’s” eye, just enough to cause a brief pause in the action. As soon as the fight was restarted, it was well on its way to being over. 

One right hand from Johnson put Gustafsson down and the volley of blows that followed ended the bout in dramatic fashion in the first round.  

Johnson set himself up for a title shot against champion Jon “Bones” Jones in the process. 

It was a surprising ending, considering Gustafsson gave the dominant Jones his toughest UFC fight so far two years ago.  

Johnson is confident he can cause an upset and beat Jones, claiming “Bones” has never faced a striker like him during his tenure as UFC champion.  

If Jones thought Gustafsson was tough, Johnson predicted he would be “10 times worse.”  

He added, “I think I’ll be the hardest puncher Jones has ever faced, and he’s faced a lot of top quality guys.”  

Anderson-Silva

Anderson Silva was the dominant UFC middleweight champ for seven years. – PHOTOS: AP
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