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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC returns to the MGM Grand for the second pay-per-view event this month, this time with a somewhat bizarre if delightful middleweight main event between Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz. Both are coming off of layoffs, one from a devastating injury, the other from a leave of absence from fighting.

Does Diaz have enough offensive tools to earn the biggest win of his career or is 'The Spider' set to return in triumphant fashion? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.

What: UFC 183: Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.

When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 main card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off 10 p.m.

Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz

This comes down to what Silva decides to do and what he has left. That's the case because Diaz does not move his head. He walks in straight lines. Diaz does not choose to wrestle, nor have strong takedowns. He rarely throws or blocks leg kicks. His endurance, boxing and unyielding hand combinations are as good as they come, but for the Silva to which we are accustomed, this is an entirely manageable task. The question is a) whether Silva's ability to take a shot is badly compromised and b) if he can let enough of his inner showman go in an effort to effectively win the bout. I don't dismiss Diaz's chances altogether, but recognize he has a massive uphill climb to make. If Silva so chooses, and if we understand him properly, he can make Diaz's ascension all but impossible.

Pick: Silva

Tyron Woodley vs. Kelvin Gastelum

There's a big part of me that thinks Gastelum will pressure Woodley into either making a mistake or losing a decision. Gastelum loves to lead in a fight while Woodley often prefers to do the opposite. But I'm not willing to overlook the fact that Woodley's counterfighting is slightly more precise than Gastelum's pressure. Woodley is very good at keeping himself out of trouble against the fence (since the Marquardt bout, anyway), can stall in wrestling exchanges in need be, or physical dominate if the moment allows. Gastelum can overwhelm those unprepared for the moment, but Woodley doesn't really fit that description.

Pick: Woodley

Joe Lauzon vs. Al Iaquinta

Lauzon is not the same fighter who entered the UFC. That's an obvious statement insofar as no one stays this long in the organization by simply remaining the same. But what I mean is that the Boston native has declined somewhat physically while adding to his slick positional grappling counters. He's always been aggressive, but has found a way to add to the defensive side while his physicality has declined. That decline, however, is just not enough for me to pick Iaquinta over him. The Serra-Longo fighter is a hard charger, throwing heavy hooks to the body, attacking takedowns with authority and - in a very underrated way - listening excellently to his corner. For me, that's commendable, but not enough. Lauzon has enough in the tank to match the intensity while using veteran experience or smarts to find enough opening to put the fight on his terms.

Pick: Lauzon

Thales Leites vs. Tim Boetsch

I'm really not sure what to make of either of these fighters at this stage in their careers. Boetsch's motion is stiff and limited. Leites appears rejuvenated, but one wonders when the train is coming off the tracks. Still, though, I'm going to give it to the Brazilian. What's changed about his game is renewed aggression, along with modest technical progress everywhere. Boetsch is still a capable fighter, but largely a more limited version of himself that's still good enough for this level (if barely). Boetsch packs enough power to make an overly aggressive Leites pay, but Leites' proactive offense will likely allow him to have the American playing catch up.

Pick: Leites

Jordan Mein vs. Thiago Alves

I didn't think Alves necessarily shined against Seth Baczynski, but he didn't look poor either. He didn't quite have the pop on his punches nor the subsequent movement that we are accustomed to seeing from him, but he looked good enough. The recent layoff probably isn't helping that, but he also hasn't been getting banged around as much either. In the end, I suspect his more diverse kickboxing game will be impactful enough for Alves to avoid the worst of Mein's power punching in short range.

Pick: Alves

From the preliminary card:

Miesha Tate def. Sara McMann
Derek Brunson def. Ed Herman
Ian McCall def. John Lineker
Rafael Natal def. Tom Watson
Diego Brandao def. Jimy Hettes
Ildemar Alcantara def. Richardson Moreira
Thiago Santos def. Andy Enz