A lot of eyebrows were raised when UFC President Dana White revealed last week that former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will get the next middleweight title shot if he gets past Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on January 31.

Washed The Spider Out

Current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman is literally the rain that washed the spider out of the UFC. The undefeated Weidman came to UFC 162 as a 2-1 underdog and obliterated Silva with a left hook that knocked the clowning Silva out cold in the 2nd round to snatch the belt and end Silva’s 16 fight winning streak and 10 consecutive title defenses. Five months later, Weidman defeated Silva for a second consecutive time after the Brazilian great broke his left tibia and fibula following a check by Weidman on one of Silva’s inside leg kicks. The injury forced Silva out of action for the entire 2014 but the Spider will be making his long awaited comeback fight at UFC 183 against Diaz.

A Stacked Division

The UFC’s middleweight division is a stacked one and the Top 10 is like a murderer’s row. Silva, by virtue of his long reign as champion before his twin losses to Weidman, remains as the #1 contender. At number 2 is Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza who is on a seven fight winning streak ( including 4 in the UFC) while Weidman’s last challenger Lyoto “Dragon” Machida is at number three. Vitor Belfort, the man whom Weidman fights next at UFC 184 on February 28 is next at number four while Luke Rockhold, who is linked to an April fight with Machida, is at number 5.

Path Looks Cleared Out

Jacare  Souza was supposed to fight against #6 ranked Yoel Romero in the undercard of UFC 184. But on Thursday, the UFC scrapped that bout because Souza was forced to withdraw because of pneumonia. As a result, the UFC said that it will re-schedule the bout at a later date once they get word on Souza’s availability. Souza’s illness/injury is significant to the middleweight division because it gives Anderson Silva the more clearer path to fighting Weidman ( of Belfort?) for a third time. The UFC has always wanted that match-up for business reasons, but have been pressured to avoid it because of the high level of talent in the middleweight division. Jacare was booked to fight on the same date as Weidman, presumably to put him and the winner of Weidman-Belfort on the same schedule because Souza was the next highest ranked contender. But Souza’s injury pushes him to a fight on a later date. And with Machida and Rockhold slated to fight in April, it is Silva who now has the “perfect schedule” to fight Weidman (or Belfort?) next.

Not a Walk in The Park

But while Silva’s path to the belt looks to take a shorter route now, it is not a walk in the park. Silva will be fighting former WEC and Strikeforce Welterweight champion Nick Diaz, who used to be one of the toughest fighters in the UFC. We say “used to be” because Diaz has not fought since losing to Georges St. Pierre in a UFC title bout in March 2013. Diaz is only 1-2 in the UFC and is on a two fight losing streak since debuting with a huge win over B.J. Penn at UFC 137 in 2011. In all, Diaz has fought thrice in the last three years and his inactivity could add to the disadvantage of moving up in weight to face Silva at middleweight. But Diaz is eight years younger than the 39 year old Silva and it is Silva who has more unknowns to answer right now than Diaz.

We all know and perhaps acknowledge Silva as the G.O.A.T in MMA. But what will his condition be fighting with a surgically repaired leg in the most physical sport on the planet? That and a lot more questions will be answered at UFC 183. But one thing’s clear here. Despite what happened to Rory MacDonald who was similarly promised a title shot but isn’t getting it (yet), Dana White will keep his word on Silva if Silva keeps his part inside the Octagon on January 31.