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Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has a lot to prove during his long-awaited return to the Octagon versus Nick Diaz in the main event of January 31’s UFC 183 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Spider” is one of the greatest fighters to ever step into the Octagon, but he’s been on the sidelines for over a year to recover from the unfortunate broken leg he suffered in his UFC 168 rematch with champion Chris Weidman.

The most glaring question mark about the 39-year-old Silva’s return is his ability to unleash his diverse and dangerous kicks, a fear that even he has publicly expressed. Yet if you ask his good friend and training partner Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Silva’s injury from 2013 is a thing of the past. Speaking up in a recent interview via MMA Fighting, “Feijao” voiced his opinion of just how hard Silva has been training:

“I just returned from an injury, and I’m getting beat up in training [laughs. He’s training hard, I’m really impressed. He’s dedicated, and he will bring this win for the team.”

One theory about Silva’s return is that he’ll now be tentative to kick opponents from a mental block due to the injury. However, “Feijao” joked that he only wished that were true:

“I wish he had this mental block because he’s kicking me a lot, and he’s kicking f—ing hard. He’s bigger than me, so he usually kicks me a lot in training because I like to close the distance when I’m fighting. He’s kicking hard, thank God.”

Moving on to discuss Diaz, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion said that the Stockton bad boy (himself a former Strikeforce champion) will most likely be looking to make this fight ugly to avoid “The Spider’s” many tools:

“Diaz is a tough guy, I’m a big fan, but I don’t think he will stand and trade with Anderson. He will change his style, try to grapple more. Close the distance and go for the takedown. Anderson has more skills than him in the striking game.”

“Feijao” had high praise for Diaz’ conditioning as a triathlete, but ultimately he believes his longtime teammate will score a late round finish:

“I imagine a long fight. Nick Diaz has a good cardio, but I think Anderson knocks him out in the fourth round.”

If Silva can score the knockout that Cavalcante is predicting, UFC President Dana White recently confirmed that he’d get fast-tracked to a middleweight title shot.

Many believe there are more worthy contenders in the venerable logjam at the top of the middleweight division right now, yet on the other hand it’s impossible to deny “The Spider’s” magnetic drawing power and influence on the sport.

Do you agree with “Feijao’s” assessment of his return bout against Diaz?

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas for USA TODAY Sports