LAS VEGAS -- Anderson Silva kicked freely with his left leg, shrugged off trash-talking from Nick Diaz and left his younger challenger bloodied in the face.
In the end, 13 months after Silva's left leg shattered in half in the same arena when he kicked middleweight champion Chris Weidman's leg, all that was left to do Saturday at the end of his comeback bout was to drop his back to the canvas and soak in the emotion.
Silva's more productive, effective punches and kicks overwhelmed Diaz's talking and theatrics at MGM Grand, with the former seven-year middleweight champion claiming a unanimous-decision victory by two scores of 50-45 and 49-46.
"Thank you, God, for giving me one more chance," Silva said after being lifted from the mat by Diaz, who asked him not to cry.
"This is a very important moment for me. I went through a lot of suffering. At the beginning, I didn't think I'd come back."
Silva also hedged when asked whether he'll return to fight again, but as the
The outcome was a profoundly different one from Silva's December 2013 loss, when he left MGM on a gurney, screaming in pain over the injury.
Silva said the leg had healed, and he proved it in the first half of the first round, delivering a kick to Diaz's gut and another to his right leg.
Diaz started the bout talking, egging on the 39-year-old considered the UFC's greatest ever. Diaz posed, sticking out a right elbow, urging Silva to fight by lying on the mat and pressing backward to the cage.
"Let's go! Throw it!" said Diaz, a UFC bad boy who's been busted twice for positive marijuana results.
Silva didn't mind the scene, saying afterward, "This is a great show for the people. This is not a bad man. This is just a show."
Silva's action wasn't abundant — and when Diaz views the replay, he'll likely regret not pressing the matter to test the older fighter's conditioning — but the ex-champion landed knees and kicks and got the better of punching exchanges in what was almost exclusively a stand-up fight.
"I didn't have my boxing trainer with me" for training camp, Diaz said, a stunning omission.
In the second round, Silva picked up the attack, hitting Diaz in the face with a left hand, sending a hard kick to the chest and punching him in the ribs.
Diaz suffered a cut over the left eye near the end of the round.
A Silva right to the face and left knee to the head, along with crisp jabs, determined the third while Diaz questioned Silva's painful stomp to his knee.
"I didn't think that was legal," Diaz said afterward.
After a slow fourth, Silva finished his work with a deliberate variety of kicks and punches. He then leaped at Diaz, cutting the 31-year-old under the left eye with a leg.
Diaz again urged Silva on in the final minute and was hit with a combination to the face. Diaz's missed soft kick near the final bell defined the outcome.
Not enough and ineffective.
Kindly, Silva said, "The kid is strong, punches and kicks strong.
"I'll go back to my family, to my home, talk to my kids, and I don't know" about returning, Silva said.
"This is the greatest sport in the world."