LAS VEGAS -- There was trash talk, a faked knockout and a referee warning for taunting -- all within the first two minutes.
All three judges scored the fight, which headlined UFC 183 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena, for the Brazilian: 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.
For Silva, 39, it was his first appearance since he suffered a broken left leg during a TKO loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 168 in December 2013. The 399-day layoff was the second-longest of Silva's brilliant mixed martial arts career.
"This is a very important moment for me and for my whole family," Silva said. "I've been through a lot of stuff in the past year, everything I went through. In the beginning, I didn't think I would be able to come back."
Immediately after the bout, Silva jumped over the fence and hugged UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who was sitting cageside. He fell to his back and cried after his hand was raised.
"I love my job. I love fighting, but I need to talk to my family," Silva said in addressing his future after the fight. "My son talks to me, serious, when I talk to my son, my son cry, 'Dad, stop, please. You don't need to fight. Please.' So, I have to talk to my family."
Diaz (26-10) returned from the longest layoff of his career. The 31-year-old had not competed since he lost every round to UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in a five-round title fight in March 2013. A former Strikeforce champion, Diaz renegotiated his contract ahead of the fight. His disclosed fight purse Saturday was $500,000.
After showing nothing but respect to Silva (34-6) in the buildup to the fight, Diaz was the complete opposite when the cage door shut. Within the first minute, he had lain down on the canvas as if knocked out and waved Silva over to the side of the fence, much like Silva had done to opponents in previous fights.
After the results were read, Diaz said he felt he won every round.
"I don't know how he wins on damage or what," Diaz said. "I thought I won every round. I came forward. These judges don't like my attitude out here. If we're just going to stand around, I can stand there all day, too."
UFC president Dana White said the fight was not what he expected it to be.
"I thought there would be a lot more punches. Nick Diaz alone is a guy who usually stalks you, taunts you and throws a ton of punches. Anderson Silva usually throws punches, kicks, knees," he said. "Anderson came back from this injury, and I said going into this fight I thought it would be very mentally tough for him to go and perform. I think -- if he was just trying to get five rounds in, I don't know. I wasn't in that fight but I expected a lot more offense."
Silva, who previously set the UFC record for consecutive title defenses with 10, did not throw his left kick as much as he did prior to the injury. But he did throw it. He landed at least one left kick in each round, including a few hard ones toward Diaz's legs -- the strike Weidman checked to cause the injury.
His best weapon was his straight left, which he set up with the jab and right hooks. Right hands caused swelling near Diaz's left eye by the second round, which turned into a cut in the third. He tagged Diaz with several hard lefts to the chin throughout the fight, but Diaz never appeared hurt.
"I was watching for that leg," Diaz said. "I figured, OK, he was not kicking with it. Then he started throwing it pretty good. He waited a long time but started throwing it after awhile.
"I felt like I was ahead most of the time. Am I winning, am I losing, is it close? A kick grazed me but my eye was already hurt before."
Cageside stats showed Silva out-landed Diaz in total strikes 108 to 80.
Diaz showed a great sense of patience typically unseen in his performances. His most effective strike also was the straight left, which he placed to Silva's chin several times in the bout. During long periods of the fight, Diaz almost refused to engage, trying to force the counterpunching Silva into leading. He stalked Silva around the cage but was conservative in most of his offense.
In the second round, Diaz attempted a single leg takedown, which Silva shucked off easily. It was the only takedown attempt from either fighter.
In the fifth, with Silva well ahead on the scorecards, Diaz went back to taunting. He did the Muhammad Ali shuffle in the center of the cage, but Silva didn't bite. Later in the round, with Diaz's back against the fence, Silva threw a flying knee and followed immediately with a spinning wheel kick that whizzed by Diaz's head but missed.
UFC 183 was the first pay-per-view event in the promotion's history headlined by two fighters coming off back-to-back losses. Silva lost his UFC middleweight title to Weidman in a second-round knockout loss in July 2013. Diaz lost back-to-back fights to Carlos Condit and St-Pierre.