UFC: What’s next for Dustin Poirier?

Dustin Poirier, UFC

There is no doubt that Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) is one of the best lightweights in the UFC. In fact, you could definitely say he’s one of the best fighters in the promotion.

The Diamond is 6-1 with 1 NC in his last eight fights defeating some of the best names in the sport. His lone loss coming to the UFC‘s undisputed lightweight king, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Last month, Poirier defeated Dan Hooker at UFC on ESPN 12 in an instant classic. Poirier has had some time to heal and was interviewed by Jim Rome about his future this week.

“I’ve been fighting for a while, I have 40 fights, and I want these last four or five years to really mean something every time I get into the octagon… I really want to leave a legacy” Poirier told Rome.

When asked about what he wants next, Poirier said, “It needs to be a really big name or a title fight. I’ve been doing this for 10 years in the UFC, and I still love fighting, but I want these fights to mean more than just a fight.”

What should the UFC do?

Given how brutal the last fight was with Hooker, I would still give Poirier a little time before offering him a fight if I was the UFC. If he’s not going to get a title shot next, ESM’s Olivier Dumont suggests he start with Tony Ferguson (25-4).

Like Poirier, Ferguson is also a former UFC interim lightweight champion. Ferguson just suffered his first loss in May after going on a winning streak that spanned seven years.

A fight between the two men would determine a clear number one contender in the lightweight division. The fight would be a fight that fans would love to see.

Another matchup that the fans would love to see is the rematch with the sports most famous fighter, Conor McGregor (22-4).

McGregor is retired for now, but he’s likely going to fight for the title upon his return to the octagon. However, if the UFC persuades him to take another fight, Poirier makes perfect sense.

The two men fought at featherweight years ago, and McGregor stopped Poirier in the first round at UFC 178. The two men are much better now and a rematch would be fascinating to watch.

One outside the box idea that I like would be a fight with Nate Diaz (20-12). Yes, Diaz has said that he doesn’t want to cut to 155 anymore, but this fight was already scheduled once. The fight was originally scheduled for UFC 230.

If Poirier wants a big name, he’s not going to get much better than Diaz. Who knows when we will see Diaz again, but a fight with Poirier would be one I’d be excited for.

There are several avenues the UFC can go with Poirier. I think Ferguson is the most likely if you ask me, but it will be interesting to see how the promotion moves forward with The Diamond.

Noah Dobson earning a spot on the Islanders’ defense for the playoffs would be unprecedented, yet welcomed

The New York Islanders will have the luxury of choosing from eight defensemen for when they begin their qualifying round series next Saturday against the Florida Panthers.

Among them is rookie Noah Dobson

Dobson, 20 and the youngest of the group, was probably the least expected to get the nod as camp got underway. That narrative has changed.

Head coach Barry Trotz lauded he and d-partner Andy Greene’s work the whole first week of camp, going even farther to say the duo has “been as good as any of our D pairs”. Now there’s a real possibility that Dobson might have earned himself a spot on the blue line to begin the playoffs.

It would definitely come as a surprise if Dobson were to get the call, especially with all the rest of the guys fighting for those final two spots all having playoff experience. Plus Trotz already acknowledged early on in camp last week that he would most likely go with the veterans over the younger players even if those young guys did outplay their competition.

Let’s say Dobson did win either the fifth or six role, it would be another huge step in his development and the type of stage for a player the organization sees as a potential top-four d-man for hopefully the next five to ten years. Not only that, but it would also be a continuation of how strong he came on before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown the regular season. Dobson had an assist in both of the Islanders’ final two regular-season games against Carolina and Vancouver. He was also getting more ice time from Trotz with both Adam Pelech and Johnny Boychuk sidelined. 

Furthermore, you can never go wrong with a little infusion of youth in the playoffs. Take for example Colordado’s Cale Makar in 2019 and Boston’s Charlie McAvoy in 2016. Both were unprecedented, yet welcomed.

Makar came in as a rookie in the middle of the Avalanche’s series against Calgary and immediately made an impact, scoring in his first game on his first shot. He would play the rest of the playoffs until the Avs were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the second round. As for McAvoy, he jumped right from playing at B.U. (Boston University) to playing top-four minutes for the Bruins in their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators; he would record three assists in six games.

Now I’m not saying Dobson is on the level of Makar or McAvoy — hopefully he gets there in the near future — but he being on D could make him an underrated presence. Dobson could be what his teammate Ryan Pulock was for the Isles in 2016 against those same Panthers. There were flashes he can be a contributor at both ends in the 34 games he played in the regular season.

Dobson will have one more opportunity to solidify his spot on the back end when the Islanders play the Rangers in their tune-up game a week from tonight. If he plays well, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be starting for game one against Florida.

NOSTROVIA!

The “White Whale” has come ashore!

That’s right. Ilya Sorokin has finally arrived in New York.

Sorokin touched down in the Big Apple yesterday afternoon after an early morning flight from Moscow with fellow countryman and Montreal Canadiens prospect, Alexander Romanov.

There was speculation that the Isles would have flown the 24-year-old straight to Toronto to begin his quarantine so he could join the team when they arrive later this week. Sorokin’s agent, Dan Milstein, was mum on the situation about whether his client was heading to New York or heading for the bubble.

Then last night, a picture was posted on social media of Sorokin posing with some Port Authority police officers, confirming he is in New York and not in Canada.

So it’s official and the wait is over. Sorokin is here.

Isles fans can now rejoice, knowing they are one step closer to seeing their future in goal.

New York Yankees: Yankees may take a knee during National Anthem this season

Gabe Kapler

Don’t be surprised if you see a New York Yankees player or even Manager Aaron Boone take a knee during the National Anthem on Opening Day at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Several San Francisco Giants, including manager Gabe Kapler, first-base coach Antoan Richardson, hitting coach Justin Viele and outfielders Jaylin Davis, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater, took a knee during the national anthem before Monday’s exhibition game in Oakland. Shortstop Brandon Crawford stood between Davis and Richardson and put his hand on their shoulders in a show of support.

Kapler, who has voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement on social media in the months following George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, said he spoke to the team beforehand and shared his plans to kneel.

You may ask what does all of this have to do with the New York Yankees.  It may indicate other MLB teams may show their support of the Black Lives Movement be taking a knee also.  Yankees slugger Aaron Judge who is multi-racial, said that he expects the team to discuss the issue. Judge last month took part in a Black Lives Matter video and applauded the statement made by Kapler and others.

“What I thought [was] that’s the beauty of America: freedom of speech and freedom to express yourself,” Judge said. “We’ve got a special platform being athletes, being able to speak our mind and speak to what’s going on in this world. Some people express it online. Some people express it with words. Some people kneel. Whatever message that we try to give out here, we want to try to express unity and that we’re all in this together.”

Even Yankees Manager Aaron Judge has expressed an interest in taking a knee but said he had not made any decision as of yet. Boone added:

“I’ll stand behind whoever has a strong feeling about it, one way or the other,” Boone said. “We’ve talked a little bit about it. We will talk a little bit more about things that are planned for Opening Day and beyond when we get together and meet in D.C. We’ll see where it leads.”

The New York Yankees traditionally stay away from public controversy. If the Yankees break from that tradition, it will reverberate throughout all of Major League Baseball. It should be noted that after the Giants took a knee, there were calls for a boycott of MLB on Twitter.

 

 

New York Yankees: Projected Opening Day batting order is scary good

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton

With the New York Yankees finishing the final exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday evening, we can all look forward to opening day on July 23. The Washington Nationals stand between the Yankees and their first win of the revised regular season, but the team is well prepared to take on the former World Series champs.

The Yankees’ sluggers have been hitting well, with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez seeing the ball adequately and providing an offensive spark because of it.

Over the last two exhibition games, Judge has hit three homers, with Sanchez also taking one deep and Luke Voit doing the same. Don’t forget about Giancarlo Stanton, who makes up for high strike-out rates with elevated home run totals.

Let’s take a look at the projected lineup for the New York Yankees heading into Thursday’s opening game:

1. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B

2. Aaron Judge, RF

3. Gleyber Torres, SS

4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH

5. Aaron Hicks, CF

6. Gary Sanchez, C

7. Luke Voit, 1B

8. Gio Urshela, 3B

9. Brett Gardner, LF

There might not be a better lead-off hitter in the league at the moment than DJ LeMahieu. In LeMahieu‘s first season with the Yankees in 2019, he won the Silver Slugger award hitting .327 with 26 homers and 102 RBIs. He ranked fourth in MVP voting and earned an All-Star appearance for his incredible performance. He was also stellar defensively, filling in at multiple infield positions to supplement injuries.

Next up, the Yankees have Aaron judge, who played in only 102 games last year and has struggled to return from a stress fracture in a rib this off-season. However, he seems to be healthy and back to normal, showing off his home run mentality these past few days.

As if facing off against LeMahieu and Judge wasn’t enough, Gleyber Torres will be in the third spot. Torres continued his breakout performance in 2019, hitting .278 with 38 homers and 90 RBIs. Nobody anticipated his incredible power at the plate, but he has become a staple in the Yankee lineup and is expected to continue dominating in 2020.

When the Yankees consumed Giancarlo Stanton’s contract in a trade with the Miami Marlins, they expected him to be one of the more consistently healthy players. He struggled to remain in the lineup last season, but he looks healthy and is regaining his form slowly but surely. He will hit in the cleanup spot and give the top three hitters run support.

Behind Stanton, the Bombers Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez. Hicks represents a switch hitter who adds a bit of diversity to the order when the only other left-handed batter is Brett Gardner. Hicks is returning from Tommy John surgery but has received plenty of at-bats and will be slotted into the fifth spot most likely.

Sanchez, who earned an All-Star appearance for his first-half performance in 2019, is expected to provide offensive production with the long ball. He logged a career-high 34 last season, but only hit .232. He looks a bit slimmer and has utilized different stances behind the plate. Hopefully, this will mitigate injuries to a degree.

Getting through the first six batters is already difficult, but the Yankees don’t have mercy for their opponents. In the seven spot is Luke Voit, who broke out in 2019 with 21 home runs and 62 RBIs, both career highs. He showed the Yankees why he can be their starting first baseman and every-day hitter. He fits perfectly in their homer-centric mold.

Behind Voit are Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner, two consistent players who provide value at the bottom of the order. Urshela enjoyed a career-high 21 homers and 74 RBIs last season with a .355 on-base percentage. Urshela took over at the hot corner when Miguel Andujar went down with a torn labrum. The moment he started his first game, he refused to let his opportunity go. He has since locked down the position for the foreseeable future.

In left field and batting, 9th is Gardner, who had a breakout year in his 12th season in pinstripes. His 28 homers and 74 RBIs were career-highs, mainly due to the institution of juiced baseballs. If Gardner can replicate his performance in 2020, the Yankees will have I theoretically unstoppable lineup.

New York Giants: Has GM Dave Gettleman been given too long to piece together the offensive line?

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants hired general manager Dave Gettleman three off-seasons ago when the team was in need of a rebuild but instead took a more expedited angle toward resurrection. They drafted Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick and reinforced the offensive line with Nate Solder at left tackle.

Gettleman has been given ample time to solve the primary issues the Giants faced when he took over. A lackluster blocking scheme, a poor running game, and inconsistent defense, etc. In the 2018 draft, the Giants landed Will Hernandez, Lorenzo Carter, and BJ Hill in the first three rounds.

The anticipation was that these players would help immediately, and that was the case with Barkley and Hernandez. Even Hill contributed a tad to the overall production of the team, which wasn’t much.

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The question is, has Gettleman been given too much time to piece together the New York Giants’ offensive line?

The answer isn’t so simple. After investing $62 million over four years on Solder, the Giants also had Hernandez at left guard. At center, they had Spencer Pulley and right tackle Chad Wheeler. At right guard, they had Jamon Brown, who was formally selected in the third round by the St. Louis Rams in 2015.

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The right side of the line was extremely inadequate, despite Saquon Barkley managing to produce anyway. Over 16 games in his rookie campaign, he logged 1,307 yards on the ground, 721 yards through the air, and 15 total touchdowns.

Fast forward to 2019, and the line did experience a bit more success. With Mike Remmers at right tackle and Kevin Zeitler at right guard, the primary issue was Solder at left tackle. He allowed 11 sacks and five penalties in his worst season to date. This forced the Giants to draft Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick and spend a third-round selection on University of Connecticut tackle Matt Peart.

While three offseasons should be enough to solve the line, it is impossible to predict personal issues, like the ones Nate faced with his son dealing with cancer treatments. That inadvertently affected Hernandez and his performance as well as Halapio at center.

Finding Nick Gates as an undrafted free agent in 2019 should help the continuity of the unit exponentially, especially in the financial department. If he can lock down a starting position, whether it is at right tackle or center, the New York Giants should be in better shape. In addition, Cameron Fleming, who has experience at both left and right tackle, should serve as adequate depth.

If the offensive line takes a significant step forward in 2020, it will justify Gettleman’s retention with Big Blue. However, if they struggle once again and require change, the time on his internal firing clock will quickly tick away.

 

New York Yankees News: All the latest moves before Thursday’s Opening Day

The New York Yankees opening day game is Thursday, July 23, at 7 pm, in the nation’s capital.  The game is against the World Champion Washington Nationals and will feature the Yankee’s new pitching ace Gerrit Cole facing the National’s ace Max Scherzer.  The Yankees are traveling today for a late workout at National’s Park this afternoon.

Ahead of the game, the Yankees have made several moves. One of those moves included optioning Jordan Montgomery to the Yankees alternate training site in Moosic, PA.

Manager Boone announced that Cole would start on Thursday and James Paxon on Saturday.  Masahiro Tanaka’s scheduled start on Sunday probably will not happen. It has yet to be decided but will most likely be started by an opener. Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Michael King were mentioned to start that game.  Montgomery would likely be recalled before the sixth start of the season.

Before the first game of the regular season, the New York Yankees must reduced their pitchers, hitters, and bench down to the allowed 30 men, mandated by MLB for the first two weeks of the season. In doing so they have reassigned to the club’s alternate training site in Moosic, Pa.,  infielder Matt Duffy, outfielder Estevan Florial, right-hander Deivi García, outfielder Zack Granite, catcher Erik Kratz, pitcher Brooks Kriske, pitcher Tyler Lyons, pitcher Nick Nelson, pitcher Clarke Schmidt, pitcher Nick Tropeano, pitcher Miguel Yajure and right-hander Tony Zych.

Prior to moving the players and pitchers manager, Aaron Boone had words about pitching prospects Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia.

“Deivi is a young guy that had so much success last year and rocketed through [the Minors] that clearly still has some development to go,” Boone said. “This will be an important time for him down there to continue to develop and iron out his delivery. His repertoire and his talent will allow him to get here, so it’s an important time for him to continue to prove himself down there and keep himself in the conversation.

“And then Clarke … has delivered in every way; what we saw in Spring Training, what we’ve seen now here in Summer Camp, he’s been excellent. For a guy that hasn’t had a lot of Minor League experience yet, he’s pretty polished, too. Hopefully, he’ll go down there and continue to develop and pitch. He’s very much in the conversation to be with us at some point this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was — and not only if he was, but playing an important role for us.”

Earlier yesterday, Clarke Schmidt was awarded the James P. Dawson Award, indicative of the club’s top rookie in Spring Training.

The Yankees alternate training site in Moosic, PA is the home of the Scranton Wilkes/Barre Rail Riders of the minor leagues.  The Yankees AAA team plays at PNC Park.

In other moves, the New York Yankees placed right-hander Dan Otero on the restricted list. They also signed left-hander Luis Avilán, right-hander David Hale and catcher Chris Iannetta to Major League contracts, selecting them to the 40-man roster.

In the case of Otero, the reason for him being placed on the restricted list is unclear. The restricted list includes players who are out of organized baseball but are not free agents. It can include a player has left the team without a valid reason, or has announced his intention to retire but is still of age or level of skill that could allow him to return in the future. In effect, the team states that it retains rights to the player if and when he becomes active again. The list is also used to place a player who is unavailable to play for non-baseball reasons, such as personal issues or trouble with the law.