Four fights to make after UFC Fight Island 3

UFC, Dana White

The UFC hosted it’s fourth and final event from Final Island last night, and the card completely delivered from top to bottom. After the card was over, it’s always time to start pondering what’s next. Here are four fights that should be made following last night.

Robert Whittaker vs Winner of Adesanya/Costa

This is one of the easier ones when you think about it. The former UFC middleweight champion looked very impressive last night defeating world class striker, Darren Till.

Whittaker was hurt very early in the fight, but went on to win three of the next four rounds on his way to a unanimous decision. Whittaker improved to 10-1 since moving to the middleweight division.

Bobby Knuckles lost his title to Israel Adesanya back in October of last year at UFC 243. Getting a win over a guy like Till puts him right back in the top contender status.

If you look at the middleweight division, there really is not another fight for Whittaker. I expect Bobby Knuckles to sit back and watch the September title fight with Adesanya and Paulo Costa.

Whoever wins that fight will likely get a fight with Whittaker in early 2021 or even perhaps by the end of this year.

Fabricio Werdum vs Ryan Bader

I know you might be thinking, “Why is a Bellator matchup in a UFC article?” Well it’s no secret that last night was the last fight on Fabricio Werdum‘s current contract.

The former champion has made it known that he’s interested in moving on from the UFC. The logical next step for Werdum would be to move to Bellator.

Bellator has a history of pushing UFC vets straight to the top when they jump ship. I expect Werdum to get the same treatment given his resume. The heavyweight division in Bellator is not very strong.

With that, Werdum could go right into a title shot in Bellator. He poses some interesting problems for Ryan Bader. If the Werdum that fought last night shows up, it’s not out of the question that he becomes the Bellator heavyweight champion this year.

Carla Esparza vs Jessica Andrade

Carla Esparza was able to capture her fourth consecutive win last night at UFC Fight Island 3 defeating Marina Rodriguez. With that win, Esparza looks to be ready to challenge one of the divisions best.

In looking at the logical next opponents for her, there are only two opponents that make sense from a divisional standpoint and that’s Tatiana Suarez and Jessica Andrade.

Suarez just finished Esparza two years ago so I can’t see the UFC making that fight. Andrade is coming off of a close loss to Rose Namajunas back at UFC 251.

This fight would pair two former champions against each other as both look to get back to the top. Andrade has lost two in a row, but they were to the two best women in the world. Esparza needs a win over someone like Andrade to prove she’s still one of the very best.

Khamzat Chimaev vs Top 15 UFC opponent

For all of the fighters that took part in Fight Island, the one that UFC fans should be the most excited about is Khamzat Chimaev. The guy is an absolute monster. His dominance can be illustrated with one tweet.

Chimaev resembles a larger version of the UFC’s lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“Borz” is a frightening matchup for anyone in the welterweight division. He’s so exciting because unlike some wrestlers who just take their opponents down, Chimaev is constantly looking to “Smash” his opponents.

Seeing how polished he is already, I would not be surprised to see him fast-tracked. Chimaev’s wrestling base can allow him to move quicker than some prospects would in the UFC.

Perhaps a good fight for Chimaev would be taking on the winner of next week’s Randy Brown – Vicente Luque fight. Either way, Chimaev is going to get a quick turnaround. I expect to see Borz fight one or even two more times before 2021.

 

New York Giants sign kicker Chandler Catanzaro to replace Aldrick Rosas, here’s what you need to know

New York Giants, Chandler Catanzaro

In the wake of the New York Giants releasing Aldrick Rosas after a hit-and-run incident several weeks ago, they have now signed former Arizona Cardinals kicker, Chandler Catanzaro.

Catanzaro has a career 83.8% field goal percentage and spent time with the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay buccaneers in 2018. He did not play in 2019, but it is ready to return on a cheaper deal.

The Giants saved $3.3 million in cap space from the release of Rosas, and Catanzaro would likely cost far less. This will allow them to utilize their open salary space elsewhere.

In 2018, Catanzaro was 27 years old. He will be 29 going into the 2020 season and struggled at times with both teams. His extra point completion percentage was 85.7% and recorded touchbacks 80% of the time on kickoffs.

The Giants have seemed to acquire a sour taste for kickers in the franchise, following the Josh Brown debacle, and now Rosas dealing with his own legal issues. The Giants have not had an easy summer, and head coach Joe Judge has dealt with blow-after-blow since signing on with New York.

A lack of consistency at the kicker position tortures some teams, so hopefully, Catanzaro can be a consistent threat. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team brought in another kicker to compete during training camp.

New York Yankees option Clint Frazier to their alternate training site

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The New York Yankees decided to option outfielder Clint Frazier to their alternate training site in their latest roster move. Right-handed reliever Ben Heller was also optioned. The club will recall righties Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske to the active roster.

The reasoning behind the moves was that the bullpen had to pitch seven innings because starter James Paxton could only complete a frame against the Washington Nationals on Saturday night. The Yankees need fresh arms in their staff since all the “mop up” guys, namely Jonathan Holder, David Hale, Ben Heller and Luis Avilan, saw action yesterday.

Showing diminished velocity in comparison to last season, Paxton threw 1+ innings and conceded five hits and three earned runs. He handed out one free pass and struck out one batter. The Yankees’ universe is worried about his velo, as he cracked over 91 mph on average last night. He was at more than 94 mph last year.

Frazier didn’t see the field during the New York Yankees’ first two games in the nation’s capital city. As of now, he is blocked by the team’s excess of outfielders, including starters Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge. His path to at-bats from the designated hitter spot is also blocked by Giancarlo Stanton and his crazy-good start of the season.

Looking for an extended opportunity from the Yankees

The 25-year old Frazier is still looking for that extended opportunity with the Yankees. In the limited at-bats he has received during his career, he has been good, but not great at the plate, having a .254/.308/.463 line in 429 plate appearances. His defensive issues have played a role in the lack of playing time he has received.

Frazier had looked very good during summer camp, even blasting a home run that became famous nationwide because he did it while wearing a mask. For now, the talented outfielder will have to wait a few days for his next chance.

New York Yankees make three major changes to lineup ahead of Sunday’s game

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees

After being thrashed 9-2 against the Washington Nationals, the New York Yankees made several major changes to their lineup on Sunday afternoon.

It seems as if manager Aaron Boone is not afraid to start Miguel Andujar in left field, as he inserted him into the lineup before today’s game.

Andujar, who has been working in left field this off-season, provides more offensive capabilities, which is why he’s being inserted. While he missed a majority of 2019 with a torn labrum, he was the runner up for Rookie of the Year in 2018.

Andujar posted a .297 batting average was 27 home runs and 92 RBIs in 2018. Andujar showed off his offensive prowess two years ago, and he will be supplementing Brett Gardner, who struck out three times on Opening Day against the Nationals and has yet to earn a hit over two games.

That wasn’t the only outfield change that was made, as Mike Tauchman will play in centerfield in place of Aaron Hicks. Hicks has one hit over seven at-bats, striking out two times so far this season.

The final change was at catcher, as the Yankees will feature Kyle Higashioka over Gary Sanchez, likely giving him a rest after two tough games. He is another hitter who is struggling at the plate, hitting .000 over seven at-bats. Kyle hit .214 with three homers and 11 RBIs last season with the Bombers, and receiving the start today is a testament to the confidence Boone has in the backup catcher.

The Yankees’ starting pitcher:

Yankees will walk out Jonathan Loaisiga as they’re starting pitcher on Sunday. In 2019, Loaisiga earned a 4.55 ERA with 37 strikeouts over 15 games. With Tanaka missing time due to concussion symptoms following a Giancarlo Stanton comebacker to the head, Loaisiga is simply filling in in the meantime.

On the other side, the Nationals will be featuring Patrick Corbin, another stellar arm.

New York Yankees: James Paxton lacks velocity in disappointing season debut

New York Yankees, James Paxton

On Saturday, James Paxton made his first start of the season for the New York Yankees, and it was less than stellar. He was knocked out of the ballgame before he was able to record any outs in the second inning.

The second-year Yankee worked around a Starlin Castro triple in the first inning to keep the Nationals scoreless early, but imploded in the second inning. He allowed four straight hits and walk for two runs to score, and left the bases loaded for Michael King in relief.

Paxton only lasted 41 pitches, gave up three earned runs, five hits, one walk, and struck out just one.

What went wrong:

Paxton’s velocity was nowhere near where it should be Saturday night. He underwent offseason back surgery and has reportedly lacked velocity since then, but Saturday was really the first time we actually saw and noticed it.

His fastballs averaged a speed of 91.7 mph on Saturday, where his fastballs averaged 95.7 mph last season. Four mph might not seem like much, but it makes an enormous difference.

In addition to his velocity drop-off, his mechanics seemed a bit off. His arm angle and release point appeared to be different and his pitches seemed flatter.

I think that this is all a result of the surgery that he had. He missed most of the original spring training and may just be behind the other Yankee pitchers. But, this is a serious issue that needs to be resolved soon. The team can’t have Paxton out on the mound with known problems, or he will keep getting hit hard. It’s certainly early in the season, but the Yankees can’t afford to have him struggling.

New York Yankees: Brett Gardner’s struggles could activate one offensive weapon

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

Cold streaks are unacceptable in a 60-game season that holds so much value with each contest. The New York Yankees will have to make logical moves to improve their roster, especially on offense, as they scored just two runs against a lackluster Washington Nationals pitcher on Saturday evening.

However, some players have already got off to a poor start, and while two games is a very small sample size to judge, we must consider everything in a different way this season. On Opening Day, the Yankees won 4-1 on a rainout over six innings, but left-fielder Brett Gardner struck out all three times.

His offense has been extremely disheartening, and that didn’t change in game two on Saturday, as he failed to gain a hit over six consecutive at-bats. While he did earn one walk, the Yankees moved him down to the ninth spot in the order, but he might be left out altogether if he continues to struggle.

The New York Yankees have options

The Yankees have tons of options in the outfield, including Mike Tauchman, Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar. Most have been calling on Tauchman’s name, who had a stellar season with the Yankees in 2019. He posted a .277 batting average with 13 homers and 47 RBIs. His .361 on-base percentage was solid, and his defense is also consistent, posting a .994 fielding percentage with just one error over 86 games in the outfield.

But the best offensive weapon the Yankees have to utilize his Andujar, who is still working on his transition to left field. Miguel struggled at times in the outfield during summer camp, but he has grasped the position well and is committed to earning his stripes. However, utilizing his offense could be a necessity for the Yankees if Gardner continues to struggle.

Andujar is an exceptional talent, having posted a .297 batting average was 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 2018. While he might be the outlier of the group based on his defense alone, the Bombers need a spark where Brett Gardner is currently hitting, and while I imagine they won’t be quick to replace him, they have to begin considering their options.

UFC: What’s next for Fabricio Werdum?

Last night, Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1) turned back the clock at UFC Fight Island 3. Many (including myself) were doubting the former heavyweight champion ahead of his fight with Alexander Gustafsson.

Werdum returned back in May and looked horrendous against Alexey Oleynik. Werdum was on the final fight of his UFC contract, and he fought like a man with something to prove last night.

UFC or Bellator?

Werdum was able to get Gustafsson’s back early and submit him with an arm bar. A huge win for Werdum who will now enter MMA free agency.

The former UFC champion has recently indicated that he would be walking away from the promotion after last night. Werdum’s legacy is secure inside the UFC after he defeated Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title at UFC 188.

The logical career move for Werdum would be to go to Bellator MMA. There is no path forward for Werdum inside the UFC‘s heavyweight division. However, Bellator would welcome him right to the top of the division.

Bellator’s heavyweight division lacks star power, Werdum is still a big name. Assuming Werdum makes the jump to Bellator, I wouldn’t be shocked if they gave him the heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader, in his first fight.

Bellator usually likes to push the UFC vets they sign immediately due to the drawing power. Especially former UFC champions that sign with the promotion. No matter what, Werdum can walk away from the promotion with his head held high after last night’s performance.

New York Giants to release kicker Aldrick Rosas after hit-and-run incident

New York Giants, Aldrick Rosas

The New York Giants have been unable to escape legal troubles this summer, as DeAndre Baker is still dealing with an alleged armed robbery, and Aldrick Rosas was involved in a hit-and-run incident.

On Sunday morning, the Giants officially released Rosas, who was found bloodied and bruised after T-boning a truck at over 100 mph on a Monday morning. While all of the information is still under wraps, the 25-year-old already had a DUI on his record before he entered the NFL in 2016.

Rosas signed a $3.26 million deal as a restricted free agent this past April, and the Giants will now be looking for a replacement soon. One alternative that makes a lot of sense is Stephen Gostkowski, who has a ton of experience with new head coach Joe Judge.

While Judge was the special-teams coordinator for the Patriots, Gostkowski was his kicker for many years. He is extremely productive and has a history of efficiency, despite suffering a season-ending injury in 2019. He was inevitably cut by New England after many years of production, and reports have indicated he is ready to return to the NFL.

Other kickers the Giants could consider are Nick Folk and Ryan Succop. Folk is a former Patriot as well, spending seven games with the team in 2019. He made eight of his first 11 kicks and hit all eight of his final attempts. He’s a veteran with exceptional experience, and the Giants could easily land him on the money they will save from Rosas deal.

Succop, who spent the last six seasons with the Tennessee Titans, had played in every game until 2019 what he missed six. His 16.7% feel cool rate was a problem, as he made just one of his first six attempts.

The Giants don’t have a choice but to find a new kicker, as they currently don’t have one on the roster after the release of Rosas

New York Yankees: Yankees not thrilled with expanded postseason setup

New York Yankees, Aaron boone

The New York Yankees have started their campaign to win a 28th World Championship in this shortened 60 game season.  As they approach the last game in the Series with the World Champions Washington Nationals, they sit at 1-1 and hope today to come out of the series with the series win.

Before yesterday’s game last night, MLB announced what the expanded postseason would look like.  The significant change is that it will be expanded from the present ten teams to 16 teams, which will mean that more than half of the MLB teams will reach the postseason.  The problem the New York Yankees see with the plan is that there is near no reward for winning their division.

With the new plan to have three-game Wild Card series, if the Yankees win the division they will get to host the series.  In a normal season if they win the division, they and sit back and wait for the winner of the one-game wild card and may end up not having to face anyone until the ALDS. This year when they win, they will still have to reinforce that with an additional series win.

Manager Aaron Boone: “I really don’t see it,’’ Boone said of a 16-team playoff in a normal year. “I see maybe something in-between last year and this year. But I don’t see 16 teams in a 162[-game] scenario. I think this year, all bets are off.”

Some of the other New York Yankee players were even less happy with the plan.  Yankee reliever Zack Britton had this to say about the setup:

“I definitely think it’s good for the game to create more high-leverage games, if that’s what you want to call it, more excitement, but I wasn’t a big fan of division winners not being rewarded in some form or fashion. So I wasn’t really for this, but I do see the benefit of increasing playoffs and adding that to our sport.”

“It’s good for the future,’’ Britton said. “I just felt like it was kind of rushed. But the only thing I would’ve liked to see is division winners, whether that’s us or another team, get a bye or something to show you won your division.”

Chad Green said he’s “not really sure [and] a little hesitant,’’ about the changes.

“To have over half the league make the playoffs, I would like to see a reward for winning the division,’’ the right-hander said. “I’d probably need to learn more about the actual specifics of it, [but there] needs to be more incentive for winning the division.”

Both Adam Ottavino and Chad Green are also unhappy about the man on second base in each half-inning after the ninth inning of any game this season. Ottavino said, “it’s just not real baseball.”

“It’s gonna be different,’’ Green said. “A lot of guys are gonna have to adjust to it. You’ve got to have your stuff as soon as you get in there. If you start the 10th inning, the game could be over real quick.”

“It’s gonna be more of a mental thing than anything,’’ Green said. “Guys are just gonna be coming in and trying to attack guys right away and see what happens. … I’m personally not a huge fan of it. When you’re playing a 60-game season and every game matters, just to throw a guy on second base is not the answer.”

The man on second base at the bottom of the tenth inning happened for the first time in the season on Friday night in Oakland. The Athletic’s won over the Lost Angeles Angels. Oakland’s Marcus Semien started the bottom of the 10th on second and scored on Matt Olson’s grand slam.

The bottom line in this and other issues that affect baseball is that all will have to relent to the keyword “adjust.”  There is much that all teams will have to adjust to, from not being able to play in their home park to having key players come down with the coronavirus, and yes, to conform to all the new rules.  We that love baseball will get through it. For the New York Yankees, before all this started, they were favored to win the East and go on to a World Series.  Much may have changed, but that has not changed, they are totally focused on the Championship ring.

New York Giants’ Evan Engram ranked very nicely by NFL.com

New York Giants, Giants, Evan Engram

There is no question that the New York Giants have struggled the past few seasons, which has inevitably limited some of their better players. Trading away Odell Beckham Jr. was a fundamental part of their full roster overhaul, and general manager Dave Gettleman is still putting his final touches on the team.

The offensive line is far from cohesive, despite the drafting of fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas, and the defense is still in the works.

However, despite injuries, the Giants feel confident going into 2020 with plenty of talented youth pieces on the team, and some experienced veterans to lead the way. Tight end Evan Engram, who missed eight games in 2019 due to a midfoot sprain, is returning with high expectations.

The New York Giants need the rookie Evan Engram back, minutes the dropped catches:

Over his first three seasons in the NFL, Engram has seen his statistics decrease consecutively. In 2017, he played in 15 games, earning 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, he has steadily lost yardage volume and finished with just 467 yards in 2019.

However, that hasn’t taken away from his talent and what he brings to the Giants’ offense.

Former Giants quarterback, David Carr, who’s currently an NFL.com analyst, was very confident in Engram’s abilities moving forward, ranking him the 10th-best tight end in football.

Engram often flies under the radar because he’s on a struggling Giants team that’s trying to find its offensive identity. But make no mistake: The fourth-year pro is a nightmare matchup in the passing game as a crafty route runner and asset in the run game (much like Ertz). With a full recovery from knee and foot injuries that forced him to miss the second half of last season, Engram is in good position to have a career year as quarterback Daniel Jones continues to develop.

 

Engram has been rehabbing for months, and he should be a full go for training camp this year. Going into his fourth season, Evan holds the key to unlocking his potential. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is fantastic at utilizing tight ends, considering what he managed to do with Jason Witten and even Blake Jarwin last year.

Engram is a nightmare in the passing game and opens up the field considerably for other players like Saquon Barkley. While he’s not the most refined blocker, he can do just enough to get by. It is his release off the line of scrimmage and mismatches with linebackers that make him an elite player when healthy.