UFC: Alexander Volkanovski Isn’t Fond Of Fighting Max Holloway Again

Dustin Poirier, UFC

We’ve never had a fighter take on the same opponent four straight times in the UFC, but that’s not one hundred percent out of the question with the current situation in the featherweight division. Alexander Volkanovski surprised the world by taking the belt from Max Holloway, and held onto it by defeating Holloway again, but now it’s unclear who his next opponent is and Dana White is partial to another fight against the former champ.

That poses some obvious problems, though. For one, Volkanovski has defeated Holloway two straight times already. It’s hard to say that Holloway deserves another rematch this soon. Second, if Holloway does win a rematch like this, it puts the matchmakers in a very awkward situation.

Volkanovski has done enough to earn an immediate rematch if he loses, after all. But this ‘rematch’ would actually be the fourth fight between him and Holloway.

For obvious reasons, the current champion isn’t too fond of the idea.

What did Volkanovski say about the potential fight?

“It’s pretty clear that like, you win back-to-back, two wins in a row. To make a third one, it just doesn’t really make sense, especially right now. Again, we know that last fight was close, but the judges gave me the decision, and that’s that. And in the first fight, even though it was competitive, I pretty clearly won that fight,” Volkanovski said to Submission Radio. “So, to just give him another rematch straight away and put the division on hold, it just doesn’t make any sense…”

He also implied that the UFC is looking to push one of their stars back to champion status by giving him a second instant rematch.

“We’ve got 15 people that are ranked for a reason, and what, we’re just gonna keep fighting until Max wins? You know what I mean? It just doesn’t make sense.”

It’s true that many of the other contenders in the division are occupied, but it does look bad for the UFC to give one of their former champions back to back shots at winning the belt again without giving other fighters a chance during the same period.

And if there is a fourth fight, it may not do as well from a ratings point of view. Fans want to see something different after a while, after all. This is anything but that. But with the current state of the division being what it is, we’ll just have to wait and see what the league eventually decides. There’s no telling what the decision from Dana White will be.

New York Liberty: Sabrina Ionescu nets 33 in loss to Dallas (Highlights)

A WNBA-record 10 rookies partook in Wednesday night’s showdown between the New York Liberty and Dallas Wings.

A return to form for Sabrina Ionescu wasn’t enough for the New York Liberty to get back in the win column.

The top pick in April’s draft was part of a performance that featured the contributions of ten rookies, the most to partake in a single WNBA game. Ionescu led the way with 33 points but five Dallas Wings reached double-figures en route to a 93-80 victory in the WNBA’s IMG Academy bubble in Bradenton, Florida.

“I thought Dallas was the tougher team. I thought they wanted it more. I think our players will tell you the same thing,” head coach Walt Hopkins said in a postgame Zoom call. “These are growth points. This is a young group and we’re all looking how to put together 40 minutes of consistency. As you can see, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s one of these losses that you learn from.”

While Ionescu had her moments in her professional debut on Saturday against Seattle (12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), some negative reviews focused on a tough shooting performance (4-of-17 FG, 0-for-8 from three-point range). Ionescu was a silver lining for New York on a tough off night, sinking 11-of-20 shot attempts, including 6-of-10 from deep. Her 33 points are one short of the Liberty’s rookie record set by a current teammate, Kia Nurse, in 2018. Ionescu also put in seven assists and rebounds each.

The improved personal marks were of no consolation to Ionescu.

“Coming in, it’s going to be a process. Piece-by-piece, we’ve just got to keep building every single game, every single day in practice,” she said. “Obviously, I’m not happy because we didn’t win, so that part still isn’t up to my standard, our standard as a team and an organization. We’re still getting used to each other as a brand new team with a lot of new faces, so it’s just going to take us some growing pains. My teammates know it took us some growing pains at Oregon as well. It’s going to take time, but hopefully, we just keep building and getting to know each other.”

The Liberty (0-2) jumped out to a small, but early, lead in the first quarter. But the frame ended with a buzzer-beating triple from Kayla Thornton, one that gave Dallas a permanent lead. The Wings (1-1) pulled away with a 34-21 advantage in the second quarter, creating a 58-43 lead at the half despite 11 points over the final 90 seconds from Ionescu. Arike Ogunbowale led Dallas scorers with 20 points.

Both the Liberty and Wings are the youngest teams in the WNBA, with Dallas holding the title by mere decimal digits. The teams held nine of the most recent draft’s first 15 picks in April, and the Liberty added former Seattle draftee Joyner Holmes (7 points, 4 rebounds) after several veterans opted out of the 2020 season. Second overall pick and Ionescu’s fellow Oregon alumna Satou Sabally was among those who reached double-figures for Dallas (12 points). On the New York side, Megan Walker and Jazmine Jones each made their WNBA debuts. The pair were respectively chosen in the ninth and twelfth slots of the draft and missed the Saturday opener due to illness and injury.

“It’s awesome to be able to see all the rookies in this league especially playing against them in college and now being able to see them at the next level. Hopefully, we can continue to be able to grow this league and keep having more and more viewership and learning through the veterans that played here before us,” Ionescu said. “I think it was awesome to see all the young faces out on the floor. It was awesome to see Satou on the floor, definitely really weird not having her on my team. I definitely miss playing with her. She did great, I think. She stayed composed, she made the right plays, she’s going to fit into that team really well. I was really excited to see her, to play against her, to kind of talk some smack to her at the free throw line.”

Layshia Clarendon (partaking in the 200th WNBA game of her career) was the only other New Yorker to earn double-figures in scoring (11 points) while Amanda Zahui B led all participants with 11 rebounds. The Liberty and Wings will meet for a grudge match in Bradenton on August 27.

New York will return to action quickly, battling the Atlanta Dream on Friday night (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Mets: Bullpen Struggles, Red Sox Hold Off Mets in 6-5 Loss

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

It is a rare sight when a Jacob deGrom start is not the topic of conversation after the game. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson‘s rare struggles following him accounted for four Red Sox runs. The New York Mets also had no outs with the bases loaded in the ninth but could not come back in the 6-5 loss.

The usually reliable Lugo replaced deGrom after six innings and allowed a game-tying home run to Christian Vazquez. It was just the beginning of Vazquez terror on the Mets bullpen. In the eighth inning, he extended the Red Sox lead to three with a two-run double against Wilson.

The eighth inning showed the fatigue on Wilson, who made his fourth appearance in six games. He consistently missed up with his fastball and gave up three of everything: walks, hits, and runs. Two of the hits Wilson allowed, fell into the cheap category. Wilson’s control is what got him into trouble and made the cheap hits hurt.

The Mets attempted a comeback, down two in the ninth by loading the bases with no one out against Red Sox closer Brandon Workman. A J.D. Davis infield single got the Mets their only run. It was sandwiched between a Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes strikeout, which led to a Robinson Cano soft liner to end the game. The Davis single came on a ball smothered by third baseman Rafael Devers which prevented the ball from heading to left field, allowing the tying run to score.

The Mets offense collected 15 hits on the night, but the Mets were 3-for-14 with RISP and left 11 runners on base. Pete Alonso led the way with four hits, all singles, and a hit by pitch. Cespedes and Brandon Nimmo also homered.

The Mets prized prospect, Andres Gimenez, made his first start at shortstop and excelled going 2-for-3 with a triple. He still looked like a new player at the big leagues after being picked off after his first hit. Once the Red Sox realized he could hit their fastball, they gave him a steady diet of curveballs in his final at-bat.

deGrom Doing His Job

Jacob deGrom was throwing bullets out of the gate, including a 101.1 mph fastball, the fastest of his career. He still did not have his best stuff throughout and only punched out four Red Sox. Despite that, he gave the Mets six strong innings, only allowing two runs on three hits. Out of caution, Rojas removed him after 88 pitches, but expect him to reach 100 in his next start.

The Mets send Steven Matz to the mound against Martin Perez in hopes of taking three out of four from the Red Sox. The first pitch is at 7:07 p.m. ET.

New York Rangers Agitated in Loss to the Islanders in Playoff Tune-Up

New York Rangers

There were a lot of positives in the New York Ranger’s 2-1 loss to the Islanders at the Toronto bubble location. The first being that there was hockey being played since the coronavirus shut down the league in March. The second being that the New York Rangers saw enough positives in tonight’s game to give them confidence heading into Saturday’s playoff game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

New York Rangers working off the rust in the exhibition game

It was truly a game that saw both teams looking like they had not played a real game in four months. The timing was off but the Rangers did see some good defense and some good goaltending in the loss. Not to mention, that the Islanders also played solid defense and goaltending.

The Rangers did outshoot the Islanders 27-22 but Islander goaltender Semyon Varlamov was excellent in the two periods that he played in the game.

Anthony Beauvillier opened the scoring at 9:15 of the second period when he scored a goal on a 2-on-1 rush. This was the only goal that Igor Shesterkin gave up as he stopped six of the seven shots he saw. He was replaced by Henrik Lundqvist after that goal, as head coach David Quinn had determined that each goaltender would play half of the game.

After Devon Toews scored at 15:35 of the third period, the Rangers got on the board when Filip Chytil put one in the net past Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, cutting the lead to 2-1. The Rangers put on a furious rush at the end, but could not push through the tying goal.

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal did not return for the third period after playing 15 shifts totaling 11:08 in the first two periods. There was no reason given for his absence.

Despite the loss, the Rangers felt good about getting on the ice and playing a game. “Especially playing a team like the Islanders, who are structurally very sound, a veteran team, it was good to be able to get your timing and get your legs back underneath you,” Chris Kreider said, ” to get used to that timing and space as you can only get so much from intrasquad scrimmages.”

Kreider also added that “Guys are a little angry right now, we never like losing to the Islanders. So maybe a chip on our shoulder heading into Saturday is not a bad thing.”

Head coach David Quinn had mixed feelings about the game. In his post-game press conference he said: “I liked some of the things we did and I did not like some of the things we did, I thought it was a mixed bag.”

“I thought as the game went on, we became a little frustrated”, Quinn explained. “but it’s going to be hard hockey here. but it was hard hockey here and we knew playing the Islanders it was going to be hard hockey.”

The hard hockey continues for real on Saturday when the Rangers open their playoff series in a noon face-off with the Carolina Hurricanes.

 

 

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka expected to make season debut on Saturday

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

After a scare early in Summer Camp, Masahiro Tanaka will be making his season debut on Saturday for the New York Yankees. On July 4th, he was struck by a 112 mph come-backer in the head off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton.

Following the injury, Tanaka was sent to New York-Presbyterian hospital for testing. His tests came back clean and was diagnosed with a mild concussion by team staff.

The second-longest tenured Yankee rested for just a few days before being eased into a throwing program. He continued to workout with the team, but was sent to the alternate training site in Scranton once the team hit the road.

Tanaka is finally ready to go in what will be his contract year. He needs to make a good impression in this short season for the Yankees to resign him, if he is still interested.

The Japanese born right-hander had an up-and-down 2019, but managed to sneak onto the all-star team. He ended with an 11-9 record and a 4.45 ERA, but had some struggles in the second half of the season.

Saturday won’t be easy for Tanaka as they face the rival Red Sox in the Bronx. Although Boston is off to a rough start, beating the Red Sox never comes easy.

JA Happ will make his season debut on Thursday in the series finale against the Orioles. Jordan Montgomery will open the Red Sox series on Friday, while James Paxton gets the ball for Sunday night baseball against Boston.

The Yankees will make-up games against the Phillies beginning next Monday.

 

WATCH: Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu hits homer on second pitch of game against Orioles

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees didn’t need long for their leadoff hitter, DJ LeMahieu, to leave his mark on the series opener against the Baltimore Orioles. While Gleyber Torres is often the player torturing their ranks, DJ couldn’t let his impact go unnoticed.

LeMahieu, who’s returning from COVID-19, is looking the part. He’s attempting to replicate an MVP-caliber performance from 2019 when he hit 26 homers and 102 RBIs. He finished 4th in MVP voting and was a consistent piece on both offense and defense for the Yankees.

His impressive start against Baltimore is only one more factor to incorporate into his value – his ability to impact a game at any moment.

New York Mets: Jose Reyes Officially Announces His Retirement

New York Mets, Jose Reyes

After going almost two full seasons without playing professional baseball, it seemed all but official that Jose Reyes retired. The long time New York Mets shortstop made it official on his Instagram and is hanging up his cleats after a successful 16-year career.

Reyes came up as a 20-year old rookie during the 2003 season and immediately became noted for his lightning-quick speed. It did take until the 2005 season for Reyes to break out as the superstar he became in New York. Manning the left side of the infield with David Wright, the two combined to start the most games of any third base/shortstop combination in Mets history.

Stolen Base King

When Reyes learned how to become a dominant leadoff hitter, he got on base more. It allowed him to rack up three straight seasons of 60 or more stolen bases, topping out at 78 in 2007. Through the Mets were not quite winners during his final years with the franchise, it was not due to Reyes play on the field. In his last season with the Mets, in the first go-around, he won the batting title by hitting .337.

Reyes left the Mets for the Miami Marlins, who gave him a lucrative six-year deal. After one good season in Miami, he went to the Toronto Blue Jays via trade, and while still a good hitter, he was not quite the speed threat he once was. Reyes’s power numbers dipped in Toronto as well, which led to his trade as part of a broad package for Colorado Rockies shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki.

The 2015 trade came right in the middle of a potential Blue Jays run, and heading to the struggling Rockies ruined a chance for Reyes to get back in the postseason for the first time since 2006. In the following offseason, a domestic violence incident led to a 51-game suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Road to Redemption

During the suspension, Trevor Story took the league by storm, which led Reyes without a place to play and was designated for assignment. With the Mets infield decimated by injuries, it made the perfect fit for Reyes to return home. Reyes played well with the Mets in 2016 and was a significant reason why the team made the postseason. His two-run game-tying home run against the Phillies in late September is his signature moment from his Mets return.

Reyes had a strong 2017, with his best home run total since 2008, which prompted the Mets to give him another deal. Unfortunately, Reyes struggled all season and failed to hit under .200. Despite his final game being the same as David Wright’s, Reyes decided not to announce his retirement yet in hopes of playing again. Both players shared the field for the last time together as it signaled the end of an era, which was taken over by Pete Alonso.

Reyes is still an active musician and messes around with fellow veteran baseball players on Instagram. He is second to Wright on the Mets all-time at-bats, runs, hits, total bases and doubles, and the all-time Mets leader in triples and stolen bases. Reyes probably will not have his number retired by the franchise, but he is a future Mets Hall of Famer.

New York Giants: Ryan Connelly returns to compete for starting position

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants’ 2019 5th round pick, Ryan Connelly, has returned from a severe injury. Connelly completely tore his ACL in week four against the Washington Football Team. Connelly was hitting his stride as one of the leaders on a terrible defense.  Despite his efforts in the previous season, Connelly will have to win his spot back, this time from veteran linebacker David Mayo.

2019 Stats

Connelly only started in three games last year, but he made a huge difference on the mediocre Big Blue Wrecking Crew. Connelly recorded 20 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass deflections, and 2 tackles for loss. In my opinion, if Connelly had played all 16 games, he would’ve been considered one of the best rookie defenders in the league. Connelly is just a very impressive player; he’s smart, quick, aggressive, in the right spots at all times, and he listens to his veterans. Connelly had a way better season than David Mayo. If you watch the film, you can see that Connelly’s led defense flowed, unlike Mayo’s, who was more a run-stopper than coverage linebacker. The Wisconsin product can do both.

Future

The Giants recently signed Blake Martinez to serve as the number one middle linebacker after they released Alec Ogletree. This leaves the middle linebacker depth chart as such: Blake Martinez, David Mayo, Ryan Connelly, Tae Crowder, and TJ Brunson.

The Giants will most likely have to cut one of these players, and the further you are to the bottom, the better chances you have of being cut. Connelly needs to prove his worth to the new management if he wants to continue his play with the G-men. The new management will really hurt his chances of making the Giants. Joe Judge has no ties to Connelly; he didn’t draft him or sign him. Judge drafted/signed/resigned all the other middle linebackers currently on the roster. Especially with no preseason games, Connelly needs to show his worth as fast as possible.

New York Yankees make big infield change ahead of Wednesday’s game Vs. Baltimore

New York Yankees, Mike Ford

The New York Yankees face off against the Baltimore Orioles in a revised match-up after the series against the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed. The Orioles were expected to face off against the Miami Marlins, who have since had a COVID-19 outbreak within their ranks.

The last-minute change allows the Yankees to continue playing and retain their consistency. However, Opening Day’s lineup changed a bit, despite Gerrit Cole pitching against Baltimore.

The Yankees lineup Vs. Baltimore:

2B: DJ LeMaheiu

RF: Aaron Judge

SS: Gleyber Torres

DH: Giancarlo Stanton

CF: Aaron Hicks

1B: Mike Ford

C: Gary Sanche

3B: Gio Urshela

LF: Brett Gardner

The Yankees elected to go with Mike Ford at first base in the contest. Giving both Voit and Ford a chance to showcase their abilities is a good move, as the goal is ultimately to leave no stone unturned. Through three games, Voit is hitting .100 with one home run and one RBI. This will be Ford’s first action of the year, aside from one at-bar he earned a hit from.

Ford is one of the exciting young Yankees that have plenty of potential moving forward. Giving him opportunities to play live is only beneficial to the team, and if he struggles, they can always substitute Voit back in.

In for his rookie campaign in 2019, he hit .259 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs. Defensively, he committed three errors and logged a .985 fielding percentage. Compared to Voit, who earned a .989 fielding percentage and gave up seven errors.

New York Mets: The Home Series Preview Against the Boston Red Sox

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

The New York Mets got themselves back on track in Fenway Park with back to back victories to open up their four-game, home and home series with the Boston Red Sox. They revived their offense and received two good starting pitching outings from the back of their rotation. The Mets try to take the series as it shifts back to Citi Field.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Wednesday, July 29 @ 7:10 p.m. ET: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Thursday, July 30 @ 7:07 p.m. ET: Martin Perez (0-1, 7.20 ERA) vs. Steven Matz (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

The Mets are 3-2 thanks to two solid starts from Michael Wacha and David Peterson. After Rick Porcello struggled against the Atlanta Braves, significant questions were surrounding the starting rotation. Though those questions still linger, they have quieted thanks to Wacha and Peterson combining to allow three runs over 10.2 innings pitched.

Take the Sweep

The Mets have an excellent opportunity to sweep a struggling Red Sox team, who has lost four straight. The best two starters in the Mets staff will throw the final two games and were both impressive in their two starts against the Braves. deGrom has a career 3.46 ERA against the Red Sox, his highest against any American League team (min. 10 IP). Matz is making his first career start against the Sox.

The Mets are changing their lineup around for game one of the series as Andres Gimenez makes his first start at shortstop, and Rene Rivera does the catching for deGrom. Dominic Smith also makes his first start of the season in left field as manager Luis Rojas opts for offense over defense in the outfield.

Also, keep a lookout for the defense of Jeff McNeil at third base. He already has three errors through five games, the most he has made at any position in his career. Throwing has been the issue for McNeil, and despite Pete Alonso messing up a couple of scoops, his errors come when he does not put enough on his throws.

Matchups to Lookout For

Nathan Eovaldi vs. Yoenis Cespedes: 4-for-12 (.333), Double, 2 RBIs

Martin Perez vs. Yoenis Cespedes: 5-for-15 (.333), Double, Triple, RBI, 2 Walks,

Dellin Betances vs. Xander Bogaerts: 3-for-21 (.143), Double, 2 RBI, 8 Strikeouts