Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa have heated interview ahead of UFC 253

One of the more anticipated fights of 2020 is the fight between Israel Adesanya (19-0) and Paulo Costa (13-0). The two undefeated fighters will fight for the middleweight crown at UFC 253.

The one thing that is very clear it’s that these two do not like each other. In fact, you could say the two top UFC fighters hate each other. Their hatred for each other was on full display in a recent interview on SportsCenter.

UFC 253 is Getting a War

“He’s (Adesanya) not a respectable guy,” Costa said. “The sport doesn’t need his attitude to sell a good fight. He says he’s not boring, look at his last fight…If you fight someone like Romero or me, you need to come to fight. He just stood there… I will bring the fight, I will bring the war,” Costa yelled at Adesanya.

Adesanya responded quickly showing off his 2019 UFC Fight of the Year trophy saying, “That’s just one, I’ve got many.” Adesanya yelled back at Costa saying, “When someone brings the fight, I f–cking fight. You say you’re going to bring the fight, bring that s–t! I’ll show you what I’m about.”

This was just one of the many exchanges throughout the full eleven minute video that you can view above. This fight is truly a matchup between the two best in the UFC‘s middleweight division. We have not seen a title fight between two undefeated fighters since UFC 98 back in 2009.

Technically we had DC/Jones, but Jones had that one DQ loss on his record. These two are undefeated and two of the baddest men on the planet. Costa is right about one thing, all he knows how to do is bring war to his opponents.

Adesanya might be the best technical striker in the UFC and he will have to lean on his countering skills in this one. Costa is going to give him no room to operate so Izzy is going to have to be elusive and catch him coming in. I can’t wait for this fight and we have just over a month to wait.

New York Yankees Analysis: With the season nearly half over, what’s the state of the Yankees?

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

With the shortened MLB season nearly at its midpoint, how do the New York Yankees stack up? The simple answer right now is, that the once favored Yankees have now lost East Division to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees can turn it around, but some big changes will have to happen for that to occur, and they must happen quickly.

Taking the most negative viewpoint that I can, the Yankee pitching stinks, many of the bats are dead, the Yankees have a catcher and a shortstop that can’t get the job done, either at bat or with their fielding. At a crucial time in the season, the Yankee also have their three most valuable players on the IL.  So the Yankees have pitchers that can’t pitch deep into games, and a “B” lineup, except for a few, can’t hit the ball.

Continuing on the negative bent, other than Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, who is the number two starter, has a 1-1 record with an ERA near 7 in five starts. Next in the rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, he’s 0-1 in four starts with an ERA of 4.60. Next up is J.A. Happ, he’s 1-1 with an ERA of 6.39, then there’s Jordan Montgomery, in his four games he is 2-1 but still with an elevated ERA of 4.66.  Besides Cole, that is a rotation ERA averaging 5.84, or in real terms, they give up nearly six runs over nine innings. You can’t give up six runs and expect to win games. Compare that to the Rays rotation ERA of 3.66.

On the hitting side of the situation, Miguel Andujar is hitting .095, Gary Sanchez is hitting .132, Brett Gardner is hitting .176, Mike Ford is hitting .175, Wade .190, Hicks .222,  and Torres .231. That’s seven hitting at .231 or below. That’s a problem.  Although the Yankees have had a couple of small ball games, they have had to rely on the home run.  And with few on base, it reduces the value of those home runs.

Looking at these facts, it’s amazing the Yankees are even second in the East.  But the positive outlook explains why they are. We must mention that the NL East teams outside of the Atlanta Braves stink, as do most of the AL East teams.  The big thorn for the Yankees is the Tampa Bay Rays; the Yankees have a 1-6 record off the first-place Rays.

Gerrit Cole has been, as expected, amazing, winning his first five starts. Zack Britton, who was asked to be the closer for the New York Yankees in Aroldis Chapman’s absence due to the coronavirus.  Britton has saved all of his save opportunities.  Reliever Chad Green has been dominant. He has pitched 12.2 innings across nine games, allowing only one run.  Coincidentally, the Yankees have won every single game that Chad Green has pitched in.

On the hitting side, DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Mike Tauchman, and Gio Urshela have been bright spots, both behind the plate and in the field.  Urshela has the third most home runs on the season, and his defense has been nothing short of amazing, last night diving into the Rays bullpen to make an out.  Stanton had a new plate discipline and a batting average hovering at .300. Luke Voit has emerged like a thunderbolt to overtake Aaron Judge for the most homers on the team (10).

Mike Tauchman has been a standout so far this season, his defense on the field, wherever he is placed, has been excellent. Add to that the T-Man has been an outstanding hitter.  Only DJ LeMahieu has a higher batting average.  Clint Frazier, not playing in all games, has two homers and has shown signs of greatness, with much-improved field play.

Looking at the injury situation, this short season is beginning to equate the 2019 season.  These players are either on the IL, or their status is unclear.  Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring), Aaron Judge (calf), Luis Severino (elbow), Tommy Kahnle (elbow), DJ LeMahieu (thumb), Zack Britton (hamstring), Kyle Higashioka (oblique), James Paxton (forearm), and Gleyber Torres (hamstring).  Outside of Aaron Judge, the rest of the players on the list will be out at least another week.

Other than the injuries, the Yankees have been relatively lucky.  The shortened season allows previously injured players to start the season. The Yankees also have remained relatively untouched by the coronavirus that has ravaged a few MBL teams.

So averaging the negatives with the positives, where does that leave the New York Yankees going forward into the second half of the season. The Yankees must get healthy again and quickly.  Slugger Aaron Judge may be back with the team this weekend.  But Yankees fans will have to wait another week or so for the return of Stanton and LeMahieu, and now the status of others unclear.

The Yankees hitters that are not performing have to start hitting and creating some runner on base, so when the big bats hit, those won’t be solo home runs.  Manager Aaron Boone with all the injuries is having less and less choice as to who he can plug in during dire situations. One thing he should do is stop using the not performing Brett Gardner instead of the hot Mike Tauchman.

The New York Yankees have to do a 360 and turn around the pitching ills, and lack of hitting, if they are to get to the postseason at all.  The pitching staff as it is will not fear well against postseason pitchers.  The Yankee may have to be more active before the trade deadline.  We now have only one backup catcher, that is a problem. We also have to replace J.A. Happ with an acquisition or with the likes of Clarke Schmidt, who they have not utilized.

The Yankees now appear to miss an easier series with the Mets, due to some Mets staff testing positive.  Then they will again face the Braves, and it’s back to another three-game series with the Rays. The Yankee must find a way to win against the Rays. There are only five weeks left to the season; the Yankees can not continue to lose games.  Each and every game as the season progress takes on even more importance.  Are the Yankees up to the challenge?  The next few weeks will tell. As a life long Yankee fan, I certainly hope so.

UFC Vegas 7 Preview: Will Pedro Munhoz spoil Frankie Edgar’s bantamweight debut?

Pedro Munhoz, UFC

Tomorrow night, the UFC is back at it for their seventh event at the APEX since returning earlier this summer. In the main event of the evening, Frankie Edgar (23-8-1) will be making his bantamweight debut against Pedro Munhoz (18-4). Let’s take a dive into the main card for tomorrow night.

Munhoz welcomes Edgar to the UFC’s bantamweight division

At 38 years old, Frankie Edgar is going to be competing in his third weight class inside the UFC. He might be competing in the weight class that has been best suited for him this whole time. Pedro Munhoz is the perfect guy to test that theory.

Edgar comes down to bantamweight after losing his last two fights at featherweight although one was a short notice loss to Chan Sung Jung back in December. Edgar bailed the UFC out by taking the last minute fight to preserve a main event. He got finished for his efforts.

Before that, Edgar fought to a decision loss with then champion, Max Holloway. It was Edgar’s third featherweight title shot and he went 0-3 in those shots. Edgar is the former UFC lightweight champion and one of the better fighters of this last era.

Edgar is known for his speed, his footwork, his cardio, and his wrestling. While always being the smallest guy at lightweight and many times at featherweight, he would have an advantage in most of those categories. It’ll be interesting to see if it translates to bantamweight.

Pedro Munhoz really blew up when he knocked out former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt, back at UFC 235. Munhoz was always considered a very solid contender, but that was the first time people really got to see him on a championship level.

Munhoz is coming off of a decision loss to top contender, Aljamain Sterling. Had Munhoz won that fight, he might have fought for the title. Munhoz has good striking with good power. He also has very good submissions with his signature being his guillotine.

This is such an interesting matchup. While you’d think the guy coming down would have the strength/power advantage, that’s not the case. I would give those advantages to the guy who’s competed at bantamweight, Munhoz.

To me, the fight comes down to how it ends. If there’s a stoppage whether it be submission or knockout, Pedro Munhoz will win this fight. If it goes the distance, Edgar’s activity will be enough. I believe Edgar is still durable enough to make it five rounds, and I think he’s going to have a close but successful debut at bantamweight tomorrow night.

Prediction: Frankie Edgar by Unanimous Decision

Ovince St. Preux vs Alonzo Menifield

After one weird fight at heavyweight, Ovince St. Preux (24-14) heads back to the UFC‘s light heavyweight division against Alonzo Menifield (9-1) in the co-main event of the evening.

OSP has been a consistent light heavyweight contender over the years. He’s got good power, good submissions, and good wrestling. He’s used those tools to get wins over guys like Corey Anderson, Shogun Rua, and Yushin Okami.

OSP most notably stepped in for Daniel Cormier to fight Jon Jones at UFC 197 for the interim light heavyweight title. While Jones won the fight, OSP at least proved that he could stand in there with the greatest of all time.

St. Preux made the choice to try to move up to heavyweight in his last fight back in May against Ben Rothwell. While OSP had moments, his lack of activity led to his split decision loss. After one attempt, it’s back to the 205 well for OSP.

Heading into UFC 250, Alonzo Menifield was 9-0 with all nine wins coming via stoppage. Six of those wins came in the first round and he never saw a third round. That all changed that night.

Devin Clark was able to withstand the power and drag Menifield into a decision fight. We saw that Menifield does not have a style that carries well over three rounds and Clark got the decision victory.

With Menifield, you know what you’re going to get. He’s a world beater in the first round and even early in the second, but if you can survive that, you should be okay. The opening minutes will say a lot about the outcome.

Can Menifield catch OSP and put him away or can St. Preux drag Menifield into some deep water. St. Preux has only been finished twice in his UFC career with the last one coming in 2016 to Jimi Manuwa.

I keep going back and forth because I can see both men winning. I can easily see Menifield getting the knockout, and I can also see OSP surviving to get a decision. With no confidence at all, I’m going to say OSP gets dropped early, but is able to survive and win the final two rounds to edge Menifield in the co-main event.

Prediction: Ovince St. Preux by Unanimous Decision

Mike Rodriguez vs Marcin Prachnio

The third fight on the main card pairs a couple of UFC light heavyweights against each other as “Slow” Mike Rodriguez (10-4, 1 NC) takes on Marcin Prachnio (13-4).

This is the first fight in two years for Prachnio. Prachnio made his UFC debut back in February of 2018 with a decent amount of hype. He came over from One Championship and was riding a eight fight winning streak.

In those eight fights, he had two decision wins and six first round knockouts. Many people were excited to see him, but he completely failed to deliver in his first two UFC fights.

The karate black belt was knocked out twice in the first round by Sam Alvey and Magomed Ankalaev. After that, he disappeared for a couple of years. Those fights were atrocious, but Prachnio does have good skills and striking. We just don’t know what were going to get with him.

Rodriguez got a contract after a flying knee knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series. However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for him inside the promotion. He’s really gone 1-3, but one of the losses was overturned to a no contest.

Rodriguez has good size and pretty good power for the division. He fights very long and will come at you with a variety of strikes on the feet. He’s awkward to fight, but he’s very effective when he’s on.

This is such a weird fight for the main card, and a difficult one to predict. Prachnio is not as bad as he looked in his first two fights, but I’m also not sold that he’s very good. Frankly, I’m not sure what to expect, but I think we see a finish in the second round in this one.

Prediction: Mike Rodriguez by TKO – Round 2

Takashi Sato vs Daniel Rodriguez

A popular fight of the night pick comes your way in the second fight of the evening as exciting UFC prospects Takashi Sato (16-3) and Daniel Rodriguez (12-1) go head-to-head.

In his last fight in June, Sato showed just how dangerous and clean his striking was. Taking on UFC newcomer, Jason Witt, Sato got the win in just 48 seconds. It was Sato’s second win by TKO since joining the promotion.

In three fights since making the jump from Pancrase, Sato is 2-1 with his one loss being to Belal Muhammad. In that fight, Muhammad dominated with his wrestling and got the submission. Sato should thrive in a matchup that is contested on the feet.

Daniel Rodriguez wasn’t given a UFC contract after his Contender Series appearance, but that didn’t slow him down. He went out and got a quick second round finish in his next fight to get the call up to the big leagues.

In two fights, Rodriguez has a submission over Tim Means and a decision of Gabriel Green. Rodriguez has tremendous power and very good striking. He also has good submission skills if the fight hits the mat.

In analyzing this fight, I keep thinking about striking technique. This fight should be a stand up war, and I like Sato’s technique more. I also believe that he has a little more diversity in his attack. This is another close matchup, but I like Sato in this one.

Prediction: Takashi Sato by Unanimous Decision

Mariya Agapova vs Shana Dobson

The opening fight of the main card is truly a showcase fight for flyweight prospect Mariya Agapova (9-1) as she takes on Shana Dobson (3-4).

At just 23 years old, Agapova is one of the brightest prospects in women’s MMA. She’s good on the feet, she’s good on the ground, she’s honestly good everywhere. Agapova is the true total package.

In her UFC debut back in June, she absolutely stormed through Hannah Cifers. It was her third straight first round finish (two by submission). Agapova looks to be the real deal in the flyweight division.

Dobson comes into this fight on a three fight losing streak. She’s a veteran of the Ultimate Fighter, but if you count her stint on the show, she’s just 1-4 in her last five fights. That one win wasn’t very impressive either.

There is really not an area of this fight where I believe Dobson has an advantage. In a way she’s playing the role of sacrificial lamb. Her only chance is really to land a flukey punch. I don’t foresee this fight going very long.

Prediction: Mariya Agapova by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 1

UFC Vegas 7 Outlook

This is such a fun fight card when you break it down. UFC on Vegas 7 has five main card fights, and four of them could truly go either way. I’m very curious to see how Frankie Edgar looks in his bantamweight debut. If Munhoz can spoil the party, it’ll be the biggest win of his career.

Can Leon Rose turn New York Knicks pick to ‘Lucky 8’?

New York Knicks, Leon Rose

There was no beginner’s luck for New York Knicks team president Leon Rose.

Not even a lucky bracelet with the inscription “We Are One” from their cancer-stricken super fan Antonio Sellers could help Rose break the team’s Draft Lottery curse Thursday night.

Armed with the sixth-best chance to win the Lottery, the Knicks struck out anew and even fell two spots down. They settled with the eight pick, extending their long streak of not moving up in the NBA Draft to 17.

Minnesota grabbed the chance to select at No. 1 with Golden State, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Detroit to pick ahead of New York.

With a Draft Class relatively weaker than the previous years and with the absence of personal workouts due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s going to be a tricky selection process.

This early, the Timberwolves and the Warriors are hinting that they are not closing their doors on trading their picks.

“We have an open mind as we go through all of this,” Minnesota team president Gersson Rosas per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “We want to do what’s best for this organization. And it means being thorough, being diligent and looking at every option. Draft, trade, free agency, whatever the case may be.”

The Warriors, meanwhile, don’t have any idea yet what to do or what can they get in return for their second pick.

“We don’t really know anything at this point…I have no idea what the value is for that pick… We don’t entirely control the draft but all we have to like is two guys to be happy,” Warriors GM Bob Myers per 97.5 The Game.

This gives the Knicks a chance to move up for LaMelo Ball, the top point guard in their Draft Board. But everything will still depend if they can come up with the package that these teams in win-now mode would be looking for.

There’s also a scenario where they can attach the eight pick in a package for larger trade to get a disgruntled star or a solid veteran that can move the needle. 

Rose has been prudent and calculating with his recent front office moves and coaching hires. It is expected that he will do the same with his first Draft.

Even if they stand pat, they still can get a point guard at eight pick. With Ball and top international prospect Killian Hayes likely to be picked early, the Knicks can settle with the likes of Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, Duke standout, and ex-Knick Greg Anthony’s son Cole Anthony or Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey.

They can also opt for the next best available talent regardless of position.

Rose will have multiple options, and this is where his assistant GM and lead college scout Walter Perrin’s intel becomes valuable. Perhaps Perrin can find another hidden gem in the mold of a Gordon Hayward (2010 9th pick) or a Donovan Mitchell (2017 13th pick) from the Draft.

Rose may have run out of luck in the Lottery, but the lawyer-agent turned basketball executive knows how to grind and hustle to get what he wants.

New York Giants: Joe Judge raves about Evan Engram, is it finally time for him to breakout?

New York Giants, Giants, Evan Engram

Sifting through the teaching moments and F-bombs during practice to find the positives can be difficult when it comes to New York Giants’ head coach Joe Judge. However, when he says something positive, you have to take it seriously considering the intensity he brings to the team and media.

On Thursday, the Giants held their fourth practice of intensified monthly training leading up to the regular season.

One of the stand out players through four days has been tight end Evan Engram, who Judge has raved about since joining on Monday.

Evidently, Engram missed eight games during the 2019 season with a mid-foot sprain suffered against the New England Patriots. Staying healthy has been Engram’s biggest challenge, but when he is available and on the field, he’s one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.

During his rookie season, starting in 11 games and making 15 appearances, Evan posted 722 yards and six scores. That is just a small glimpse into the potential he holds, and Judge knows what his influence on offense can be.

Here’s what New York Giants head coach Joe Judge had to say about Engram in his daily press conference:

“There’s a difference between being in shape and training, and he came in here ready to train… he’s got a high motor and a large gas tank… he’s one of the guys I tell constantly ‘man I really enjoy watching you practice'”

“The way he works every day and the attention to detail … To me, it’s always ‘Can this guy reach his potential based on how he’s working?’ This guy has a high ceiling. He’s very, very talented.”

Engram is best utilized on mesh and seam concepts, which will be utilized by new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Considering how frequently Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin thrashed the Giants over the past few seasons, we can expect tight ends and a heavy rushing attack to be the focal point of the offense. That means Engram and Saquon Barkley will get plenty of reps. All of you, fantasy football players, should note that.

It is hugely positive to see Judge making positive statements regarding Engram, as most have given up on him this point. Going into his fourth year, the Giants have already picked up the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, so we will see at least one more season of the speedy tight end in blue.

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees suffer their first sweep at Yankee Stadium since 2017

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino

Yesterday was not a good day for the New York Yankees.  The Tampa Bay Rays swept the Yankees during a matinee game at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees also found out that set up man Zack Britton had a hamstring injury. Hamstrings usually take a few weeks to heal. Later in the day during the game, Gleyber Torres was pulled from the game with a supposed injury after stumbling running the bases. After the third loss in a row to the Rays, Paxton was found to have an elbow problem. He was sent for an MRI.

Not only does it seem the New York Yankees can’t ward off the injury bug, they also can’t ward off the Tampa Bay Rays. For the third day in a row, the Rays were victorious over the Yankees.  Yesterday’s game marked the first time since 2017 that the Yankees have been swept at Yankee Stadium. The 2017 sweep was by the Cleveland Indians.

After an encouraging start by James Paxton on August 15th, against the Red Sox, when he went five innings giving up three runs, Paxton imploded in the fifth, giving up three runs.  This time the bad inning may have been caused by an elbow injury.  In his Red Sox start, he cruised along scoreless for two innings with an increased fastball. Yesterday he increased that to four innings, but the result was the same, a failed start.

Paxton looked good at the start as he put down the Rays hitters, one, two, three in the first inning. The most exciting time for the Yankees came in the bottom of the first inning when Luke Voit stepped to the plate and hit a monster blast into monument park, his fifth home run in the last four games. In the bottom of the third while base running Gleyber Torres endured some type of injury, but Mike Tauchman scored making it 2-0 Yankees.

At the top of the fourth inning James Paxton again put down the Rays in order, and it was beginning to look like the Yankees finally would win a game against the Rays. But then everything went south. At the top of the fifth Paxton got his seventh strikeout, then with two on, Joey Wendle hit a double into the left-field corning, scoring Adames and Margot, all the way from first.  Just like that the game was tied.  Wendle scored on a sac fly, and the Rays took the lead.

At the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees would take the lead back when Gio Urshela hit his fourth home run of the season, a two-run shot well into the left-field stands. Yankees 4, Rays 3.  But things would get much worse for the Yankees when the bullpen failed them. Adam Ottavino in relief of Paxton gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning, in the sixth, Luis Avilan followed completing the inning by giving up another two runs to the Rays. Jonathan Holder then pitched two clean innings followed by Luis Cessa giving up another two runs in the ninth for the final score of Ray 10 and the Yankees 5.

This third game exacerbated an already bad pitching picture for the Yankees, the starter failed and the bullpen failed mightily. Adam Ottavino took the loss and Castillo the win for the Rays.