UFC: Alexander Volkanovski eyes two key fights for next title defense

Everything has been pretty quiet at the top of the featherweight division since UFC 251. Champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) has been in a state of limbo since he defeated the former champion, Max Holloway (21-6), for the second time.

The second fight was razor close, and at first, the UFC seemed interested in putting on the trilogy. However, Volkanovski didn’t seem interested as he had just defeated Holloway twice in his eyes. Can’t really blame the guy for wanting to move on.

Since then, the UFC has abandoned the idea. Now, Volkanovski is eyeing two key featherweight contests to determine who will face him next. Those two contests are the Chan Sung Jung – Brian Ortega fight and the Zabit Magomedsharipov – Yair Rodriguez fight.

Who will be the next contender for the UFC featherweight crown?

On the upcoming fights, the UFC featherweight champion said to MMA Junkie, “I want these guys to go out and take their number one contender spot. Right now, if someone was just given the shot, it’s not a big fight.” Volkanovski wants his next fight to generate a ton of interest.

“At the end of the day, it’s what the UFC and fans want. It also depends on their performances. If someone has a big knockout, submission or a dominant performance, it can solidify them as the next guy,” Volkanovski said.

Brian Ortega (14-1, 1 NC), Chan Sung Jung (16-5), Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1), and Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC) would all be deserving of a UFC title shot with a win. But whoever wins those contests must do it impressively. Sound like the most impressive could get the next shot at the champ.

What about Holloway?

As I pointed out above, originally the UFC was interested in a trilogy fight with Holloway. However, Volkanovski wants to see Holloway get active again in the division before he grants him another shot at the title. He does seem interested in the trilogy eventually.

“Even though I’m 2-0, there still seems to be unfinished business. I think it could definitely happen, but not anytime soon,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie. My guess is that Holloway is going to be paired up with someone like Calvin Kattar (22-4) before the year is over.

There is a lot of fluidity right now in the featherweight division. The UFC champ is happy to just watch it all play out. Whatever fight generates the most interest after all these matchups, Volkanovski will be ready for it and ready to defend.

MLB news: Few postseason games at Yankee Stadium as MLB and players agree to “bubble” locations

MLB and the MLBPA (baseball player’s association) have reportedly come to an agreement that will have postseason games at bubble locations. Both Ken Rosenthal of The Atlantic and Jess Passan of ESPN has reported the details, although an official announcement by MLB will not be made until later today.

The Wild card series for seeds 1-4 will be held at home parks for all three-game series. The American League Divisional series will be played in the bubble at Petco Park and Dodger Stadium. The ALCS will be played at Petco Park. The National League Divisional series will play at MinuteMaid Park and Globe Life Field. The NLCS will be held at Globe Life Field. The World Series will play entirely at the brand new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

On March 31, 2020, a new era for the Texas Rangers began with the opening of Globe Life Field in Arlington. The beautiful baseball-only facility serves as the centerpiece of a 270-acre complex that solidifies Arlington, Texas as an entertainment giant in the Southwest.  The beautiful new stadium has wonderful amenities, and is a beautifully designed stadium with a retractable roof. Postseason viewers won’t have to worry about rain causing delays.

Many New York Yankees fans were hoping that many of the games would be played at the Stadium in the Bronx.  Depending on how the rest of the season turns out, the Yankees may see the wild card game between the Yankees and the yet to be determined opponent at Yankee Stadium.

As more information becomes available, you will find it here on EmpireSportsMedia.com. Depend on EmpireSportsMedia.com for all the latest new for New York Market sports.

New York Liberty’s Jazmine Jones named to AP’s All-Rookie team

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty rookie is the first metropolitan representative on the list since a pair of showings in 2015.

Lou York City woke up to some good news on Tuesday.

New York Liberty draftee Jazmine Jones was one of five players named to the Associated Press’ WNBA All-Rookie Team. The Louisville alumna was chosen with the final first-round pick (12th overall) of April’s draft.

Jones’ rookie season wrapped on Sunday. Her name appeared at or near the top of several major statistical categories amongst first-years. She led her fellow debuts in steals (1.4 per game) and also finished fourth among them in scoring (10.8), sixth in assists (2.3). Overall, she also finished fifth in efficiency rating (10.2).

In New York’s Bradenton bubble endeavors, Jones was called upon to take an expanded role in the point guard position after the season-ending injury to top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu in July. Jones had not played the position since her high school days at Florida A&M’s Developmental Research School in Tallahassee, but earned positive reviews for stepping in. Her impact was felt immediately after Ionescu’s injury. When the top pick left July 31’s game against Atlanta with an ankle ailment, Jones went on to score 20 points in a narrow loss.

“Her stepping up and playing the PG, which is not really her position, she’s doing an incredible job of observing everything that Layshia (Clarendon) is doing, following her way,” veteran teammate Amanda Zahui B observed over the summer. “She also allows herself to make mistakes at first but then correct them. She’s a quick learner and she’s doing great.”

“The main thing about Jaz is her energy,” Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins added. “When she brings her energy, no matter what, she brings us a lot. It’s defensive, it’s toughness, swagger. Jaz has been huge for us.”

Jones ended her season on a strong note, scoring a team-best 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the Liberty’s season finale against the Dallas Wings on Sunday afternoon. Her infantile career-best game through 24 points on August 11 against Los Angeles. It kickstarted a streak of six consecutive games in double-figures for Jones.

Next season, Jones is expected to reunite with former Louisville teammate Asia Durr, the second overall pick of the 2019 draft. In the bubble, Jones was joined by another college teammate, Kylee Shook, who was chosen immediately after her at 13th overall.

Jones is the first Liberty representative on the AP’s rookie squad since 2015, when Brittany Boyd and recent re-signee Kiah Stokes each earned the honor. Other modern nominees for the team include Crystal Dangerfield (Minnesota), Chennedy Carter (Atlanta), Satou Sabally (Dallas), and Julia Allemand (Indiana).

The WNBA’s official awards will be announced throughout the course of the playoffs, which begin on Tuesday in Bradenton’s IMG Academy (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Giants’ Joe Judge raves about one positive from loss to Steelers

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one of the 2020 regular season, but there were some positive takeaways from their performance. Ranging from a speedy defense to a solid passing attack, the Giants showed glimpses of progress and improvement across the board. An injection of youth in the offensive line and new faces in the secondary proved to be tumultuous, but it was always going to be with no preseason snaps and the development of a new scheme on both sides of the ball.

Ultimately, second your quarterback Daniel Jones showed pros and cons, including pinpoint accuracy but also throwing two interceptions. One major positive was that he didn’t fumble the football, which he did on a regular basis last season. There were a number of hits that would have jarred the ball loose, but he held on with both hands and took new head coach Joe Judge’s opinion seriously.

Judge noted the mistakes his team made, at least the major ones, including an interception on a 19-play drive that resulted in seven points for the Steelers. Despite his noticeable frustration regarding losing the turnover battle and untimely penalties, he did harp on one positive thing.

“I’ll just tell you right now that I’m proud of how this team fought for 60 minutes,” Judge told reporters after the game. “That’s something I really wanted to see – you guys asked me earlier in the week what I wanted to see from this team, I wanted to see a team that played together for 60 minutes and fought regardless of score, circumstance or situation, and I saw that. I’m proud of how our guys played. Now, obviously there are some things that we have to do to clean up. The mark of a good team is improvement you can make moving on from Week 1. This next week we’ve got a big test, but we’ve got to stop with the turnovers, we’ve got to eliminate the unnecessary penalties, we have to do better at the end of the half, we have to finish ourselves in the red area, so those are the big things that stuck out right there.”

The Giants were always going to be in for a dog fight:

The Giants were severe underdogs entering the contest and were very close to keeping the game in check until Jones’s second interception. Aside from a nonexistent running game and poor run blocking, Jones managed to thread the needle on multiple third-down conversions and move the ball well with his receivers.

The passing game doesn’t seem to be a problem, but Saquon Barkley must be more effective, and the offensive line must do a better job opening holes for him to run through. I expect them to improve gradually as the season progresses, and it is important to remember they are still rebuilding. There were many positives to take away from the game, which is all we needed to justify this team is moving in the right direction.

Ex-Knick Jeremy Lin seeks NBA return

Jeremy Lin

Former New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin attempts to make an NBA comeback after playing one season in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

The 32-year old Lin made the emotional announcement to his seven million followers on his Weibo account.

“This decision has really been the hardest in my life,” Lin said in Mandarin. “Every morning I would wake up at 4 am or 5 am, thinking, thinking, and thinking all the time. In the end, although Shougang has treated me incredibly well … giving me everything I wanted, in the end, I feel that I still have NBA dreams. I still have time to play and I have to chase this.”

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Lin, who had a 10-year stint in the NBA, rose to fame in New York in the 2011-12 season.  The Harvard graduate led a depleted Knicks squad to an improbable run that sparked the Linsanity craze.

After his breakout season, he became an NBA journeyman and played for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, and Atlanta Hawks. His last stint with the Toronto Raptors made him the first Asian-American to win a ring in the NBA although he was used sparingly in the playoffs.

He posted 11.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.8 rebounds in 480 NBA regular-season games.

Last year, Lin took the CBA by storm averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists and led the Beijing Ducks to the semifinals for the first time in five years.  The Taiwanese-American also finished second in the All-Star balloting next to another ex-NBA player and CBA superstar Yi Jianlian.

Lin also thanked his Chinese fans in the heartfelt video saying it was a difficult decision to make.

“I know that many of my fans have stood by me no matter if I was injured,” Lin said. “Why was this decision so difficult? Yesterday, when I shared this with my family and friends when I told them I would have to leave China, I cried.”

Subsequently, his CBA team released a statement that they are not signing Lin to return for a second season.

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Lin will join a shallow free-agent market where his former Toronto Raptors teammate Fred Van Vleet and Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic lead the point guard list.

Yankees injury update: Gio Urshela positive news, Judge, Stanton on the cusp of return

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

The New York Yankees have willed themselves to a five-game winning streak, coming off a five-game losing streak last week. With Deivi Garcia on the mound for Tuesday’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays, they will be looking to extend their momentum and positive growth.

Thanks to Luke Voit’s offensive talents and Gleyber Torres’ return, the Yankees have seen a spark within their offense. However, their starting pitching has been the primary catalyst, pushing them forward and lasting deep into games. Nonetheless, the Yankees are close to injecting more talent into their lineup.

The Yankees are close to gaining back three major players:

“I think as we talk about Giancarlo (Stanton) and (Aaron) Judge coming back, rightfully so, sometimes we forget just how important Gio is to our team and what a good player he’s become. So we’re excited to get him back. And then Loaisiga was an important member of our bullpen, really pitching in several roles.”

The Yankees expect to return Gio Urshela from the injured list after dealing with bone spurs in his right elbow. He tried to fight through but ultimately landed on the injured list.
As one of their defensive leaders, Urshela is a staple on the hot corner. In his departure, DJ LeMahieu has filled the spot, and Thairo Estrada has been playing second base. His offense has been nonexistent. Having Gio back will prove to be significant, as he was hitting .272 with six home runs and 23 RBIs before going down.

“It’ll be easing them in,” Boone said. “Especially if we go short with — Giancarlo got at-bats down there (Sunday and Monday). Judge started (Monday). If we bring them back quickly, we’ll see them back and play, probably day off, and then play, day off, and then build them back hopefully for that last week they’re going three and four days in a row and every day. We’ll build them up those first seven days with a couple off days in there and then hopefully be in a position where we hit those final several games of the season, we’ll be ready to roll.”

Urshela’s return on Tuesday is significant, but the Yankees are also expecting to gain back Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton by the weekend. Having all three back in the lineup will finally give the Yankees some intimidation against opposing teams. They are on the cusp of the playoff race, currently in a wild-card spot. They need to win at least 75% of the remaining games to guarantee a spot in the postseason. Both Judge and Stanton were hitting over .290 and a defining force in the Yankees’ homer-centric mentality.

New York Yankees: Will Deivi Garcia’s September successes put him in the October mix?

New York Yankees, Deivi Garcia

The recent successes of New York Yankees‘ pitching sensation Deivi Garcia have put him in the postseason conversation. Garcia, in his major league debut on August 30th, he pitched six solid innings, striking out 6 Mets, with no earned runs. Although he didn’t get the win, the Yankees did win the game. In his second outing, he hit a bump in the road and gave up four earned runs in the Yankee loss to the Orioles, but he still struck out 6. In his last outing, he was masterful in his first major league win over the Blue Jays. He went seven innings and 95 pitches while striking out six Jays. It was his third consecutive game striking out six opponents.

Tonight he will again face the Toronto Blue Jays in the fourth start of his major league debut.  If he wins tonight, he will push the Blue Jays back into third place. In his last game, he mixed up his pitches well, retiring the last 18 of 20 Jays he faced. He was asked if he will change anything after just facing them last week.

“I don’t think so. The plan of attack is based on aggressiveness and being competitive out there, that’s the bottom line, being competitive and able to execute.’’

What impresses onlookers and the Yankee brass is that he is unflappable, and his confidence shines through, no matter what the situation.  For a young 21-year-old, Garcia exhibits the confidence on the mound of a veteran with much more experience. Garcia is getting praise out of the Yankee realm as well. After his major league debut, he received a call from Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez of Boston Red Sox fame, congratulating the young man.  Tonight when Garcia takes the mound, he will carry the number 45 emblazoned on his belt (Pedro Martinez’s number).

Garcia, at some point, will most likely talk with Martinez again. Regardless of the confidence Garcia shows on the mound, off the mound, he is a sponge, learning everything he can.

“Every experience is unique, and you learn from those,” Garcia said. “I learn from my teammates. How do they go about their responsibilities on and off the field, the professionalism as baseball players and the preparation? Building a plan to face a team … What goes into that? How do you prepare for that?

“They’re very important for me as a player, just the experience itself and gaining as much as I can.”

With some of the New York Yankee pitching faltering, Deivi Garcia was called up to do the unimaginable for a young pitcher to turn the tides of the Yankees, who had lost the last 15 of 20 games.  He didn’t disappoint; he started the Yankees on their present five-game winning streak. When asked if he would ever be put in this critical situation, just entering the major leagues, he said:

“That has always been in my head and the goal,’’ said Garcia, who pitched at three levels of the Yankees’ system last year. “It did happen fast for me, but at the same time, the preparation and many years of work and continuous preparation has allowed me to feel comfortable here.’’

García signed with the New York Yankees during July of 2015 for a $200k signing bonus. Though he previously played baseball as an infielder and outfielder, the Yankees were determined to have him become a Yankee pitcher, due to his curveball and arm strength. For the next two years, trainers worked with Garcia at the Boca Chica facility. In 2018, García pitched for the Charleston River Dogs and the Tampa Tarpons. He made his final start of 2018 with the Trenton Thunder AA Yankee minor league affiliate as he continued to rocket through the minors.

Following the 2019 season, the Yankees added García to their 40 man roster to protect him from becoming eligible in the Rule 5 draft. García was named minor league pitcher of the year in the Yankees organization in 2019. He made his major league debut for the Yankees on August 30th.

Whether Garcia pitches in this postseason is unknown at this time, It depends on injuries and the return of James Paxton, and if he can be effective after his injury. After tonight, he will most likely face the Blue Jays again, that time will be back in Buffalo. Even if he doesn’t pitch in the postseason, Garcia will have an impact on the Yankees for years to come. His next two starts, could seal the deal, and we will see this young man make his mark in his first postseason play.

Other than Garcia’s start tonight, the Yankees will have more to look forward too.  Gio Urshela, star third baseman, will return to the lineup, putting DJ LeMahieu back at second base. Jonathan Loaisiga will also return tonight, bolstering the bullpen. On the immediate horizon is the return of sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and the Yankees will be nearly whole again going into the postseason.

 

 

Could the UFC book Conor McGregor – Tony Ferguson?

Conor McGregor, UFC

The biggest star the UFC has ever seen, is going through more troubles. Just a few days ago, it was reported that Conor McGregor (22-4) was arrested and questioned for alleged indecent exposure. Additional details came out yesterday.

The UFC star finds himself in another round of negative headlines outside of the cage. 2020 was supposed to be the biggest year of Conor McGregor’s UFC career as he attempted his comeback season with the promotion.

It couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Back in January at UFC 246, McGregor blitzed through Donald Cerrone in under a minute. McGregor looked focused, and it was the best mentally we had seem him in a very long time. It appeared he was back.

However, the pandemic really through a wrench in everything. The UFC couldn’t put together a fight for him, and Dana White wanted him to wait for the winner of Gaethje – Khabib. A frustrated McGregor retired because he simply wanted to fight.

Despite saying he’s retired from the UFC, McGregor is still being tested by USADA. To me, the best thing for McGregor would be to get a fight booked in the UFC. With that, could the promotion book him against Tony Ferguson (25-4)?

Can the UFC pull it off?

Tony Ferguson is in a bit of a weird spot. It appeared that he was going to fight Dustin Poirier in October at UFC 254, but the fight fell apart due to financial negotiations with Poirier. Ferguson came out yesterday asking the UFC to pay Poirier to make the fight happen.

Dana White said that the promotion is moving on to another fight for Ferguson. One of the options out there is free agent Michael Chandler who could jump right to the top with a fight against Ferguson. However, a McGregor – Ferguson fight could be just what the doctor ordered.

The UFC is fully capable of running and succeeding without Conor McGregor, but there’s no questioning what the Notorious one brings to the table. Love him or hate him, I believe most would want to see him stay active inside the UFC.

A fight against Ferguson would allow McGregor to rededicate his mind to MMA, and get away from the noise. It would also give Ferguson the fight he’s been asking for, for years. Not sure it’s possible, but if I’m the UFC, it’s something I pursue.

New York Mets Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (9/15-9/17)

New York Mets, Luis Rojas

The last New York Mets series preview against the Philadelphia Phillies, at the time, was the most important series of the season. This three-game series has the same importance times ten as there are only two weeks left in the season. The Mets are 2.5 games behind the Phillies for the first wild card spot and two games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second spot.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, (9/15) @ 7:05 p.m. ET: Rick Porcello (1-4, 6.07 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (3-4, 5.54 ERA)

Wednesday, (9/16) @ 7:05 p.m. ET: Jacob deGrom (4-1, 1.67 ERA) vs. TBD

Thursday, (9/17) @ 7:05 p.m. ET: Seth Lugo (2-3, 2.63 ERA) vs. TBD

Over the last 24 hours, you cannot talk about the Mets without the fantastic news of Steve Cohen signing an agreement to own 95% of the franchise. If the Mets do not make the playoffs, at least knowing Cohen is all but certain to own the team alleviates the pain.

Win or Go Home

The first game should get the same treatment a game seven would. Rick Porcello has struggled to find consistency all season and must have a short leash in game one. With Jacob deGrom and Seth Lugo following Porcello, it gives the Mets the best chance to win no matter who they face. Most likely, they will face Aaron Nola at some point in the series as well.

Beating Jake Arrieta is no easy task. He compiled two solid starts in a row, with the first coming against the Mets. As always, the ultimate goal is getting to the bullpen early in the game. It is a major Achilles heel for the Phillies, and Arrieta throws a lot of pitches early in the game, which helps the Mets cause.

With all the disappointment flooding the Mets season, they still have an opportunity to erase that during this series. Winning two is a must; three is a dream, and anything less spells the end of their season. The Phillies are the last opponent they play, which allows them to move up in the wild card hunt with victories automatically.

Stats to Lookout For

Rick Porcello vs. Didi Gregorious: 7-for-43 (.163), 2 Doubles, 2 Home Runs, 3 Walks, 7 Strikeouts

Jake Arrieta vs. Robinson Cano: 6-for-34 (.176), 2 Doubles, 4 Walks, 7 Strikeouts

Jake Arrieta vs. Jeff McNeil: 13-for-23 (.565), Double, Home Run, Strikeout

Jacob deGrom vs. Bryce Harper: 11-for-36 (.306), 2 Doubles, 2 Home Runs, 8 Walks, 12 Strikeouts

New York Giants: 3 players who stood out in loss to Steelers

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants made plenty of mistakes against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one of the 2020 regular season, but they also showed plenty of promise. It was always going to be a tumultuous task to take down a strong Pittsburgh team, composed of veterans and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Ultimately, they were too much for the Giants to handle with a new head coaching staff and 13 new starters on the roster. Nonetheless, they exerted plenty of energy and flew around the field in the first half of the game. Heading into the second quarter down just six points, the Giants had their opportunities to stay in the game, but a costly interception in the red zone by Daniel Jones lost the momentum.

Cutting down the turnovers and better offensive line play will prove to be a significant catalyst for success moving forward, but it will take time for the team to gel.

HOT ARTICLE: Good news and bad news following tough loss to Pittsburgh 

Three New York Giants’ players who stood out in loss to the Steelers:

1.) Blake Martinez

The Giants replaced Alec Ogletree with Blake Martinez this off-season, and he had a stellar game against the Steelers on Monday night. Racking up 12 total tackles and eight solos, Martinez was flying around the field and played extremely well in run defense. He was fine in coverage but was tasked primarily with stopping the run. He was a standup performer for the Giants on defense and proved his worth. I expect him to be a focal point for them moving forward.