What’s next for Benson Henderson after Bellator 253?

Benson Henderson

This past week at Bellator 253, former lightweight world champion, Benson Henderson (28-10), moved up to the welterweight division. Henderson moved up to take on Jason Jackson in what was his second fight in Bellator‘s welterweight division.

Benson Henderson fought in the welterweight division when he first jumped to Bellator and was dominated. Now to his credit, he was successful in his final two UFC fights which both came at welterweight.

After his failed attempt in Bellator, Henderson decided to move back to his natural weight at 155. Henderson is 5-3 in his eight fights at lightweight in Bellator with two of those losses coming to Michael Chandler.

Back in August, Henderson was knocked out by Michael Chandler in what turned out to be Chandler’s final fight with Bellator. That loss had snapped a four fight winning streak for the former world champion.

After the loss, Henderson made the interesting decision to move up to welterweight to fight Jackson. Henderson looked like the much smaller man at Bellator 253. There was a massive size discrepancy between the two and it played out in the fight.

Henderson appeared to be out of reach all night and he was clearly not as strong in the grappling exchanges. He lost all three rounds on the judges scorecards. After the fight, Scott Coker said he’d like Henderson to return to lightweight. 

What’s next after Bellator 253?

I completely agree with Coker in that Henderson needs to return to lightweight. Bellator doesn’t need to be offering Henderson anymore fights at welterweight seeing as he’s 0-2 in that weight class and both fights were not close.

Again, Henderson had won four in a row prior to the Chandler fight. Had Henderson won that fight against Chandler, he would have likely earned a shot at the Bellator lightweight championship.

I think the promotion should book him against one of the top contenders at 155. If he looks impressive in his next fight at lightweight, you could make the argument that he should fight Patricio Pitbull again. Henderson does have a win over the Bellator champ but it did come via injury.

UFC books Pedro Munhoz – Jimmie Rivera 2

Pedro Munhoz, UFC

The UFC has booked a big time bantamweight matchup for their card on January 30th. First reported by MMA Junkie, the promotion has finalized a rematch between top bantamweights Pedro Munhoz (18-5, 1 NC) and Jimmie Rivera (23-4).

These two top ten UFC bantamweights first fought back in 2015. That night, Rivera was able to edge Pedro Munhoz by split decision. For Jimmie Rivera, he will be looking to pick up his second consecutive victory.

The last time we saw Rivera was back on July 15th when he took on Cody Stamann. That night, Rivera was able to snap his two fight losing streak and pick up the unanimous decision victory.

Rivera has been one of the best bantamweights inside the UFC for some time now. Since joining the promotion back in 2015, he’s lost three times but those three opponents were Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and Marlon Moraes.

Outside of those three, Rivera hasn’t been challenged much in the UFC. He’s gone to a decision multiple times and the only man to have forced a split decision will be the guy he’s taking on January 30th.

UFC bantamweight showdown

Pedro Munhoz will be trying to avenge the first Rivera loss and get back on the winning side of things on January 30th. Munhoz has lost two which is the first time that’s happened to him in his UFC career.

Munhoz is coming off of a split decision loss to Frankie Edgar back in August. The former UFC lightweight champion was making his bantamweight debut against Munhoz. In a five round war, either man could have walked away with their hand raised.

The majority of media members believed that Munhoz won that fight. However, the judges gave it to the former UFC champion. Prior to that loss, Munhoz had lost a unanimous decision to Aljamain Sterling which snapped a three fight winning streak.

Both of these men are looking to take another step towards the UFC title. A win is massively important for both, however, there has to be a ton of pressure on Munhoz having lost two in a row. Should be a fun one on January 30th.

Three stars from the New York Jets’ Sunday loss at Los Angeles

Far removed from the playoff picture, the New York Jets engaged the Chargers in a strong duel despite another defeat.

Justin Herbert threw for 366 yards, with 145 of those tallies and 16 receptions going to Keenan Allen, and the Los Angeles Chargers doomed the New York Jets to yet another defeat, topping Gang Green by a 34-28 final in the latter’s first visit to SoFi Stadium. Joe Flacco had 205 yards and two scores for the Jets (0-10), who managed to earn three sacks on the rookie Herbert. If anything, Jets fans certainly see Sunday as a win if only because they hold their ground in the battle for the top overall pick in 2021. In contrast, Los Angeles (3-7) now sits in sixth after their victory.

ESM looks back on three stars for the Jets in their latest, entertaining defeat…

3rd Star: WR Denzel Mims

3 receptions, 71 yards

It took a while to truly get things rolling, but the Jets did enjoy some production from their healthy top receiver trio. Jamison Crowder was mostly held in check, but Breshad Perriman hauled in 54 yards on a pair of receptions, one of which was a 49-yard grab that started the Jets’ second half surge. Mims had his moments to shine in the second half, earning a trio of receptions in dramatic fashion, as his highlight reel grabs are perhaps the Jets’ strongest beacons of hope going forward. One could argue that Mims probably could’ve had the game-tying score, but no penalty was called despite contact from Tevaughn Campbell.

Once Mims learns how to play a full game, he’ll truly be dangerous. Perhaps the return of Sam Darnold could help unlock the final stages of his rookie development in the coming weeks, consisting of games that become far more watchable with Mims in tow.

2nd Star: TE Chris Herndon

2 reception, 32 yards, 1 TD

Sunday began to offer some hope for the career of Herndon for perhaps the first time since his promising rookie season. Last year was a wash due to a suspension and injuries, while this ongoing campaign has been defined by some tough drops in less-than-ideal situations. But while the stats were pedestrian to the naked eye, the visit to the west coast could serve as a good chance for Herndon to mentally prepare himself for a big final stretch, especially with his rookie camp roommate Sam Darnold possibly set to return in the near future.

Herndon had two receptions, but both came in major opportunities. A diving grab in the second half netted 26 yards and he later scored the Jets’ final touchdown of the late afternoon, trimming the Los Angeles lead to one possession in the fourth quarter. Herndon is one of the few Jets with his 2021 status more or less secure. If he can build some momentum that he can take into next season with him, this woebegone campaign can still produce a win.

1st Star: DE Henry Anderson

5 tackles, 1 blocked punt, 0.5 sacks

Early in the game, it was hard to tell if either Anderson or Herbert was going to spend more time in the Los Angeles backfield. Anderson’s antics allowed the Jets to keep pace with the Chargers in the early going, ending the first Los Angeles possession with a blocked punt that set up La’Mical Perine’s early score. Toward the end of the first half, Anderson came up big again with a crucial, nine-yard sack of Herbert that limited the Chargers to a far less costly field goal on the final play.

Anderson is perhaps one of the biggest cases the Jets have against tanking. With his 2021 release bringing the Jets over $8 million in cap savings, he has to do every possible to prove himself essential to the Jets in these final hours. Even if the Jets do opt to cut ties, if only for financial reasons, Anderson would be wise to treat the last seven weeks as a potential audition for 31 other employers.

The Jets return to action next Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

What’s next for Valentina Shevchenko after UFC 255?

Last night at UFC 255, Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) successfully defended her flyweight title. Challenger Jennifer Maia was game, but in the end, Shevchenko walked away with her hand raised with the UFC title wrapped around her waste.

It was an interesting fight for the UFC flyweight champion. Everyone expected Shevchenko to just walk through Jennifer Maia. However, that didn’t happen last night. The challenger was much tougher than anticipated.

In the first round, Shevchenko controlled the fight from Maia’s guard. Shevchenko used her wrestling and grappling skills a lot last night to takedown Maia. However, the strategy was a little puzzling.

Jennifer Maia looked incredibly strong last night. In fact, the challenger won the second round by controlling Shevchenko in the grappling exchanges. That being said, the fight on the feet was not very close between the two women.

Maia would land some good shots here and there, but for the most part, it was all Shevchenko. I think Shevchenko could have finished the fight if she would have just kept it standing. But, at the end of the day, she walked out of UFC 255 victorious and that’s what matters.

What’s next after UFC 255?

After the event was over, UFC President Dana White made it clear on what he thinks is going to be next for Shevchenko. White told the media in the post-fight press conference that Jessica Andrade (21-8) will be next in line to face Shevchenko.

Andrade is the former UFC strawweight champion. She just made her flyweight debut last month when she took on former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian. Andrade blitzed through Chookagian and finished her in the first round.

Jessica Andrade finally looks like she’s fighting in her natural weight class. She could poise some interesting challenges for Shevchenko, but the UFC flyweight champion should still be a sizeable favorite going into that matchup.

White didn’t give a timetable on when that fight could possibly take place. My guess is that we could see that fight booked around March or April. I think it’ll be a fight that should really excite the UFC fans.

Report: New York Knicks looking to acquire JaVale McGee and more from Lakers

New York Knicks, JaVale McGee

The plan for the New York Knicks has become apparent following the NBA draft, as new general manager Leon Rose looks to acquire draft picks and spend as little capital as possible. Clearly, he is setting the foundation for the future, developing his youth, and focusing on potential trade packages down the line.

The Knicks already followed a similar path with the Ed Davis trade, acquiring two 2023 second-round picks to consume his contract. The Knicks have plenty of cap space to do so, and being the garbage can for the rest of the NBA ultimately helps them down the road.

The latest rumor comes from Mark Stein, as the Knicks have emerged as a potential trade partner with the Los Angeles Lakers for JaVale McGee.

McGee is currently on a two-year, $8.2 million deal, worth $4.2 million for the 2020–21 season. The Lakers are trying to get rid of his money and utilize it toward better and younger talent, as McGee doesn’t offer the offensive support they require. At 32 years old, he played in 68 games last year, averaging 6.6 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks.

McGee has never been an offensive powerhouse, but as a reserve center behind Mitchell Robinson, he can pair with Ed Davis and compete for reps. At 7-foot and 270 pounds, he’s a tall veteran who could bring essential experience in the locker room and help the youngsters grow.

Clearly, this move is meant to gain draft capital and nothing more for the Knicks, so we can fully expect them to continue doing the same as they acquire pics for the future.

Oishei Children’s Hospital honors Buffalo Bills fans, Allen family

The hospital has carried on the string of good news brought forth by Buffalo Bills’ fans generous donations in the wake of a tragedy.

Even in a bye week, those associated with the Buffalo Bills have managed to come through in the clutch.

On Saturday, Oishei Children’s Hospital unveiled plans for further honoring the memory of the late Patricia Allen and the charitable efforts that followed her passing. The hospital announced that not only are they setting up a new fund in honor of Bills QB Josh Allen’s grandmother but they will also rename an area on the tenth floor the “Patricia Allen Pediatric Recovery Wing”. Artist renderings of the site promise to feature a photo of Josh Allen pointing skyward in memory of Patricia during the BIlls 44-34 win over Seattle on November 8. That game was staged less than 48 hours after the elder Allen’s passing.

According to a statement released by the hospital, the “Patricia Allen Fund” will “provide ongoing support to the pediatric critical care team at Oishei Children’s Hospital who provide life-saving care to pediatric patients”. The tenth floor is known for its sports theme, with Allen’s jersey framed alongside fellow Bills fan favorites like Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas decorating the area.

“I am humbled by the incredible generosity that has poured in over the past several days in honor of my grandmother,” Allen said in the statement. “It means the world to me and my family and we are very grateful these donations will go toward helping save many lives for years to come.”

Upon learning of Patricia’s passing, Bills fans came out in supportive droves to donate to OCH, where Allen is a frequent visitor to the young patients. Bills fans donated nearly $700,000 to the hospital and their generosity will not go unnoticed. The tenth floor’s playroom will now be known as “The Buffalo Bills Fans Fun Zone”. It is located in the newly minted wing named after Patricia Allen.

“We really felt this was the perfect way to honor Patricia and recognize Bills fans for this incredible support of our hospital,” said OCH President Allegra C. Jaros, MBA said in the sam sentence. “With the wing being located on our sports floor which is already outfitted with lots of Bills and football memorabilia and graphics, we couldn’t think of a better place.”

Allen has been a major factor behind the Bills’ resurgence, guiding them to a 7-3 record as they’ve hit their open date. He has been responsible for 26 total touchdown this season, including a career-best 21 through the air. He and the Bills return to action next Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Chargers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Knicks add ex-Kentucky Nerlens Noel; Theo Pinson returns on 2-way deal

The New York Knicks continue to fill out their roster with fringe veterans on one-year deals.

After adding veteran wingman Alec Burks and re-signing Elfrid Payton to separate one-year contracts, the Knicks have added former lottery pick and ex-Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel a one-year, $5-million deal, according to multiple reports.

The Knicks are hoping Noel will rekindle his old Kentucky form with new assistant coach Kenny Payne, the man credited for producing NBA-caliber bigs under UK coach John Calipari’s program.

Noel will join his fellow Klutch Sports client Mitchell Robinson to anchor the Knicks’ defensive backbone this season.

Noel, the sixth pick in 2013, will be playing for his fourth team after stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Noel will be the fourth player with Kentucky ties in the Knicks roster, joining Julius Randle, Kevin Knox, and Immanuel Quickley.

Meanwhile, according to ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks, Theo Pinson will return to the Knicks on a two-way contract.

Pinson’s $1.7 million team option was earlier declined. His return means the Knicks have filled up their two slots for two-way players, the other being Jared Harper.

As a two-way player, Pinson can play up to 50 games this season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

BREAKING: UFC title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling is off

The UFC 256 card just can’t catch a break. The card was originally supposed to feature a welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns as well as a women’s featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson.

However, both of those title fights were called off due to injuries. Now, just a few weeks before the event, the UFC 256 card has lost another title fight. Per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, the Petr Yan – Aljamain Sterling fight has been called off.

The news was first reported by MMA Island. Petr Yan (15-1) had to pull out of the fight for undisclosed reasons and the UFC is said to be working on a new date for that title fight. Aljamain Sterling (19-3) will have to wait even longer for his UFC title shot.

This is a crushing blow for the UFC 256 card. The past couple of days has seen the card get a major boost with the additions of Tony Ferguson – Charles Oliveira and the addition of a UFC flyweight title fight. However, this is very bad news for a card that needed two title fights.

UFC 256’s bad luck

In all my years of watching the sport, I never remember a UFC card losing three title fights. However, the December PPV has been dealt three crushing blows which has damaged the card.

Yet, the UFC 256 still has a couple of really good fights now that the flyweight title is on the card and Ferguson – Oliveira is on the card. The fight night that the promotion is putting on, December 19th, is absolutely stacked with amazing fights.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see the UFC move up one of those contests to the PPV card. That card could really use another big matchup to get the PPV numbers as much as possible. However, there’s no word on that yet. This situation is still developing.

UFC books Deiveson Figueiredo – Brandon Moreno

It looks like it’s going to be a quick turnaround for the flyweight division. Per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, the UFC flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1) has agreed to face top contender, Brandon Moreno (18-5-1) in a few weeks at UFC 256.

Last night at UFC 255, both fighters were successful in the first round. Figueiredo took on Alex Perez in the main event last night. After an explosive back and forth to start the action, Perez tried taking Figueiredo to the ground.

Figueiredo rolled to try to lock up a leg lock, however, Perez forced his way on top. Just after doing that, Figueiredo transitioned beautifully to a guillotine choke which he locked in tight. Perez was forced to tap and Figueiredo made his first UFC flyweight title defense.

Earlier in the featured prelim, Brandon Moreno took on Brandon Royval. The two top contenders had a very back and forth first round until the fight touched the mat. Moreno actually got the better of the grappling exchanges.

Late in the round, Royval’s shoulder popped out of place. He attempted to pop it back in, but Moreno sensed the wounded fighter. Moreno followed up with big ground shots and earned the TKO victory solidifying himself as the top UFC flyweight contender.

Quick Turnaround at UFC 256

After the event was over last night, Dana White said that he wanted to turn around the flyweight title very quickly. He didn’t say when, but he wanted the UFC‘s flyweight title to be up for grabs in December with boy guys getting first round finishes.

Helwani has reported that both men have agreed on UFC 256 on December 12th. It’s a three week turnaround, which is extremely quick. I’m very curious to see how the weight cut goes for Figueiredo who always seems to have trouble with the weight.

Two weight cuts that closely together will be interesting. Nevertheless, the UFC‘s flyweight king is willing to do it. The December PPV has lost two title fights, but this week the card has received a major boost.

The promotion has added this second title fight to go along with Petr Yan – Aljamain Sterling. The promotion also announced that Tony Ferguson would be taking on Charles Oliveira on the card. Big boost this weekend for UFC 256.

Yankees news/rumors: Gary Sanchez a backup catcher, who’s going to be the starter?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

When looking at New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez objectively, you see a player who has degraded over the past three seasons. Since his phenomenal 2017 campaign, Sanchez has taken gradual steps downward, and that is clear based on general manager Brian Cashman’s postseason comments.

The Yankees were set to reevaluate the catcher position, based on Sanchez’s .147 batting average and 36% strikeout rate this past campaign, and his defense didn’t fare much better. In fact, he was quickly replaced by Kyle Higashioka during the post-season and even became Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. That says a lot about Sanchez’s deficiencies and if the Yankees can truly rely on him moving forward.

The Yankees are expected to tender Sanchez a new contract, but given the reluctance to invest in him long-term, it should suggest that he cannot be trusted as a starting level player.

The fact that Higgy, Sanchez’s back up, stole reps through the season and even supplanted him in the playoffs is telling. Some may cough up Sanchez’s porous season to new mechanics and anomaly, but the reality is, this has been an ongoing story for the homegrown talent. The Yankees have two more seasons of control before they have to make an ultimate decision on his future.

The New York Yankees could roll with Higgy more often:

One thing is clear, Kyle finished the season with a .250 average, hitting four homers and recording 10 RBIs. He had a 0.5 WAR compared to Sanchez’s -0.1. In addition, Higashioka’s defense is superior at this point, but giving up on Sanchez is something the Yankees are desperately trying to avoid. They don’t want to invest big money in a player like JT Realmuto or James McCann, but it’s becoming clear that they might not have a choice after the 2021 season.

I still believe that Cashman has faith in Sanchez to return to his best self, but it is going to take a lot of work and optimism to get him there.

Ultimately, batting average is a bad statistic to use when evaluating Sanchez, who lives and dies by the home run. During his monster season in 2017, he struck out 23% of the time, and since then has seen a 13% increase, which is simply unacceptable. His batting mechanics have become more flawed as time goes on, and he must find a way to improve offensively, to at least mask some of his defensive issues.

I believe the Yankees will roll with a hot hand approach, playing Sanchez and Higgy as a cohesive unit from a general perspective. They don’t want to invest big money on a catcher after a financially tough season, so expect to see more of the same in 2021.