Corey Anderson says Bellator is better than the UFC at light heavyweight

Corey Anderson

2020 turned out to be an eventful year for Bellator‘s Corey Anderson (14-5). When the year started, Anderson was one of the top contenders in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He appeared to be one win away from a title shot.

However, Jan Blachowicz (27-8) starched Anderson in February to claim that top contender status. After Anderson was knocked out, he had a series of health concerns that kept him from competing. These health scares also had him reevaluate his career.

Anderson decided to go to the UFC and ask for more money. When the promotion wasn’t willing to, he asked for a release to be able to look around in the market. The UFC released Anderson and Bellator signed him almost immediately.

It turned out to be the first of several moves like this for Bellator. After signing Anderson, Bellator would go on to sign Yoel Romero (13-5) and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) after they were released from the UFC.

Those top three contenders join the likes of Vadim Nemkov (12-2), Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC), and Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC). It’s safe to say that Bellator’s light heavyweight division has never been better.

In fact, it’s so good that Anderson believes it’s the best on the planet. Anderson told MMA Fighting, “I just feel right now Bellator has the upper hand. Jones has left. They’ve got these hype trains. These young guys UFC has coming in they’re trying to hype up but I feel like their legitimacy aren’t like the vets that were there that are in Bellator now.”

Bellator or the UFC?

If we are going to go on pure name recognition, it’s hard to argue Corey Anderson’s point. Bellator has some serious name power in their light heavyweight division. However, it is the best in the sport?

In all honesty, if you’re looking at the totality of their top five, it might be. The UFC’s top contender is Glover Teixeira (32-7) who was knocked out in 14 seconds by Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Then again, there’s also Dominick Reyes (12-2) and Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1) in the UFC’s top five. Prochazka stopped Bellator’s champion, Vadim Nemkov, when the two of them faced off a few years ago.

Another interesting wrinkle to throw into things is the light heavyweight debut of Israel Adesanya (20-0). Stylebender is fighting Blachowicz for the UFC light heavyweight title in March.

Anderson definitely has an argument that Bellator is just as good if not better at 205 than the UFC. However, I believe the best light heavyweight in the world right now is Jan Blachowicz with Jon Jones moving up.

Overall, the UFC has a deeper division due to the amount of fighters on the roster and they have younger contenders. While Bellator is right there, I would still give the advantage to the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, the UFC.

The Islanders have two Top 100 players, but should there be more?

When the Islanders open their regular season Thursday night, they will have two of the best players in the league taking the ice for them, Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock.

The Athletic NHL released its Top 100 Players tier list for the 2021 season yesterday and it was Barzal and Pulock who made it for the organization. Barzal was placed in the Tier 3 group under the “All-Star” umbrella while Pulock finds himself in the fourth tier for players who are at the “Top of the lineup”.

The newly extended Barzal — he and the Isles agreed to a new three-year deal over the weekend — many on the panel believe he hasn’t reached “franchise player” worthy level just yet.  “Mathew Barzal regarded as highly as he should be by the model, which doesn’t see just how involved he is in transition. The franchise-player tier is a tough sell for now, with the net results including his production being great but not quite elite,” was how he was described at the moment.

The argument about Barzal’s production is valid. Take out his Calder Trophy winning season in 2017-18 where he led the team with 85 points, and Barzal has only tallied 122 points  and 37 goals. Now it’s true, those numbers probably take a hit because of the defense-first mentality employed by head coach Barry Trotz. But Barzal is now being paid as an elite player, so his production needs to reflect that.

This is not lost on him too. He said on Saturday after signing the deal that “consistency” was going to be the most important thing with him being paid $7M a year over the next three seasons

Pulock making the list comes as quite the welcome surprise.

He’s definitely emerged as the Isles’ best and most reliable defenseman outside of his d-partner, Adam Pelech. Pulock’s numbers at both ends of the ice have continued to improve each year, but he hasn’t launched himself towards the upper echelon of d-men in the league.

This season could change that. He was was rewarded with a new two-year, 10M contract back in November and is considered to be on the rise. For right now, he’s earned the title of becoming a dominant player.

So, with two of the Islanders most prominent players listed, the question needs to be asked: should there have been more?

Pelech and forward Brock Nelson deserve some consideration.

You could make the argument that Pelech should have made the list ahead of a guy like Jake Muzzin who was in the final tier as a 4C.

Pelech has evolved into one of the top defensive d-man in the over the last two seasons and remains criminally underrated. The offensive production isn’t on the same level of Pulock, but you’d have a hard time finding a guy whose so instrumental to their team’s success. Last season and the playoffs were perfect examples.

As for Nelson, there’s no question he is the Isles’ second-best forward behind Barzal. His level of play has reached incredible heights under Trotz — 25+ goals and 50 or more points the past two seasons — and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

One other name who could find himself on the list soon is Anthony Beauvillier.

His postseason performance opened up a lot of eyes and now he’s expected to become an elite player this season.

Some might want to pull out there hair, but the cap manipulation Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello has been able to pull off is sorcery. Having to pay Andy Greene and Matt Martin — both recently re-signed — a combined $2.2M for this year is a nod to his genius.

Yes, Greene’s performance bonuses if he reaches them can have a negative effect on the cap in the summer, but Lou still deserves credit for getting him to sign below what he might have gotten on the open market.

Josh Ho-Sang cleared waivers to no ones surprise. Now it’s on the team whether or not they want him in Bridgeport according to the New York Post’s Mollie Walker. Ho-Sang intends to be there and hopefully the team gives him that chance.

The Coliseum is ready for its final, final go around. A happy and sad image at the same time.

Should the New York Giants draft a pass rusher or wide receiver at 11?

New York Giants, Jaylen Waddle

The New York Giants have a few big decisions to make this off-season regarding cuts, free agent signings, and how they are going to allocate the 11th pack in the 2021 NFL draft. They can solve a few different positions in the draft, but it all depends on how things shake out and what players drop to them at 11.

After a 12 catch, 215 yards, and three-touchdown performance in the National Championship game, most would agree that star receiver for Alabama, DeVonta Smith, will likely be unavailable for the Giants. There are plenty of teams that need star wideouts that pick before them, but fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle could drop to them at 11.

Waddle is an explosive receiver with elite speed and the ability to play inside and out. The Giants lack a true high-end speed receiver, and Waddle could fit that bill easily, especially if they land a big body in free agency to pair with him.

Ultimately, if the speedster is available for the Giants, it will be extremely difficult for them to pass on him. His talents that receiver and ability as a return man or elite, and as we know, after the 2020 season, the Giants will take whatever they can get on offense.

This past year, the Giants average a measly 17.5 points per game, good for 31st in the NFL. Coordinator Jason Garrett underwhelmed with his route concepts and ability to push the ball downfield in man coverage. His playcalling was predictable and run heavy, which isn’t a negative thing — establishing the run is a fantastic way to open up the passing game. The issue, his route concepts were so predictable and lacked creativity, opposing defenses were simply running routes for the receivers. It took until week 17 for Garrett to figure out that Sterling Shepard was their primary red-zone threat, as he scored two touchdowns, doubling his total for the remainder of the year.

In my opinion, the Giants should be leaning toward an offensive weapon, but it is possible they could pick the top pass rusher available. Both Kwity Paye, a 6-foot-4, 272-pound defensive lineman from Michigan, or Gregory Rousseau from Florida, could be considerations.

Paye finished the 2020 season with 16 total tackles and 2.0 sacks over just four games. Most believe he is an incredibly talented pass rusher that could fit the Giants’ mold well. He has fantastic burst off the line of scrimmage and deceiving strength.

Paye is the type of player that could make the Giants’ defense a top-five unit, given his ability off the edge. However, he is traditionally a defensive end, and the Giants utilize outside linebackers in their primary 3-4 scheme. With that being said, if the Giants are forced to let Delvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams walk this off-season, drafting Paye as their primary pass rusher would be a great supplement.

Then you have Rousseau, who didn’t participate in the 2020 season but was phenomenal in 2019, earning 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, Rousseau has incredible tangibles and the potential to be an All-Pro pass rusher. The primary argument here is, if you have an elite pass rusher and a wide receiver on the board, it is incredibly difficult to pass on the defensive star. The Giants can always allocate free agency money toward acquiring a number one WR.

New York Mets: DJ LeMahieu makes more sense as a free agent target than George Springer

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

While the New York Mets said, after the Francisco Lindor-Carlos Carrasco trade, that they were “still hungry” and in play for top free agent center fielder George Springer, a case can be made to say that DJ LeMahieu is a much better fit at this point than the former Houston Astro.

Danny Abriano of SNY talks about the subject at lenght, and it makes sense. As of right now, the Mets have a hole at third base (or second, depending on where they play Jeff McNeil) after trading both Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez to Cleveland. JD Davis can play third but is very bad there (-8 DRS in 2020.)

Ideally, the New York Mets could pursue LeMahieu, who is expected to command around $100 million or $110 million, and a cheaper center fielder if they want to replace Brandon Nimmo’s suspect glove there.

The Mets have several options

For instance, the Mets could sign Jackie Bradley Jr., who shouldn’t require more than a two or three-year commitment worth around $10 million per season, and LeMahieu, instead of spending the +$150 million that Springer will likely require.

Bradley Jr. can really solidify the team defense in center, and LeMahieu is not a Gold Glover but is very competent at both second and third.

Make no mistake: Springer is a great player, and Bradley is miles away from him as an offensive performer. But he is younger, significantly cheaper, and better with the glove, so he should be an option for the Mets, too. In fact, he is being considered.

In any case, the Mets appear far from done in the free agent market, as they are fully expected to add at least another outfielder capable of playing center and perhaps a bullpen arm.

Steve Cohen, the new owner, is decided to make a splash in his first season in charge of the team.

New York Yankees Analysis: Adam Ottavino must pitch well for the Yankees

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino

New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino is a veteran reliever that has spent most of his career with the Colorado Rockies. He started as a starter for the St. Luis Cardinals. But as a reliever, he pitched successfully for the Rockies for seven years before becoming a New York Yankee. He had a relatively pedestrian 2017. After that, he set up a full-size bullpen in downtown New York City. Ottavino is a New York boy attending the city’s public schools. Ottavino, in his new gym, applied technology and high-speed cameras to tweak his pitching style.

Adam Ottavino mostly fixed his control for his efforts and had a 6-4 season with the Rockies with a 2.43 ERA in 77 innings of relief. That kind of season got him a $27 million three year contract with the New York Yankees. The Yankees got their monies worth in 2019 he Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA and a record of 6-5. However, this collapse at the season ended was concerning. Ottavino is now in the last year of that contract.

Ottavino went into 2020 with much hope of being a combination stopper and setup man for the Yankees. Unfortunately, he ended the season 2-3 with a dismal 5.89 ERA while pitching only 18 innings. He didn’t lose velocity and didn’t lose control, but he collapsed even quicker this short season. In one game against the Toronto Blue Jays, he gave up two walks, four hits, and six earned runs without recording an out-in-the- eventual 12-7 Yankee loss. In the postseason, he only pitched 2/3’s of an inning and gave up a run.

Ottavino, in interviews, couldn’t really explain what was going on. If you can’t determine what’s wrong, it really difficult to make the adjustments necessary to correct the deficiency. By the time the playoffs came around, Ottavino was all but lost, pitching just two-thirds of an inning and allowing a run against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game Two of the American League Division Series. Even with Ottavino’s past regular season successes, he’s been a train wreck in every postseason; small sample sizes be damned. He currently owns a 7.04 ERA in 12 games.

Ottavino is now in the last year of his contract with the Yankees; if he doesn’t improve this year, he will be packing his bags. Although Ottavino doesn’t know what’s wrong, he seems to lose gas to the casual observer as the season progresses both in 2019 and 2020. For him, that means he loses his ability to pitch to the corners. In 2020 he threw meatballs right down the middle of the plate. Those meatballs counted for 12.4% of his pitches compared to a 7.7% rate during his career.

With Tommy Kahnle gone for the season after having Tommy John surgery and signing with the Lost Angeles Dodgers, Ottavino will certainly get plenty of opportunities to show his stuff. Ottavino is close to but not quite one of the best relievers in baseball. His performance in 2021 with the Yankees will have an enormous bearing on the state of the Yankees’ bullpen as well as his checking account.

At 35 years old, time is running out for Ottavino. The Yankees not likely to sign any big names to the bullpen this year must perform well for the Yankees. Going into free agency at the end of the season, his worth on the market will be based on how well he does this season.

 

 

Yankees News/Rumors: Toronto a ‘real threat’ to steal DJ LeMahieu, one free agent replacement

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

As the New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman play the long game with DJ LeMahieu, they increase their chances of losing him in free agency. If the Yankees really wanted to retain him, they would’ve paid a fair price, as LeMahieu is getting tired of waiting around for a new deal. He wants to know where he’s going to play next season and potentially for the next five years, which is completely reasonable after two stellar seasons in pinstripes. It is no secret that DJ wants to remain with the Yankees, but Cashman playing this game could hurt the relationship.

It has been reported that the Yankees are settled in at four years, while DJ wants a five-year deal. With that being the case, other teams have become a possibility, notably the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Per MLB Network Radio analyst and former MLB GM Jim Duquette:

“I would say that right now, Toronto would be, in my opinion, a real threat. Like, they know that they have to spend a little bit more comparatively to everyone else to get a player like that. If Toronto comes in and says five (years) and $110 million, here’s the J.D.Martinez, (Yoenis) Cespedes deal, is he going to Toronto? Like, this is the issue Toronto has. If I’m going to go to that number, are you going to sign with us? Or are you going to use it against me to bump up the number so that he still ends up a Yankee?”

I expect this negotiation process could take a few more weeks, and while I do think the Yankees will end up keeping him on a compromise deal, they do already have two monster contracts on the books. Both Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton are signed for at least the next seven years, so adding another long-term player to the mix will significantly hamper their ability down the road in free agency.

One potential replacement if the New York Yankees lose DJ:

If Cashman lets DJ walk, they could inquire about George Springer, formally of the Houston Astros. At 31 years old, he’s younger than DJ and might accept the four-year deal they want to settle on. This past season, he hit .265 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs. However, in 2019, he hit .292 with 39 homers and 96 RBIs. Springer is capable of slugging at a high-level, and the Yankees have ways of improving the home run category for most players.

The only issue, Springer plays in the outfield, where the Yankees already have Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier. They could replace Frazier and move him to a depth role, but he showed that he can be a regular starting player in 2020.

Nonetheless, it would be extremely hard to replace LeMahieu’s production on offense, and Springer is the only player that could supplement him appropriately.

New York Yankees: Another potential target gone as 2021 season takes shape

For the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams, issues become clearer on what a 2021 baseball season will look like. It appears that spring training will start on time, the season will be a full 162 games, and that fans will be let into major league parks in some fashion. Other issues like rules and an expanded postseason are yet to be dealt with.

Last week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed fans in the stands at a Buffalo Bills game while adhering to social distancing and plans to allow them again this weekend. The present posture does not allow fans in large venues. Cuomo will not have to make that decision for Yankee Stadium or Citi Field for several months. However, fans will likely be allowed in the stands even if it is not for the first few games at home parks.

MLB can allow anything it wants, but ultimately those decisions remain in the local health authority’s hands. Some parks may allow fans socially distanced with tickets sold in small pods. Some parks may require vaccinations or negative coronavirus tests, while others may not require anything at all. At least at the beginning of the season, do not expect to see stadiums jam-packed.

As first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Commissioner Bob Manfred has contacted teams telling them they aim to have a complete 162 game season. This after previously saying that team owners wanted to delay the season by a month. That proposal was immediately put down by Players Union Director Tony Clark. In the communication, he also told owners to prepare to start spring training on time in February.

As soon as this news came out, the Chicago White Sox, the second most active team in the offseason, went ahead and signed one of the most coveted relievers in the game. They signed Liam Hendriks to a five-year $54 million deal. Hendriks has been on the wish list of the New York Yankees who need bullpen help with the loss of Tommy Kahnle. The Australian born Hendriks pitched in 24 games last season for the Athletics with a tiny 1.78 ERA.

Now that the 2021 revenues are becoming clearer, the New York Yankees may get more aggressive after doing relatively nothing this offseason. They have made it a priority to re-sign DJ LeMahieu, but they have not yet come to a deal. With this news, they may push LeMahieu for an answer, and if they can not get a positive response, move on and get to the business of improving the team for the upcoming season. The Yankees have seen any number of potential targets now sign with other teams.

 

 

 

 

Yankees’ 2020 breakout star isn’t planning on making any offseason changes in his approach

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The New York Yankees were fortunate enough to witness a transformation from one of their young players. Clint Frazier took a new approach, revamped his swing, took more walks, got on base at a higher clip, and even improved his defense to the point that he was considered a Gold Glove finalist.

The Yankees’ outfielder slashed .267/.394/.511 and improved his wRC+ from 108 in 2019 to 149 in 2020. He also upped his BB% from 6.5 to 15.6. With work, he experienced some clear skill gains, so why would he change what isn’t broken?

“I’m not making any changes this offseason,” Frazier said on the MLB Network on Monday. “I’m just trying to familiarize myself with that movement more going forward and mash.”

The Yankees would love to see him thrive in 2021

To explain the changes he made to his batting stance, he points the back of his left foot toward the pitcher, placing his hips about as far as they can go before he swings them toward the pitch explosively. He calls that sequence “pre-setting my hip.”

“At times I always felt like I was trying to swing but my swing was on safety, and there were things that were preventing me from moving forward the way that I wanted to,” he said.

The objective of the changes was to “limit the amount of movement” the Yankees’ young slugger had at the plate. It also “makes me feel like I have way more time in general. … I definitely feel like it helped me use right field with more intent,” he said.

The Yankees are now confident entering the season with Frazier as their starting left fielder, joining center fielder Aaron Hicks and right fielder Aaron Judge. Now, they know Frazier is capable of offering above-average production both offensively and defensively.

With a relatively normal schedule in 2021, Frazier will be looking to consolidate himself as a star for the New York Yankees.

UFC: Rob Font wants a March headliner against TJ Dillashaw

One of the UFC bantamweight contenders with the most hype right now is Rob Font (18-4). Font starched Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) with a devastating performance in his last fight. It was a fight where Font had to show a number of his skills.

Going into the December matchup at UFC Vegas 17, we knew that Rob Font had really good boxing. However, there were questions around how he would handle someone with strong kicks and how his grappling would hold up.

Well, he was taken down early, but he got back up. He did take some kicks from Moraes, but the damage he did with his own punches was far more severe. Just under four minutes into the first round, Font put Moraes out.

It was the third straight victory in the UFC for Font. After the win, Font rose to fifth in the bantamweight rankings. A spot well deserved after the performance that he put on last month.

Font has made it very clear in what he wants next. He wants a shot at the former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw’s two-year suspension ends this week, and he needs an opponent.

Will the UFC make it?

Font told MMA Junkie that he would love to headline a card with March against Dillashaw. He also said that he believes the former champion is mentally broken now that he has to compete after being a proven cheater.

Dillashaw is currently weighing his options for his next matchup in the UFC. He’s made it clear that he wants a title shot right out of the gate, however, it isn’t clear on if the promotion is a fan of that option.

Jose Aldo (29-7) also said that he would like to be the one to welcome Dillashaw back to the octagon. At this point, there is no telling on what direction the promotion is leaning. However, the Font fight does make sense.

Rob Font has a ton of momentum after his last fight. It was a great performance and he could be looking at a title shot if he has one more big win. Well, it wouldn’t get much bigger than a win over the former UFC champion.

Cody Garbrandt (12-3) and his management have been asking the UFC for a fight with Aldo. Garbrandt is currently waiting for a flyweight title shot, however, with the title tied up until mid-2021, he’s looking for a big fight.

The promotion could book Garbrandt and Aldo which would open the door for Dillashaw to face Font. It’s a fight that makes a ton of sense for the division and whoever wins would earn themselves a title shot with that performance.

MLB: Commissioner tells teams to plan for spring training to start on time and a full 162-game season

Too much ink has been spilled in the last eight or nine months explaining how MLB and the players association, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, managed to cut the regular season calendar to 60 games in 2020. For weeks, even months, they couldn’t agree on essential, minimum requirements.

This time, however, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, informed clubs on a conference call Monday that they “should be preparing for spring training to start on time in February and to plan on a full 162-game season being played.”

The threat of the virus hasn’t gone away, but MLB learned a lot about social distancing, health and safety protocols during the 2020 season. And with talks about eventually letting fans into stadiums to enjoy the games, it appears that this time, every factor is pulling in the same direction.

A few weeks ago, reports came out about MLB and its 30 ownership groups hoping to delay the start of the 2021 campaign with the intention of allowing more time for players, personnel, and fans to be vaccinated.

MLB free agents could start signing after the news

Naturally, the MLB players association said it has no interest whatsoever in forfeiting salary for a second consecutive year. Fewer games would mean less revenue, and players losing more money.

According to Rotoworld, the reported conference call could potentially spark some movement on the free agency front, as teams now know that the odds of a full, semi-normal season happening are high.

Indeed, after the reported conference call, the Chicago White Sox made a major signing, filling a need in their bullpen by adding All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to a lucrative three-year deal with an option for a fourth.

With spring training a little over a month away, teams should be starting to look at free agents to fill their roster needs.