Dustin Poirier wants a war with Conor McGregor at UFC 257

We are just about a week away from UFC 257. The highly anticipated PPV is being headlined by the rematch between Conor McGregor (22-4) and Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC). The first fight took place at UFC 178 back in 2014.

That night, McGregor knocked out Poirier in the first few minutes of their fight. It was a massive statement on McGregor’s meteoric rise to the top of the combat sports world. Both men are in much different places six years later.

McGregor is fighting for the first time since UFC 246 last January. That night, McGregor stopped Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds. The former two-division UFC champion is promising another finish in under a minute at UFC 257.

However, Dustin Poirier has different plans. The Diamond is not wanting this fight to end with a clean knockout one way or the other. Instead, Poirier is wanting both of them to be badly hurt so they have to dig down deep.

Poirier told Theo Von recently, “What I want is for both of us to be dripping blood and hurting early in the fight. I want both of us to be bleeding and really have to dig down deep to see who’s the better fighter.”

Will UFC 257 be a war?

Words cannot express how excited I am for this rematch. Both of these men are so much better than they were six years ago when they fought the first time. It’ll be very interesting to see if Poirier’s improvements can push him past McGregor.

Based on what Poirier’s saying, you can tell he’s taking a slight jab at McGregor. Poirier has been in real trouble in fights and has had to dig down deep to win. That’s why he later said he beats McGregor ten times out of ten if the fight gets tough.

However, it is worth noting that the UFC’s first champ-champ hasn’t always had it easy. McGregor was hurt by both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz in their fights. McGregor did better than anyone in terms of fighting Khabib going off recent history which includes Poirier.

Conor McGregor’s biggest test came at UFC 202 when he fought Diaz for the second time. McGregor is a very fast starter and dropped Diaz a number of times early. However, Diaz didn’t go away and stormed back into the fight.

When it appeared that McGregor was on his way to losing again, he dug down deep and won the crucial fourth round. That round secured the decision for Conor McGregor in a fight he desperately needed to win.

We’ve seen Poirier come back from adversity more times than McGregor, but we know McGregor is capable. If this fight is truly a war, I think both are capable of digging down deep to find a win. I can’t wait to find out what happens next Saturday night.

Ilya Sorokin already making great impression on Islanders and their fans

Ilya Sorokin has yet to start a game in goal for the Islanders. That should come soon, most likely within the next week. But he’s already made a great first impression on his teammates, his coaches and the Isles faithful.

Sorokin, the team’s Russian goalie prodigy, finally met the media yesterday. It marked the first time the 25-year-old was made available by the Isles since they signed him back during the summer. He had spent time with the club as they made their run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the playoff bubbles. For the last two weeks, he’s been a full participant at Islanders training camp.

“It’s very friendly guys, all my teammates,” Sorokin said during a zoom call with reporters  with the help of an English translator.

Sorokin has been hyped up as the Islanders’ future in net for a long time now. In his homeland, he became hockey royalty and earned the reputation as the “best goaltender not playing in North America”. The Isles drafted him in 2014 but were patient in waiting for when he would finally make the jump to the NHL, which to him was a “dream”. It was also the dreams of Islanders fans who had only heard and seen highlights of his brilliance but craved to see the real thing in person.

Now they are going to get their chance.

But Sorokin knows he wants to earn the respect and admiration of the fans, even with all the fanfare already thrown his way.

“Yes, my friends send me pictures and messages from Islanders fans [who] are happy,” his translator said. “He feels like he’s now indebted to his fans and has to work hard for it to deserve this excitement.”

If that didn’t speak volumes to the blue and orange diehards, his words about his experience of living on Long Island thus far did.
“I like the ocean. It’s very peaceful. I was in Manhattan — I don’t like. A lot of people, a lot of stress. I like peaceful.”

Looking at social media, the fans loved that statement. And in the words of Arthur Staple, the Isles beat writer for The Athletic, Sorokin spoke as if he was a true Long Islander.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has already anointed Sorokin the number two behind starter Semyon Varlamov and he plans to ease him in because he has to deserve his time in the NHL. That plan might be the best way for him to adjust but too may have an effect on Sorokin possibly having a shot at the Calder Trophy.

Sorokin is one of the dark horses to win the award while his fellow countrymen and now rival netminder Igor Shesterkin (Rangers) and number one pick Alexis Lafreniere (also Rangers) are the favorites.

While that’s something to take stock of during the season, Trotz loves what he’s seen from his newest import.

“A great personality,” the Isles head coach noted. “He’s a guy that’s got a smile on his face. He’s a guy that works at his craft, tries to get better at his craft and looks for the next thing. You can see it. He works at any task he’s given. He’s been a pleasure to have around and a pleasure to watch him grow with his teammates.”

Sorokin saying all the right things has endeared himself to many already. Now his highly-anticipated debut comes next.

If he gives the same impression he’s been able to give thus far, the Islanders might be looking at their next big star.

Kieffer Bellows working his way on to the opening night roster says a lot about how far he’s come in a short while. It was just a few months ago his stock in the organization had taken a hit when he got dinged for violating the league’s enhancing substances rules.

Now he’s drawn praise from Trotz and could be slotted next to J.G. Pageau tomorrow night on the third line.

Talk about a turnaround.

Bode Wilde earning a spot on the varsity even just as a part of the taxi squad is a testament to his development. A scout told me when the Isles drafted him a few years back they got a steal and that he had a very high ceiling.

I mean it’s not everyday you draw comparisons to John Carlson, a Norris-caliber defenseman. But that’s exactly what the feeling around him is by the coaches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Knicks’ Austin Rivers has answer for slumping team

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

After the New York Knicks started the 2021 season on a high note, winning five of six games during one stretch, they have since lost three in a row. This slump can only be attributed to a lack of chemistry and familiarity with Tom Thibodeau’s scheme. If you want to throw in a lack of talent, that would also work too.

The Knicks are dealing with significant injuries in the frontcourt, being forced to sign Taj Gibson as a supplement. Their defense has been lackluster, and their offense has completely taken a backseat. Over the last three games, they’ve given up more than 101 points in each and haven’t scored more than 89 points.

Most recently, against the Charlotte Hornets, star power forward Julius Randle scored just 11 points over 30 minutes, a disappointing performance. In fact, not a single Knick scored more than 19 points, with Kevin Knox representing their best offensive threat at 19. Knox has actually played quite well the past few games, shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range and averaging 7.9 points over 21 minutes. Interestingly, the Knicks haven’t had the same starters for the first 10 games in at least 20 years, which is painfully awful.

The injection of new faces and coaches across-the-board was always going to catch up to New York, and they’re fighting through a tough stretch of games. They will face off against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday evening, who feature Kevin Durant. The Knicks are going to need big performances from their more reliable players, and one guy that has struggled the past two games is Austin Rivers.

However, Rivers has only made seven appearances this year and started in one game. He is averaging 28 minutes and 12 points per game, also passing the ball efficiently with 4.5 assists. He can be an influential player for the Knicks, but he simply doesn’t have the chemistry with his team yet. He acknowledges his lack of familiarity, stating:

“Our chemistry is not there yet, we’re still building,’’ said Rivers, who missed all of preseason and the first four games. “That’s why I’m saying be patient because I know it’s only going to get better and better. I haven’t had one practice this entire season. My first time playing with the team was against the Raptors [on Dec. 31]. So I’m still figuring it out.”

I do feel confident that Thibodeau will turn the team around — aggressive defense is his priority. Ultimately, as they continue to grow alongside each other and develop chemistry, we will see more consistent performances, but this is the building of something new and fresh, so there were always going to be speed bumps along the way.

New York Yankees: Chad Green is wondering what’s going on with DJ LeMahieu’s negotiations

New York Yankees, Chad Green

The New York Yankees want to retain free agent DJ LeMahieu. Their general manager, Brian Cashman, has gone on the record saying that it remains the team’s top priority this offseason. However, so far, there hasn’t been much progress in talks and the infielder is reportedly getting frustrated, telling his agents to engage with other teams that offer something closer to what he wants: five years and more than $110 million.

Fans are definitely puzzled that they haven’t been able to come to terms. Now, fellow players are starting to get worried, too. After all, LeMahieu was the Yankees’ leading contributor in fWAR the last two seasons.

The 32-year old infielder slashed .364/.421/.590 with 10 home runs and a 177 wRC+ in 2020, winning the batting average title in the process.

The Yankees players are respecting his privacy

New York Yankees reliever Chad Green talked on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio channel with Jon Morosi and Ryan Spilborghs on Tuesday, and said that he has given his teammate space and hasn’t asked about his future, but he is, no doubt, curious.

“I personally haven’t texted him, but I’ve definitely texted guys who are really close to him and have been like, ‘OK, what’s the deal with DJ? Are we signing him back or what’s going on?’

“So, I personally, I’m just going to leave him alone. But I’ve definitely asked some other guys what’s going on. I think the other guys have said too, they’ve just kind of left him alone about it and let him make the best decision for himself.”

LeMahieu’ season with the Yankees earned him the third place in the American League MVP voting process, just behind winner Jose Abreu and Jose Ramirez.

On Sunday, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported that LeMahieu has become “dismayed” with the Yankees’ approach towards his free agency.

Yankees News/Rumors: Yanks could lose Masahiro Tanaka to West-Coast rivals

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

It seems as if every other team is making moves but the New York Yankees. General manager Brian Cashman continues to take his time, inking minor league deals instead of adding starting-caliber talent to the roster.

It is no secret that Cashman believes the Yankees can win with their current team, consisting of players like Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and Aaron Judge. However, they are on the brink of losing star infielder DJ LeMahieu and don’t have a starting pitching rotation capable of overcoming deeper clubs. They lost three starters in the rotation this off-season, including James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ.

There were reports that indicated the Yankees could bring back Tanaka on a shorter contract, but with Cashman looking to save as much money as possible, that seems unlikely.

Other clubs have inquired about his services, and it is more likely he leaves than stays in pinstripes. The Yankees seem to feel confident with Domingo German and Luis Severino returning in 2021, but considering neither have pitched in over a year, I don’t feel very comfortable they can hold it down over the course of a 162 game season. German was being batted around in the winter league down in the Dominican Republic last time I checked, and Severino hasn’t pitched any significant inning numbers in over two years.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the San Diego Padres are looking at potentially adding Masahiro Tanaka to their ranks.

Even after trading for left-hander Blake Snell and righty Yu Darvish, the Padres are doing background work on multiple free-agent starting pitchers, sources say. One of those pitchers, righty Masahiro Tanaka, has connections to two significant members of the organization – Darvish and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Darvish and Tanaka are friends and Rothschild was Tanaka’s pitching coach with the Yankees from 2014 to ’19. Tanaka suffered a partial elbow tear in ’14, chose rehabilitation over Tommy John surgery and remained largely durable, ranking 18th in the majors in starts since ’15.

The problem is Tanaka will be a bit pricey, so the Yankees might look for a business or bust candidate like Corey Kluber, who is coming off two years of injury-riddled performances. I don’t know if it’s fair to blame Cashman or ownership for the lack of spending this off-season.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Could the Yankees be getting close to a deal with Corey Kluber?

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees are concentrating on getting slugger DJ LeMahieu to re-sign with the club, they have made it their priority while not addressing pitching needs for the club, or so it may seem. New York Yankees’ general manager is notoriously secretive about what he is doing to the point of saying nothing. Yankee scouts will be present today when Corey Kluber throws bullpen sessions for the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 34-year-old right-hander has spent half his offseason. If you are to believe unverified reports, the Yankees have already asked him to take a physical.

Kluber was an ace-type pitcher in 2018, and if healthy, he could return to that pitcher again. Kluber, 34, barely pitched at all in his one season with the Texas Rangers because of shoulder problems. The year before, he broke his forearm and only pitched 35 innings for the Cleveland Indians. But the year before that, he was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Because of his injuries, his value will be reduced by at least half, meaning the Yankees, if willing to take the risk, would likely get him for $8-12 million on a one-year contract. If healthy, it could be a huge upgrade from Masahiro Tanaka, who the Yankees are also considering.

The Yankees have a record of taking chances with injury-prone players due to economic considerations. Kluber does have little known connections with the Yankees. He is very close to Eric Cressey, who oversees health and conditioning for the team. He also is very familiar with Yankee pitching coach Matt Blake. Blake was assistant pitching development coach while Kluber was a Cleveland Indian.

Kluber could be the Yankees’ best bet on upgrading a rotation that lacks experience outside of ace Gerrit Cole. Kluber coming off a successful season could demand $20 million a year, but after his two injury-riddled seasons, he wouldn’t be able to demand anywhere near that figure. If the Yankees wait it out and Kluber is not signed by the other teams showing interest in him, the Yankees could sign him to a two year $12 million contract. But with interest coming from several teams, he could get much more than that.

Adding Corey Kluber to the Yankees rotation would be a major upgrade over their untested pitchers. The Yankees don’t know how either Domingo German and Luis Severino will pitch upon their baseball return. German has not pitched in a year and Severino in two years. Beyond that is Jordan Montgomery and the untested young guys. Hiring Kluber for a year or two would allow the young arms more time to develop. Deivi Garcia, after his major league debut last season, will definitely have an impact on the rotation, possibly as the number four or five starter.

Corey Kluber will be 35 in April, and the two-time Cy Young Award winner is missing a World Series ring. He came close in 2016 with the Indians. He was 2-0 in the series but was a victim of the Chicago Cubs when the Indians lost the seventh game of the series, and the Cub had their first World Series Championship in 108 years. Kluber would like to add a World Series ring to his trophy cabinet. If he signs with the Red Sox or the Twins, he likely will not see a ring. This may also draw Kluber to the Yankees.

The New York Yankees should look long and hard at possibly signing Kluber if they aren’t already. But like everything else, any decision by the Yankees will wait until the DJ LeMahieu negotiations advance.

 

 

New York Mets introduce their latest starting pitching acquisition, Carlos Carrasco

One day after Francisco Lindor greeted New York media and fans, star pitcher Carlos Carrasco was introduced by the New York Mets as the newest member of the starting rotation, one that now has Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, David Peterson, an injured Noah Syndergaard, and the man they refer to as “Cookie.”

A true warrior, Carrasco overcame leukemia to post a 2.91 ERA and a 3.59 FIP in 68 innings with the Cleveland Indians. The Mets traded two prospects and shortstops Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez in exchange for Carrasco and Lindor.

“I’m so happy right now,” Carrasco said in a virtual press conference. “I wish Spring Training started next week, to meet everyone and start wearing this jersey. It’s something really important for me, just wearing this jersey right now.”

Carrasco will slide just after deGrom in a championship-caliber New York Mets rotation. Speaking of that, it’s the primary goal of “Cookie”: win a World Series.

“The potential is to make it to the playoffs and to the World Series, too,” Carrasco said. “They have a really good team. We have a really good team. Adding myself and Lindor is going to be really, really good, really nice.”

The Mets are getting a great one

With a 3.77 ERA and a 3.42 FIP, Carrasco has been quite good during his career. He also has a 9.45 K/9 and a 2.33 BB/9, meaning he can strike people out while limiting his walks.

Lindor and Carrasco were happy to be traded together to the Mets. The former called the latter to tell him, “Hey Cookie, we’re leaving together.”

Speaking of Lindor, he praised the right-handed pitcher, who has been his teammate for years. “He brings a great energy,” Lindor said. “Carrasco is an outstanding teammate. He cares about the game. He cares about winning. And the happiness he brings to the clubhouse every single day, it’s something to look forward to and admire. … He wants to please people. So that’s going to be a great facet that he’s going to bring to the Mets organization. People are going to love him for sure.”

UFC rebooks headliner between Khamzat Chimaev and Leon Edwards

Today is one of the first days the UFC is back on Fight Island and they kicked it off with a bang. Dana White confirmed with MMA Junkie this morning that the promotion has rebooked Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) – Leon Edwards (18-3).

This will be the third time that the UFC is attempting to book this fight. The two will now headline the March 13th Fight Night. March is starting to look like it’s going to be a massive month for the UFC.

As mentioned, this is the third time that this fight is booked. Originally, this fight was supposed to take place in December. However, Edwards tested positive for COVID and the fight was scrapped.

Then the UFC rebooked the fight for the January 20th card. Chimaev also came down with COVID and he was not able to make the date. So, the promotion scrapped the fight for a second time.

There was brief discussions about keeping Edwards on next week’s card, however, the UFC really wanted to keep the two paired. As a result, they started working on new potential dates and landed on March 13th.

UFC Title Eliminator

A few months ago, I would have bet my house that the UFC title eliminator at welterweight would have been Colby Covington (16-2) – Jorge Masvidal (35-14). The promotion is still working on that fight, however, it hasn’t been booked.

The next welterweight title fight takes place at UFC 258 in February. Given the timeline of this new Chimaev – Edwards headliner, I believe that the winner will likely be the next in line for the welterweight championship.

Chimaev has taken the UFC by storm since his debut in July on Fight Island. Three incredibly dominant performances have turned him into a superstar. If he’s able to defeat Edwards, his stock is going to be astronomically high.

However, that’s not going to be an easy task. While not the sexiest name in the division, Edwards has won an incredible eight-straight at welterweight. Should he derail the hype train of Chimaev, there’s no denying him of a title shot. I’m pumped for this one.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Should the Yankees consider Brad Miller if they can’t sign DJ or others?

The New York Yankees have been stuck in neutral while waiting to see if they can re-sign DJ LeMahieu. According to reports, the sides are far apart in the negotiations. Meanwhile, LeMahieu is tired of waiting for the Yankees to meet his demands; he and the Wasserman Group, his agent, are re-engaging with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees would want to see the last thing for him to go to a team in their same division. However, the Yankees don’t seem to be budging from a contract more to their liking.

If the Yankees find that they can’t sign the batting champ for another tour on the Yankees, the Yankees will have to scramble to fill another hole in the team. The Yankees could solve the problem quickly by reuniting with their old friend Didi Gregorius. Gregorius knows the territory and is one of the best shortstops in the game. Gregorius was unhappy with the Yankees when he was not offered a contract after the 2019 season. He ended up going with Joe Girardi’s Phillies, where he had a bounce-back year.  He hit .284 with ten homers; in a normal year, that’s the equivalent of 27 home runs.

However, adding Gregorius would be the most expensive of available options. With the Phillies saying they don’t have the money to re-sign Didi, they are still interested in keeping him. For the Yankees, they would most likely have to offer him at least a short-term multi-year contract. It would probably cost the Yankees at least $20 million on a two-year deal. However, the Yankees would get a no questioned asked shortstop, move Gleyber Torres to second base, and get an active lefty bat in the Yankee’s right heavy lineup.

Should the New York Yankees consider Brad Miller?

If the New York Yankees cant signed DJ LeMahieu and chose not to reunite with Didi Gregorius, there are other options. One is to consider is Brad Miller, who the St. Louis Cardinal did not offer a contract extension. The Veteran Miller is 31 and is a utility infielder. His prime spots are at short and second base, but he also is a very satisfactory player at first and at the hot corner. He is not the greatest hitter, but he does hit for contact and is a lefty bat for the lineup. Last season he hit .232 with seven home runs. Miller seems to get on base more than his stats would suggest he had a .807 OPS last season.

If his hitting is lacking and being fair, he hit .263 in 2019; his defense is not; he is one of the best defenders of infielders. He had a 1.000 fielding percentage last season both at short and at second base. He also had the same fielding percentage at short during the 2019 season. With those stats, he is certainly an upgrade over Torres at short. The big plus for the cost-conscious Yankees is that they could probably get him on a short term contract for $2 million annually.

Miller has played with the Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland. In the spring of 2019, the Yankees showed an interest in Miller when they signed him to a minor league contract, but he ended up with the Indians

 

New York Mets: Brad Hand and Front Office Off By A Year

The New York Mets are still in pursuit of Brad Hand to round out their bullpen with an All-Star left-hander. Though there is mutual interest from both sides, the Mets hope to offer Hand a one-year deal while Hand is looking for multiple years.

It is hard to find a reason why Hand does not deserve the same deal as Liam Hendriks. Hand has pitched with the same level of production but for a longer period of time. Since 2016, Hand has a 2.70 ERA while Hendriks has a 3.08 ERA.

Should The Mets Him Multiple Years?

Contract extensions for Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor and other arbitration cases give the Mets plenty of big decisions in the 2021 offseason. The decision with Hand is based upon whether the Mets want to pay a high large amount for another reliever who is not their closer. If he signs, Hand will become the second-best reliever on the roster.

The Mets should give Hand the extra years because they do not have a left-handed reliever remotely close to Hand’s level. Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Brach become free agents after 2021, which frees about $20 million for next season. About $13 million-$15 million can go towards Hand, and his production alone would be better than Betances, Familia, and Brach combined.

Hand is a difference-maker in the bullpen as a left-handed version of Seth Lugo. Adding him gives the Mets the best bullpen in baseball and makes them the number one contender to challenge the Atlanta Braves for the National League East crown.