Paige VanZant can still compete in MMA while under contract with BKFC

Paige VanZant

This Friday night, Paige VanZant (8-5 MMA) will make her highly anticipated debut in BKFC. 2020 was a big year for Paige VanZant. She returned to combat sports for the first time since January of 2019. She had been held out due to a number of injuries.

VanZant had one fight left on her UFC contract and she took on Amanda Ribas at UFC 251. That night, VanZant was submitted in the first round. The entire fight week, VanZant made it clear that she was going to explore free agency after the fight with Ribas.

VanZant and the UFC agreed to part ways after the final fight of her deal and she started exploring the market. Early on, Bellator was seen as the clear favorite to sign PVZ. They were vocal about their interest and VanZant’s husband fights under the promotion.

However, VanZant shocked everyone when she signed an exclusive deal with BKFC. Bare Knuckle Boxing was not even on the radar in terms of evaluating the options for VanZant. However, BKFC came forward with an offer she couldn’t refuse and she took the deal.

Now, this Friday she will step into the squared circle against Britain Hart (1-2 BKFC). It will be the start of a new chapter for Paige VanZant. However, despite signing the deal with BKFC, her MMA career might not be over due to some language in the contract.

BKFC will allow VanZant to compete in MMA

In speaking with TMZ Sports, VanZant revealed that BKFC’s contract gives her the liberty to take an MMA fight. VanZant said, “They (BKFC) did give me the liberty in my contract to take an MMA fight. I was informed of that by my manager and I didn’t know that at first”

“At first I was like, ‘No, I just want to do the boxing.’ But, after coming to American Top Team, it rebirthed my excitement (for MMA)… Yeah, maybe I’ll take an MMA fight. But for now I’m strictly focused on the boxing,” VanZant said.

Signing VanZant was a huge mainstream move for BKFC. While the MMA purest aren’t extremely high on PVZ, she does have a massive following and she will bring eyes and attention to Bare Knuckle.

If she can get a couple of wins under her belt at BKFC, it might be good business to explore cross-promotion. I could definitely see a situation in the future where there is some cross-promotion events with PVZ. My guess is that it would likely be Bellator seeing as Scott Coker is never afraid to co-promote an event.

New York Knicks: RJ Barrett’s offensive versatility is causing problems for opponents

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

New York Knicks’ former third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is emerging as one of the tougher players on the young Roster. RJ Barrett’s ability to distribute and score in a variety of ways is valuable for Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks. Reid Goldsmith, the managing editor for The Knicks Wall, tweets about RJ Barrett’s performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers during a blowout victory inside an empty Madison Square Garden. RJ Barrett’s 24-points was described as “light” by The Knicks Wall in the following tweet.

Some fans are considering RJ Barrett a hero due to his recent play. The 20-year old has improved this season on both ends of the court. Even Tom Thibodeau couldn’t hold back from giving Barrett praise for his solid play. Tom Thibodeau is running the offense through Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. This was anticipated through an article shared on Twitter last July after Tom Thibodeau’s hiring.

Intensity and toughness is what Tom Thibodeau’s teams are all about. Former Duke star Barrett knows all about those characteristics due to being the son of a former international professional basketball player Rowan Barrett Sr. The RJ Barrett and Tom Thibodeau pairing is looking like a very good match. Both have the desire and thirst for winning basketball in New York City.

Overall, the young Knicks roster is on the cusps of becoming a competitive team due to a winning head coach and hard-working personnel. The Knicks already have an identity, as they currently lead the NBA in least points scored against and opponent three-point shooting percentages. The Knicks are still improving on both ends of the court, therefore, the overall upside is still intriguing for not only this year but for the next 2-3 years as well.

Breaking down the real problem with the New York Islanders

New York Islanders, Barry Trotz

The New York Islanders have dropped 5 straight games and have only collected just 2 points in those games. In a regular season, there’s a chance you can come back from this. But, in an abbreviated season, there’s just no room for this much error. Who’s to blame for this skid? The production from the players? The lineups made by Barry Trotz? Or, is it the fact that the Islanders just lack talent overall? The answer is basically all three of these things combined.

Lack of Production

There are only a few players on this team who look like they actually want to win. Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Noah Dobson, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech. Every other lineup regular forgot that the season started 3 weeks ago. This does not include players like Kieffer Bellows, Austin Czarnik, and Oliver Wahlstrom, who all have played great in their limited chances. I don’t know what’s going to get through the heads of other players. If you cannot score, play good defense and check tightly. But no one else does that, so it’s basically a 19v6 every single night. Whenever Nick Leddy, Leo Komarov, and Ross Johnston take the ice, I cringe a lot. The Islanders need to find players who actually want to win.

Bad Coaching Decisions

I’m not taking away from how good of a coach Barry Trotz is, but his decisions have been questionable recently. For example, Leo Komarov takes a major penalty late in the third period, and the second he’s able to come back, he gets thrown out there with a minute left in a tied game. Komarov blows his assignment, as everyone knew he would, and costs the Isles 2 points. Then the next game, Komarov gets bumped up to top-six minutes. If I’m the coach, I know exactly how I’m rolling out these forwards. Lee-Barzal-Eberle, Bellows-Nelson-Cznarik/Dal Colle, Wahlstrom-Pageau-Bailey, fourth line. Obviously, when Beauvillier comes back, he’ll take out Cznarik or whoever is skidding.

Lack of Talent

Nick Leddy is an AHL talent at this point in his career. Leo Komarov is going to be in an old folk’s home soon. Ross Johnston is just a UFC fighter on skates. Scott Mayfield is as average as it possibly gets. I do like his penalty kill play, though. Everyone else is just playing bad, so I won’t get on their case, but still, this team lacks talent. And it’s not like they can get out of this rut anytime soon because they don’t have cap space. This year you have to resign the white whale, the best defender on the team, and a top 6 forward, plus more. The Islanders must make a blockbuster trade now.

The case for and against Charles Oliveira getting the next UFC title shot

The UFC‘s lightweight division is in a very unique spot. There’s still not really clarity at the top of the division with the undisputed champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), seemingly retired. Yet, he still holds on to the title.

Just over a week ago at UFC 257, we saw Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) knock out Conor McGregor (22-5). In retrospect, this fight should have been for the vacant UFC lightweight title if Khabib is truly retired. However, Dana White has held out stripping Khabib in hoping he’ll come back.

In all likelihood, Khabib is not going to return to the UFC. At least, he’s not going to return anytime soon. With that, there’s no doubting that the top guy in the UFC is currently Dustin Poirier. You could consider him the uncrowned champion at this point.

After his win at UFC 257, Poirier said that he was only interested in a few opponents for his next fight. Keep in mind that his next fight should be for the lightweight title. Poirier said that he would fighter McGregor, Nate Diaz (20-12), or Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC).

The hardcore fans are very much behind Oliveira getting the title shot. However, we know that the UFC is a business and sometimes the best business decision outweighs the fair decision. With that, should Charles Oliveira be the next in line for the title?

Case For Oliveira’s title shot

The easy thing to say here is that of course Oliveira deserves a title shot in his next fight. He’s currently on an eight-fight win streak where he’s finished seven opponents. In the UFC’s lightweight division, that’s almost unheard of.

Oliveira last competed at UFC 256 when he took on former interim champion, Tony Ferguson (25-5). Oliveira completely dominated Tony Ferguson over three rounds and came extremely close to finishing him in the first round.

After the fight, Oliveira said that he wanted the Poirier – McGregor winner for the title. After Poirier’s win at UFC 257, he also seems on board with fighting Do Bronx for the lightweight championship. However, is the UFC going to do that?

Oliveira has been sensational, however, during this eight-fight winning streak, he only has one top ten win. He submitted Kevin Lee and defeated Tony Ferguson, however, Ferguson’s stock had dropped after the beating he took from Justin Gaethje (22-3).

Why the UFC will likely say no

While Oliveira has looked sensational, he still doesn’t have that much general/casual steam behind him. There’s not an outcry from the public to see him fight Dustin Poirier for the title. While the MMA purest would love to see him fight for the title, it wouldn’t be the best business decision.

For Oliveira to get a title shot and it make sense on all fronts, he needs another big win. He needs to defeat someone else who has a big following in the UFC. If Oliveira can beat a guy like Gaethje or Michael Chandler (22-5) next, I think it would put him over the top.

I’m honestly torn on Charles Oliveira getting the next shot. I get it, he’s won eight in a row. However, only one of those wins was considered to come against the division’s elite. That combined with the lack of drawing power makes me hesitant to throw him in there against Poirier.

Anything can happen, but I would be pretty surprised if Oliveira gets the next UFC title shot. At the end of the day, you have to check the boxes of big business and resume. At the moment, Oliveira only checks the resume which is why I think he ultimately will not get the next shot.

Rangers rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller broke up altercation (Report)

Larry Brooks of the New York Post is reporting that New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller was the player who broke up the physical altercation between Anthony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev following Saturday nights 5-4 OT loss to the Penguins.

DeAngelo was placed on waivers on Sunday and has until noon Monday to be claimed.

Per Brooks “The Post learned Monday morning, K’Andre Miller broke up the altercation that was precipitated by a remark from DeAngelo to the goaltender just as the team left the ice.”

The altercation appears to be a result of a miscommunication between DeAngelo and Georgiev which led to the OT game-winning goal scored by Penguins Sidney Crosby.

Should DeAngelo clear waivers it is unclear what the club will do with the defenseman. He could be placed on the taxi squad or sent to the AHL and play for the Hartford Wolf Pack. He just signed a two-year, $9.6 million contract that has an AAV of $4.8 million.

The physical altercation was the straw that broke the Rangers back regarding the Sewell, New Jersey native. His antics on social media over this past summer did not go well with the organization.

Head coach David Quinn told Dan Rosen of NHL.com that DeAngelo being placed on waiver was not just from one bad game.

 

Defenseman Anthony Bitetto will be in the lineup on Monday night when the Rangers hist the Penguins at MSG.

 

 

Yankees News: Tampa Bay Rays tried to sabotage Corey Kluber/Jameson Taillon acquisitions

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees made significant moves over the past few weeks, outbidding teams for Corey Kluber and acquiring Jameson Taillon in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. General manager Brian Cashman has been busy, but he’s been facing opposition for his latest acquisitions, as AL East rivals tried to sabotage his plans. Specifically, the Tampa Bay Rays had their sights set on Corey Kluber and also tried to trade for Taillon, which is a precarious situation since the Yankees clearly had the two in their focus.

After the Rays decided to let Charlie Morton walk in free agency and traded ace Blake Snell, they had to fill two starting spots in the rotation, and while they did target both of the starters, the Yankees ended up landing, their attempts at sabotage fell silently.

Buster Olney of ESPN confirmed Tampa’s interest in the Yankees’ targets:

The Rays decided to not pick up the option of Charlie Morton and traded Blake Snell, but that does not mean they’ve given up on trying to upgrade the rotation this winter. They were in the bidding for Corey Kluber, with manager Kevin Cash driving across the state to see Kluber in person. They also tried to trade for Jameson Taillon — with both pitchers landing on the roster of the division-rival Yankees.”

The Yankees are taking a risky approach with both Kluber and Taillon, no matter how you look at it. While both starters are expected to be fully healthy for Opening Day, they’re coming off significant injuries and have barely pitched over the past two seasons. Cashman did not have much of a choice but to take a chance on both players, as ownership enforced a strict rule to keep the team under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

Nonetheless, the Yankees were extremely enticed by Pittsburgh’s reviews of Taillon, as Aaron Boone stated it was the best feedback he had ever gotten for a player.

“This is the best [feedback] I’ve gotten, by far,” Boone said. “Across the board, what I heard was how this guy is unbelievable, as far as the human being that he is.”

With spring training expected to start up on February 17, expect both starters to continue the rehabilitation and work their way toward normalcy. The biggest hurdle will likely be mentality, as they both are physically in good shape to start ramping things up.

New York Knicks: Star players rave about Immanuel Quickley’s abilities

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

When the New York Knicks drafted Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick, they expected him to be a more influential factor than he has been during the 2021 season. Toppin is averaging just 4.6 points per game over 12.5 minutes, but 25th overall pick Immanuel Quickley has been looking like the stud the Knicks have been waiting for.

Over the past two games, Quickley scored 50 total points, and in the last performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, he was one of the highest-rated players on the floor. He shot 9-of-16 from the field, logging three rebounds and three assists over 27 minutes. He was a focal point for New York, despite the loss.

It wasn’t until after the game, though, that Quickley received several comments that truly humbled him from the clippers coach and one of their star players.

Clippers coach Ty Lue said Quickley, “showed today he’s a special talent.” The compliments didn’t end there, as All-Star guard Paul George stated the Kentucky product is “fearless” with “crazy” floater abilities.

To receive compliments like that from such esteemed men in the NBA should give Quickley a sense of appreciation for what he’s done in just 21 games during his rookie season.

“It’s crazy honestly. Another one of the best players in our game, so for him to say that about me it’s a humbling experience. I appreciate it,” Quickley said. “But I just want to continue to try to keep getting better, try to help this team get more wins. Appreciate that and best of luck to him.”

The New York Knicks are watching Immanuel blossom at a significant rate:

Quickly seems to have the mentality of a great player, staying after hours to heave up shots and improve his game. Some might say he has the Michael Jordan mentality, which harps on practice and being in the right mindset to be great. He’s also trying to adapt his skill set to great players that are currently in the league, watching their habits and taking the best from each.

“I’m intrigued on just watching the best players and what they do, their habits,” Quickley said. “I ask a lot of questions. I’m just a really curious person. So just watching what he does, wasn’t going to really bother him or nothing, ask him questions. But just seeing how he carries himself, what type of pro he is and just really that. I was just intrigued at seeing the best players at our game and what they do.”

The Knicks landed a good one in the Kentucky star, but nobody expected him to be this productive so early in his career. Head coach Tom Thibodeau might not have a choice but to start him relatively soon, despite his Elfrid Payton preference, based solely on his defensive capabilities.

Dan Hooker wants to be in sync with his team before his next UFC fight

It’s been a little over a week since the lightweight showcase at UFC 257. Of course there was all the attention in the world on the main event, but the co-main event was so intriguing to fight fans and incredibly important for the lightweight division.

Michael Chandler (22-5) was making his UFC debut and he wasn’t getting a layup. The promotion gave Chandler, Dan Hooker (20-10) for his first fight. Don’t let the record fool you, Hooker is one of the best lightweights in the world.

Hooker struggled early on in his UFC career because he was killing himself to make featherweight. However, when he made the jump to lightweight, he’s shown he’s one of the very best in the world.

Prior to UFC 257, Hooker was 7-2 at lightweight and held wins over Gilbert Burns, Al Iaquinta, and Paul Felder. Hooker was coming off of a loss to Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC), but the fight was razor close. Had Hooker won that fight, he might’ve been the one fighting Conor McGregor (22-5).

Nevertheless, Hooker was tasked with welcoming Michael Chandler and it didn’t go as planned for Hooker. Hooker really never got a chance to get going as he was caught with a massive left hook that put him down in the first.

It was the first time Hooker had lost by TKO when the shots were to the head. A frustrated Hooker threw down his UFC gloves after the fight and many wondered if he was done. However, he recently told Submission Radio that he’s not done fighting and laid out his future timeline.

UFC return for Dan Hooker

On throwing his gloves, Hooker said, “Yeah, you’re always frustrated after a loss. In that moment, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m done, I’m finished with this sh*tty sport!’ Then you get back to the hotel and realize you’re not good at anything else.”

Hooker had a great attitude and was laughing about what happened at UFC 257. The top lightweight contender seemed to be taking it in stride knowing that losses are just a part of the game.

When asked about his UFC return, Hooker said that he’d like to get synced back up with his team. Normally, his team at City Kickboxing is all training together for a fight. However, everyone has had different schedules and because of that, Hooker didn’t even have his head coach at UFC 257.

“I get pretty jealous watching all the boys on the same card or roughly fighting around the same time. (After) They bang out these fights in March then they’ll look to get back in there two or three months later, it’ll be cool to get back in sync with them,” Hooker said.

With that, it appears that Hooker is targeting a late spring or early summer UFC return. I’m so glad to see Dan Hooker being so positive after UFC 257. He’s still one of the best in the world and I’m looking forward to seeing who the promotion matches him up with next.

New York Mets reportedly interested in Mike Foltynewicz

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets have been linked to just about every high-profile free agent pitcher available. At some point in the winter, they were interested in Jake Odorizzi, Tomoyuki Sugano, Corey Kluber, and lots more. They are still reportedly in on Trevor Bauer, and now, they have their eye on potential bounceback candidate.

The word out there, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, is that the New York Mets are one of a handful of clubs interested in free agent reclamation project Mike Foltynewicz, who has really struggled in both 2019 and 2020 but was very good as recently as 2018.

Folty has been dealing with injuries and velocity loss on his fastball for a couple of years now. After averaging 96.8 mph in 2018, the number was down all the way to 94.9 in 2019 and 91.4 last year.

Would he make sense for the Mets?

The Mets want to see if there is something left in Foltynewicz’s arm. Heyman reported that the pitcher looked good in a recent throwing session at Georgia Tech. The Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox were the other three clubs mentioned to have interest, per SNY. His velo was reportedly sitting in the low 90s.

During his seven-year MLB tenure, Foltynewicz has a 4.33 ERA in 686.0 innings, with 655 strikeouts. The Mets surely wouldn’t complain if they take a shot at him and he produces a similar performance.

In 183 innings during the 2018 campaign, he broke out with a 2.85 ERA, a 3.37 FIP and a career-high 9.93 strikeours per nine frames. He spent the last six seasons with the Atlanta Braves, so he is very familiar with the Mets.

Only time will tell if the Mets will take a flier on him, as they recently traded Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays and could definitely use another depth arm with upside given that Noah Syndergaard won’t return before June.

New York Yankees: Interview, “Mad Dog” grills Aaron Boone on the offseason

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

Recently the “Mad Dog” (Christopher Russo) grilled New York Yankee manager Aaron Boone on his TV program Mad Dog Unleashed. Boone responded to questions about the offseason and the season ahead. It was a long interview, so I will summarize rather than give you many direct quotes.

Russo started with the offseason’s hot topic, the signing of DJ LeMahieu; he talked about the six-year signing and how Boone felt about it. Boone responded that it’s no secret what he has meant to the Yankees for the last two years; he has probably been the American League MVP during those years. Boone continued that DJ has shown that he loves New York, he loves playing here, and he is essential to the team. He drives the culture and is so important, leading off and with his defensive versatility. He is in the mold now, and he will finish his career as a Yankee. He’s a leader, and all the players gravitate to him.

Russo talking about Gleyber Torres and suggested that he had defensive challengers but appeared to be the Yankee’s shortstop for the future. Boone did not vocalize his agreement but shook his head in agreement. He has the ability; I think the biggest thing with Gleyber is he has to find that consistency. Boone said that shortstop is a demanding position, and you have to be excellent at the fundamentals. He reiterated that you have to be able to handle the routine plays over and over again. They briefly discussed Torres not being ready last season. Boone said he came into spring training ready, but he messed up a bit before summer camp and had to play catchup without the knowledge that there would be a season. Overall, Boone’s comments did not assure that Torres would be their future, but what he had to do to improve. They did not talk about his poor performance behind the plate.

The Mad Dog talked about how Corey Kluber could be a great pitcher for the Yankees, but with October in mind, how will you handle that? Responding, Boone said he’s healthy we feel he is in a good place, and we have reasons to be optimistic. Most of the injuries he has had are not the typical pitcher injuries that you worry about. Last year we got to see some of our younger players, and now bringing in Kluber, bringing in Taillon to add to that. Boone also told how he could protect pitchers with all the depth that the Yankees have. The discussion migrated to be more about the young pitchers and how they have advanced than about Kluber.

Russo did discuss the New York Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman and basically how he has blown the postseason the past two years and if Boone still had confidence in him? How does Aaron Boone help get Chapman’s confidence back and his ora in the ninth inning? Boone said I’m not worried about “Chappy’s” psyche or his ability to bounce back. “I have zero concern about that.” I think he is as good as ever, and he has now developed a split-finger fastball that I think will become an important pitch for him, especially as he ages and doesn’t have the 105 mph fastball. He is still a dominant dynamic closer that got caught a couple of times. He is going to be on the mound for the New York Yankees when we hopefully win a championship.

Russo intimated that Boone had to know this question was coming. Why do you think Gary Sanchez would be any better this year than in the last few years? I’m not asking that he be a Johnny Bench, but he should hit .250 and get 25 homers. Do you think he can do that? Boone responded that he certainly could do it. We’ve given him the confidence of our support, and we feel with him we have the best chance at a championship. Obviously, there were issues with him last season, and he had a tough year. We still feel he has the ability to be excellent on both sides of the ball. I’m excited about his offseason and where he is now. Boone indicated that Sanchez is going to be our number one starting catcher.  He did not mention if he would catch for ace Gerrit Cole.

Boone also mentioned regarding Sanchez that last season Kyle Higashioka was pushing his way into the picture by hitting well and being a great defensive catcher. And as the season progressed, he was also showing power, and that entered into the equation. But Boone reiterated that he expected Gary Sanchez to be an All-Star catcher this season.

Fans will find it interested that Russo brought up the issue of Game two and having Deivi Garcia start the game. He asked if he wished he had left him in for a few more innings even though he gave up that home run? Boone smiled and struggled for words. Boone pointed out that Happ was totally aware that he might come in early in the game, saying that they talked about it for days. Boone admitted that it didn’t work out, but he also said he doesn’t know that the alternative would have worked. Moving away from that, Boone said with all their (Rays) lefties and switch hitters, they did an excellent job matching up with us. He went on to say that the Rays have done an excellent job in the last few years building their roster. We tried to match up, but it didn’t work out for the New York Yankees, and it doesn’t work out for 29 other teams each year.

They spoke briefly about Masahiro Tanaka, his successes and failures. Boone made it clear that he considered having Tanaka pitch for the New York Yankees was “a privilege.” He said as far as the culture was concerned, he had a lot of good players and good people and that Tanaka was at the head of that list. He was competitive and a joy to be around. I really like watching him. He talked about his unique personality and humor and that he was going to miss him.

In an almost humorous exchange, the dog referred to his friendship with A.J Hinch (the Astros manager in 2017). He asked if that have talked. Boone said that he had and still considered him a friend and has put 2017 behind him. He indicated that they had had a long conversation about things last spring. He is someone I’ll continue to talk to. I will look forward now to facing up against him now that he is the Detroit Tigers manager.

Even with all the pointed questions that Russo asked, Boone seemed to be happy to answer them and was very upbeat on the coming season. Curiously no mention was made about Brett Gardner and if he will be with the team in 2021.