The New York Giants improved but ultimately couldn’t make a splash in the league as a whole in 2020, and ESPN doesn’t predict the situation improving much in 2021. In their early 2021 power rankings for every team, ESPN placed the Giants at number 25 overall. While that isn’t as low as the Giants have been at the worst points in their rebuilding, many will be hoping for more improvement than that.
2020 record: 6-10
Offseason in three or fewer words: Find some playmakers
Wide receiver. Tight end. Edge rusher. Cornerback. The Giants need help at all those premium positions, whether it be in free agency or the draft. Owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman even admitted after the season they needed to find “playmakers” this offseason. Let the hunt begin. — Jordan Raanan
The Giants might be able to improve in the eyes of the rest of the league if they can do what the article suggests and find playmakers. The rankings are based on the current talent on the team after all, and the Giants suffered last year from poor offensive schemes and a lack of separation from receivers.
They still nearly made the playoffs, which shows they could be a contender in the NFC East with better weapons. The draft could be a chance for that, as wide receiver and tight end are two of the main positions mocked to the Giants at number eleven.
Either way, the prediction looks a bit low for the Giants but is ultimately somewhat understandable. The Giants have underperformed a lot over the past two years and have tended to start the season below expectations. Last season, they were able to turn that around a bit and compete to the end.
Hopefully, such a turnaround isn’t needed in 2021.
The two parties have advanced past preliminary talks following the smashing success of BKFC’s KnuckleMania last weekend in Florida.
O’Neal sat at ringside and presented the BKFC bantamweight belt to Dat Nguyen in the BKFC’s latest pay-per-view event that drew record numbers for the two-year-old company.
“We’re working out the details right now. He’s very interested. [Shaq] loves the product. [He] loves what we’re doing. I think he adds tons to value to us,” BKFC founder and CEO David Feldman told Empire Sports Media in a phone interview. “We’re dealing with his team now and tying all the loose ends, but I think it’s gonna be a done deal. Everybody in the world knows who Shaq is. He’ll be a great addition to our family.”
The KnuckleMania was the first combat sports event in the US to have live fans, thanks to stringent health protocols which BKFC put in place.
The new fast-paced and exciting combat sport founded by Feldman in 2018 has made a steady rise, which peaked over last weekend’s fights.
“It looks like we’re trending towards the 100,000-mark of live viewers in the United States. And worldwide—we had international deals this time—the feedback from the networks that we sold to, it looks like about anywhere between 12 and 15 million live viewers,” Feldman said.
And one of those captured by BKFC’s rapid growth is O’Neal, who has been following them for a while now.
Shaq is a huge BKFC fan
O’Neal told USA Today that BKFC is the “future of fighting” and called its fighters “the toughest athletes in the world” for not using gloves. O’Neal also revealed that he came across the new sport through a friend.
“He was watching it on TV a lot, and he started communicating with us, and then in December he came to our event, and he really, really liked it. It piqued his interest even more, and we’re almost there [with the deal],” Feldman said.
The unassuming BKFC CEO did not believe at first that O’Neal was a huge fan.
“He reached out and said, ‘I love what you guys are doing…’ Then I message back, ‘Is this really Shaq?’ Then he put a video up and said, ‘Who else would it be?’ And it was pretty cool,” Feldman recalled.
From then on, O’Neal and Feldman were in constant communication. After the NBA Bubble last year, O’Neal finally had a chance to watch a BKFC event live.
Everybody is calling
Aside from the looming partnership with O’Neal, Feldman also shared that a couple of networks have reached out to him after the KnuckleMania.
“We’re definitely in talks right now. We are building our brand, which is the Bare Knuckle TV, and we have our app, but we definitely want to have a platform/partnership [with an established TV network] because it will just add more eyeballs, and that’s coming. It’s certainly coming,” Feldman said.
The BKFC will have their next event dubbed as “Bare Knuckle Kingdom” 1 in Thailand on March 5, and Feldman said, “international expansion is definitely on the horizon.”
“We have a fight in the UK during the first weekend of April. As far as really going global expansion, it’s obviously right now just depends when COVID-19 goes away or subsides,” said Feldman. “The plan is to take this everywhere. Everybody is calling.”
Groups from Africa, Japan, Russia, and Brazil have shown interest in hosting BKFC events. Even fighters from boxing and MMA have sent feelers to join their organization.
“They’re all reaching out. Some top UFC fighters came in during the weigh-in and the press conferences, and I said, ‘You know, you’re gonna like this new sport, and they all said, ‘Nah.’ Then after the fight, they all came over and said to me, ‘This is amazing! I can’t wait to do this,'” Feldman said.
Feldman also can’t wait for what’s coming next for BKFC.
Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) is one of the best lightweights in the UFC. There is no questioning his talent or questioning how impressive he’s been as of late. However, Oliveira is not gaining any fans with his recent stance on what’s next for him.
As of now, the UFC lightweight title is in limbo. Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) is the undisputed lightweight champion, however, he’s maintained that he’s been retired for the last couple of months. Yet, Dana White is still holding onto hope that he changes his mind.
Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) proved last month at UFC 257 that he deserves to fight for the title next after he knocked out Conor McGregor (22-5). Oliveira has been vocal that he only wants to fight Poirier, but it has to be for the title.
This hasn’t sat well with former interim lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje. Gaethje took to Twitter tonight to voice his frustrations about Oliveira’s stance. Gaethje made it quite clear by stating, “What the f*ck has this dude done to get a shot at the title?”
Yes, Oliveira has won eight fights in a row. That alone is incredibly impressive. However, when you really dive into the winning streak, it’s not all that impressive. Yes, Oliveira’s win over Tony Ferguson (25-5) was incredibly impressive.
However, only one other fighter on that list of eight ranks inside the top fifteen. In Oliveira’s last nine fights, he’s fought two guys who are currently ranked tenth or higher in the division. He’s 1-1 in those two matchups with the loss coming against Paul Felder.
Oliveira is playing a very risky game with the UFC. The promotion is giving him opportunities to make himself more of a household name and legitimizing his top contender status. However, he keeps turning things down because he claims he has nothing to prove. Dangerous tightrope he’s walking with this train of thought.
The UFC has their work cut out for them with Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). Oliveira is currently on an eight-fight winning steak and he’s made it very clear that he wants a title shot in his next fight. However, the UFC hasn’t been leaning in that direction as of now.
Do Bronx took to Twitter with a simple post stating, “No interest, homie. Goal: Lightweight belt.” Now, the UFC hasn’t actually approached Oliveira about fighting Nate Diaz, but they now know what his answer would be regardless.
Listen, I completely respect where Oliveira is coming from. He believes he deserves a title shot and he’s willing to say no until he gets it. However, this isn’t always rewarded by the the UFC especially when you’re not a star.
Oliveira’s big problem here is that he’s not a star and he doesn’t have leverage in negotiations. Conor McGregor could do something like this because of the cash cow that he is. However, Oliveira has no pull in this situation against the UFC.
If we’ve learned anything about Dana White, it’s that he loves guys who are down to fight anyone at anytime. Charles Oliveira’s mission is respectable, but it’s not going to make him popular with the brass at the UFC. Three big-time opponents and Oliveira has turned them all down. I have to say, I don’t think it’s wise.
The New York Giants are entering a crucial roster-building offseason. The Giants were just one win away from making the playoffs in 2020, despite finishing with a 6-10 record. New York was close to getting over the hump and turning things around. However, they ultimately fell short.
The Giants do not seem to be far off of a good team. If New York can add a few extra pieces this offseason, they could establish themselves as playoff contenders in 2021. But there are a few holes for New York to patch up before the season rolls around. One area of weakness that the Giants need to address is their second cornerback position.
James Bradberry was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2020. But opposite of Bradberry, the Giants had a revolving door of cornerbacks starting on the outside. Whether it was Cory Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis, or Julian Love starting at the Giants’ second cornerback position, the team had to endure inconsistent play from that position all season long.
There are a few solutions for the Giants to pursue at the cornerback position. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, it is unlikely the Giants are going to draft a cornerback with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If New York is going to upgrade their cornerback position, it seems likely that they would do it through free agency.
Fortunately, this year’s free-agent cornerback market has a fair amount of veteran talent for the Giants to pursue. One additional cornerback has recently been added to the market: A.J. Bouye. The Denver Broncos cut Bouye this week after one season with the team. Now 29-years-old, A.J. Bouye is a veteran cornerback that is still playing at a high level and could be a target for the Giants in free agency.
AJ Bouye stats and highlights
A.J. Bouye was, at one point, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Bouye had a career year as a member of the dominant 2017 Jaguars defense. That season, Bouye made his first Pro Bowl appearance, totaling 6 interceptions, 18 passes defended, and 56 combined tackles.
Since 2017, Bouye has struggled to return to that elite form. But he is still a savvy veteran playing at an above-average level. In seven games this season with the Broncos, A.J. recorded 6 passes defended and 23 combined tackles. Bouye was targeted in coverage 35 times in 2020, allowing 23 receptions for 273 yards and only 2 touchdowns.
Putting A.J. Bouye opposite of James Bradberry would give the Giants one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. Those two cornerbacks plus the Giants’ trio of talented safeties in Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney, could shape into a top-five secondary in the NFL.
The Broncos saved $13 million in cap space when they cut A.J. Bouye. His last contract was lucrative, but now, it is expected that Booye’s next contract will see a significant pay decrease. If the New York Giants can sign A.J. Bouye to an affordable contract, he could be the player to take the defense to the next level.
Okamoto stated that UFC president Dana White said that Khamzat Chimaev is still dealing with lingering symptoms of COVID-19. Because of these symptoms, Chimaev is not able to properly train and he has been forced to pull out of the fight.
Originally, the UFC booked these two as the headliner for the December 19th fight night. However, Edwards came down with COVID and the promotion had to postpone the fight. Then they rescheduled the fight for January 20th.
However, this time it was Chimaev who came down with COVID and the fight was cancelled a second time. Now, the UFC has been forced to cancel this matchup for the third time and this will be the final time.
White told Okamoto that the promotion will not attempt to book this fight again. Instead, they will move forward with finding Leon Edwards a new opponent. There is the possibility that Edwards moves dates as well.
UFC’s options for Edwards
This is a huge blow for the UFC’s welterweight division. This fight had a ton of hype behind it and it was good business for the promotion either way. If Edwards won, he would get the push he needed to validate his top contender status.
If Chimaev was able to win, the UFC would have their newest superstar right in title contention. However, the dream of this fight is officially dead, for now. The question then becomes, who does Leon Edwards fight?
Given the timeline, it’s possible that Leon Edwards gets the next shot at the title. Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns are fighting this weekend for the title. In theory, the Colby Covington – Jorge Masvidal fight should produce the top contender. However, that fight won’t take place anytime soon.
If someone wins this weekend and wants to turn around quickly, Edwards might finally get his UFC title shot. The only other fighter who is available anytime soon would be Michael Chiesa (18-4). However, I’m not sure Edwards would want that fight. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
Later this month, the UFC was scheduled to have a fight night headlined by a light heavyweight matchup between Dominick Reyes (12-2) and Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1). With the upcoming light heavyweight title fight at UFC 259 in March, this fight was huge for the division.
Well, today we learned when that fight will take place. MMA Fighting was the first to report that the UFC has booked the fight between Prochazka and Reyes for a new date. The light heavyweight matchup will now take place on May 1st.
Given the new timeline, this could actually be more beneficial for the winner in terms of getting a title shot. Glover Teixeira (32-7) is number one contender in the light heavyweight division. He’s been told that he’s getting the next title shot after UFC 259.
Depending on how the fight goes in a few weeks, Teixeira might be getting his shot over the summer. That would line up perfectly for the winner of the Reyes – Prochazka fight. I could definitely see the winner being the UFC‘s top contender after Glover Teixeira.
UFC title eliminator?
Prochazka made his UFC debut back on Fight Island in July. He took on former title challenger, Volkan Oezdemir. Prochazka showed off his entertaining style and knocked Oezdemir out cold in the second round of their fight.
He’s only lost one time since 2013 and he looks like he can be a force in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. 2020 was a very tough year for Dominick Reyes. He started out the year by taking on Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title.
The fight was razor close and many believed Reyes defeated the pound-for-pound king. However, the judges gave the fight to Jones. Then, Reyes got another title opportunity against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 253. Reyes got knocked out in the second round of that fight.
After starting his career 12-0, Reyes has now lost two-straight. He has a very difficult puzzle in front of him on May 1st. When these two fight, Reyes will either show he’s still one of the best or Jiri Prochazka will show everyone that he’s the real deal.
Multi-platinum artist Pitbull is adding NASCAR owner to a resume as long as a lap at Daytona, uniting with Justin Marks and Daniel Suarez.
2021 Trackhouse Racing Driver Chart
iFly/Pump It Up Party/CommScope/K1 Speed
Armando Christian Perez knows all about what it’s like to make a difference and build successful ventures in Florida. In Daytona Beach on Sunday, Perez, known by his stage name of Pitbull, will potentially start a new one four hours from his beloved hometown of Miami.
Pitbull has teamed up with entrepreneur and former racer Justin Marks, opening the Trackhouse Racing Team, a new endeavor that adds to his enormous resume that also includes 11 studio albums, acting credits, and countless philanthropic endeavors. Those latter-most affairs are set to continue through a STEM education program that will work hand-in-hand with Pitbull’s SLAM Academy, a charter school in Miami. Onboard for the literal ride are Ty Norris, a longtime front office man who previously worked with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Michael Waltrip Racing, and Daniel Suarez. The Monterrey, Mexico native was the first non-American born driver to earn a championship in one of NASCAR’s three major levels when he topped the Xfinity Series in 2016.
“I’m far from a celebrity…I’m a hard, hard worker. Big difference,” Pitbull said of his new opportunity. “Celebrities will sell anything. I’m not here to sell anything. I’m here to help the culture, help unify, more than anything help motivate and inspire those through my story, through Daniel’s story, Justin’s story, Ty’s story, and NASCAR’s story.”
2020 in Review
After things didn’t work out in a single season in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 (since occupied by Cole Custer), Suarez signed with low-budget squad Gaunt Brothers Racing less than a month before the Daytona 500. Things got off to a brutal start, as Suarez got into a wreck at Daytona’s qualifying duels without a charter and failed to appear in the main event. Though the early dropout set the tone for a brutal season…Suarez’s best finish in GBR’s No. 96 was a pair of 18th-place postings at Bristol and Kansas…he was one of only seven full-time drivers to have two or few DNF’s (did not finish) last season. Among the others on that list were Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski.
Meet the Driver
Experience: 5th season Career Cup Victories: 0 2020 finish: 31st Best standings finish: 17th (2019)
There’s no denying Suarez has the talent to race at NASCAR’s highest levels. In addition to his Xfinity title, he has earned strong postings in the Mexico-based PEAK Series and the national Truck circuits (16 top tens in 27 attempts).
Part of his struggles may stem from an uncomfortable entrance into the premier league. When Carl Edwards abruptly retired a month before the 2017 season opened, Suarez was thrust into Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota with little preparation. He later got the boot two seasons later when champion Martin Truex Jr. was left without a ride after the closure of Furniture Row Racing. Suarez seemed to be getting the hang of his Cup ride at the time of the Truex announcement, with a runner-up finish in the latter Pocono race. Ironically, the No. 99 Chevrolet with Trackhouse, a number Marks chose to pay tribute to Edwards’ days in the identically-numbered Ford Edwards once drove for Jack Roush. Suarez also raced his way into the NASCAR All-Star Race twice with wins in the Open.
Speaking before he descended upon Daytona, Suarez was grateful for the rare stability Marks offered to him at Trackhouse. The original partnership was announced in October, three months before Pitbull joined in.
“This off-season has been probably the most productive I have had in a very, very long time…already knew since before the season was over exactly what I was going to be doing. When you are with that much time ahead, you can actually organize yourself, you can work hard, and you can put everything in perspective,” Suarez said. “For me was extremely important obviously to get together with Justin, with Ty Norris, that made this happen, and put everything, our goals, perspective, how we’re going to be able to achieve these things…Everything that Justin, Ty, Pitbull now, want to do outside the racetrack is amazing. I love all those things. At the same time competition is extremely important for me. I know I can win races. I’ve done it before. Championships as well. I want to do that in the Cup level.”
The talent is there with Suarez, and he’s finally had an offseason full of certainty and some strong resources behind it. It’s difficult for any team to get traction in their first season, but it appears that Trackhouse has the resources and experience to at least get the ball rolling. If they can consistently run in the top 20, that’d be a great jumping point for a driver looking for welcome consistency.
That’s what Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey revealed during his recent guest appearance on Sirius XM NBA Radio.
“The last couple of days before the trade went down, we had a great conversation,” Casey said. “He was upfront and honest. ‘Coach, I’ve only got so many miles left in my legs. I just want to make sure I go to a situation where I may have a chance to make the playoffs this year. I know where you guys are—you’re rebuilding, you’re retooling.”
Casey, though, was perplexed at first with his destination of choice—the New York Knicks. But he understood the player-coach bond between Rose and Tom Thibodeau.
“And I said to Derrick, ‘you may have a chance here just as you may have in New York,'” Casey recalled with a chuckle.
“But I understand his relationship with Thibs. Thibs started him out as a rookie. That’s special. You never gonna change that. So, I’m happy for Derrick. I was glad we were able to accommodate him and find him a place where he could go and a place he wanted to go to play with Thibs,” Casey quickly added.
Several playoff contenders with the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and the Los Angeles Clippers reportedly targeted Rose. But the former NBA MVP ultimately chose familiarity and opportunity.
The Knicks have been a pleasant surprise in Thibodeau’s first year with the team. They currently sit at ninth place in the Eastern Conference with their 11-15 start.
Rose feels he can come in and help the Knicks reach the playoffs.
He wanted to be reunited with Thibodeau for the third time. But on top of that, he also desires to rewrite a bad chapter in his storied career.
His first stint with the Knicks in 2016 started on the wrong foot with off-court troubles stemming from rape allegations. Then it spiraled into his now-infamous AWOL. His short-lived stay in New York ended with his fourth knee surgery.
Rose went through hell but rose and fought his way back.
“I’m happy for him because he came here, again, a guy that we got from Minnesota. I gave him a couple of years to re-establish himself in the league as one of the top off-the-bench scorers and fit in like a glove and worked with me, accepting my coaching here with the guys. He’s been an MVP in the league. And his body went in a different way, but he continues to work and get his body in the right place,” Casey said.
With those knees keep on betraying him, Rose reinvented himself. He morphed into one of the productive NBA players off the bench.
In his first game back with the Knicks, Rose collected 14 points, one rebound, three assists, one steal, and a block in just 20 minutes off the bench. The Knicks lost a nail-biter, 98-96, to the Heat, but they hung with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, and they outscored them by six when Rose was on the floor.
“He’s gonna be a big plus for New York as they go forward and get to where they want to go like he did to us, and I’m happy for him,” Casey said.
Rose made an interesting choice. He shunned the odds-on favorites to make the playoffs and bet on himself and the Knicks.
Will the third time be the charm for Rose and Thibodeau? Will the Rose-Knicks love affair be sweeter the second time around?
For the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams, it’s now February, and it seems like there has been no baseball for six months, but it really hasn’t been that long; in fact, spring training is just a week away. The Yankees will have a somewhat new look on Opening Day. Gone are Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. As the season opens, the Yankee fans will see Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, and Jameson Taillon taking the mound. Everyone wants to know the question: Are the New York Yankees the team to beat in 2021?
CBS Sports analysts chimed in on the question: R.J. Anderson: I’m inclined to say the Yankees. That’s no offense to the Blue Jays, whose efforts to improve this offseason have been noted and appreciated. I just think the Yankees have the better lineup and bullpen, and both teams have question marks in their rotations. But at the top of the rotation, Gerrit Cole is more certain than the Jay’s Hyun-Jin Ryu. Matt Snyder: It’s the Yankees. Though I have no doubt the Rays will find a way to somehow have an above-average pitching staff, I’m not even remotely buying their rotation behind Tyler Glasnow, and he’s a health concern as it is. Meanwhile, the Yankees just have so much offensive firepower and a better rotation.
Dayn Perry: I lean Yankees at this point. Although I like the Blue Jays’ offseason, I think they’re a regression risk in some key spots. As for the reigning AL Champs, the Rays, I know the roster churn model has worked for them for the last handful of seasons, but I think it has its limits in terms of sustainability. The Yankees’ rotation concerns are duly noted, but I think they have the AL’s best offense and the AL’s top starting pitcher. Mike Axisa: I think it’s the Yankees as well. The Blue Jays have definitely improved this offseason, and when you have that much young talent, it can come together very quickly. I think they are the clear No. 2 team in the division now that the Rays have taken a step back.
Sox trade Benintendi away, Yanks love it
As hard as the Boston Red Sox try to improve their team, all they seem to do is make mysterious moves to degrade the team even further than they have already. Last season they got rid of their best player in Mookie Betts when they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with pitcher David Price.
Now in another pleasing move for the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox have traded away Andrew Benintendi. Boston seems to intend to ripping down the team’s foundation the won the World Series in 2018; that seems like a decade ago, but no, it’s just taken the Red Sox to demolish the team in only over two short years. If you remember, the 2018 Red Sox featured the “Killer Bees,” Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. There is only one “B” left, and don’t be surprised if he is gone too before spring training.
Benintendi is now with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals got the better end of the deal. Benintendi will head to the Royals, with prospect Khalil Lee going to the Mets, and Franchy Cordero, Josh Winchowski, and three players to be named later, joining the Red Sox in the three-team deal.
Ex-Yankee Phelps signs with the Jays
David Phelps right-hand pitcher signed with the New York Yankees and pitched for three seasons, Going 15-4 with a 4.21 ERA across 87 games. Now he will be back at Yankees Stadium, but this time as a Toronto Blue Jay. MLB.com’s broke the news today. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to release the terms of the deal. Phelps will $1.75 million for one year to pitch for the Jays. If he is good he can earn another $750K in performance bonuses.
Since Phelps was with the Yankees, he has made the rounds playing with the Miami Marlins, the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and last year with Joe Girardi’s Philadelphia Phillies. With the Phillies last season, he was 0-1 in then games with an ERA of 12.91