UFC books Felicia Spencer – Danyelle Wolf

The UFC has finalized a big matchup in their featherweight division for May. First reported by BJPenn.com, Felicia Spencer (8-2) will be returning for her first fight since her failed attempted to dethrone Amanda Nunes at UFC 250.

Standing across from Felicia Spencer will be Danyelle Wolf (1-0) who will be making her UFC debut. The matchup between the two featherweights will take place on May 20th.

As mentioned, this will be the first time that Felicia Spencer has competed since last June. By the time she makes the walk, it would have been almost a year since UFC 250. On that night, Felicia Spencer proved that she just might be the toughest female fighter in the UFC.

The only two women to have defeated Felicia Spencer in her professional career are Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg. Not a bad resume when arguably the two greatest female fighters of all time are your only losses.

The former Invicta Featherweight champion is known for her toughness and her grappling ability. Spencer has incredible top pressure when she gets fights to the ground and she’s very strong. She’s still one of the best female fighters in the UFC despite the lopsided loss to Nunes.

Big UFC debut for Danyelle Wolf

Last September, Danyelle Wolf made her professional MMA debut on Dana White’s Contender Series. She won that fight by unanimous decision and the UFC decided to give her a contract. The former pro-boxer will see a massive step up in competition in May.

Wolf is a former US national champion in boxing. She will turn 38 years old this year, but she believes she has what it takes to make a run in the UFC. Due to the featherweight division being extremely light, Wolf was able to get a contract from the UFC after her debut.

She can take full advantage of that in May when she takes on Felicia Spencer. If Wolf is able to come out and defeat Spencer in her UFC debut, she might only be a victory away from a featherweight title shot. That sounds crazy, but there is virtually no competition in the featherweight division.

Should the New York Jets pursue star New England offensive lineman in free agency?

New England Patriots, Joe Thuney

Heading into last offseason, one of the hottest commodities projected to hit the market was two-time Super Bowl champion and all-pro offensive guard Joe Thuney. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were reportedly set to back up the brinks truck to Thuney in hopes he would anchor his offensive line. Then, the Patriots threw a wrench in those plans by tagging Thuney. Now, Thuney will reportedly be allowed to seek a new home this offseason. With Mekhi Becton as the solidified anchor of the offensive line at left tackle, here is why Joe Thuney can give the Jets one of the best tackle/guard combos in football.

Who is Joe Thuney?

Joe Thuney grew up in Ohio and was one of four children. Thuney was not a stranger to success early in life, he was a member of two state championship football teams, he was named offensive lineman of the year in the Greater Catholic League, and was class president in his senior year of high school. Thuney was well-liked on and off the gridiron, and this led to an opportunity to play at NC State. At NC State, Thuney played all over the offensive line taking snaps at center, both tackle spots, and guard during his time with the program. Thuney graduated NC State in three years and received All American honors.

After a successful beginning to his football career, Thuney was selected with the 78th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In five seasons, Thuney has played every single game, not only that, but he has been a team-first guy being adaptable this past season and making the switch to tackle with Marcus Cannon opting out and creating a void. Thuney has been both a depiction of stability and success, winning two rings during his tenure with the Pats.

Why The Jets?

Thuney will command a monster deal this offseason. As one of the most reliable and consistent linemen in the game, he will be paid as such. Now, Joe Douglas has been rather set in his evaluations of certain players in the past, but offensive linemen have been his most focused entity in his brief tenure as general manager to this point. The potential of having two beasts on the offensive line for the long-term future in Thuney and Becton is something the well-traveled exec may not be able to pass up. Not only that, but as we saw just a few weeks ago with Patrick Mahomes, if you don’t have protection, the entire rhythm of the game plan is thrown out the window.

On a relatively young team, Thuney would slot in as a leader and building block for the future. We are talking about a durable, smart, and versatile piece that fits the mold of everything Douglas seems to look for in the guys he wants to fill out his roster with. Add all that into the fact that he is successful no matter the stop. Thuney could be used anywhere on the line, but the idea of Becton and Thuney anchoring the left side could be too much to pass up. No matter where you put him on the line, Thuney would be a massive addition to the team and someone the Jets should not let slip away.

The prospects that the New York Giants cannot pass up if they fall to eleven

New York Giants, LSU, Ja'Marr Chase

The New York Giants hold the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The eleventh pick has a lot of value this year. There are a number of intriguing prospects that the Giants will likely have the opportunity to select in the first round. But, being outside the top ten, there are a few players that are most likely not going to fall to eleven.

The Giants will probably draft one of the better prospects in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. But will they realistically be able to draft one of the best prospects? Could one of those top-three prospects in the class? It is not likely, but there is a possibility, as many analysts continue to point out with their various mock drafts.

There are a few prospects that Giants fans should be hoping and praying will fall to them at eleven. When the Giants are on the clock, there are specific prospects that are too good to pass up on, no matter that the Giants already have on their roster.

Trevor Lawrence

No, Trevor Lawrence will not fall to eleven. But if he does, the Giants have to take him. Daniel Jones has shown some promise, but Lawrence is arguably the greatest quarterback prospect to ever come out of college. If not, he is certainly in that conversation. New York is not that comfortable at quarterback.

Ja’Marr Chase

There are three wide receivers that are being consistently mocked in the top-ten picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. One of these players, though, has been consistently mocked inside the top five for a long time. LSU’s Ja’Marr chase is not likely to fall to eleven, but as draft boards continue to shift as time inches closer to April, there is always going to be that unlikely possibility.

The Giants are likely going to pursue a wide receiver in free agency. They are interested in Kenny Golladay, but he is probably going to be franchise tagged by the Detroit Lions. Now, even if the Giants land Golladay by some divine miracle, they should still draft Ja’Marr Chase if he is on the board at eleven. They cannot pass up on a wide receiver of Chase’s caliber, especially when considering the Giants averaged only 17.5 points per game in 2020. A team can never have enough fire power in today’s NFL.

He opted out of the 2020 season, but in 2019, Ja’Marr Chase was far and away the best wide receiver in the NCAA. He totaled an insane 1,780 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns that season en route to a National Championship victory. Chase’s record-breaking season instantly propelled him to the top of draft charts at the beginning of the process. But now, draft boards are shifting, and some boards have Chase as their third-best receiver in the class. Many are beginning to favor the Alabama boys, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

Given the dominant collegiate career that Ja’Marr Chase had, he is still likely a top-ten pick in 2021. But if he somehow slips, Chase would be the truly dominant outside receiving threat that Daniel Jones needs to unlock the next level of his game.

Penei Sewell

Another player whose draft stock has started to shift is offensive tackle Penei Sewell. The Oregon prospect was, at one time, considered to be a “generational” offensive tackle prospect and a top-three lock. Now, it seems very likely that Sewell falls out of the top three, maybe even out of the top five, and some analysts even have him falling outside of the top ten.

For example, Pro Football Focus’s Anthony Treash has Sewell falling to the eleventh overall pick as a home run selection for the New York Giants in his latest mock draft. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah also had Sewell as the second offensive tackle selected in his first mock draft of the offseason.

Penei Sewell’s draft stock has started to shift, but it is still very unlikely that he falls outside the top ten. Sewell is still the second overall prospect in this year’s class via The Draft Network. Many still believe Penei is a “generational talent.” But those who do not see him as such will still see him as a prospect that the Giants could not pass up on at eleven overall.

Best offensive playmaker options for the Giants to target in the draft

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

The New York Giants ranked 30th overall in total offense in 2020. Averaging approximately just 17 points per game, the offense needs a major overhaul if they want to be competitive in 2021. Adding more playmakers, whether it is through the NFL draft or free agency, is imperative to improve their offensive production. The Giants currently hold the 11th overall selection, so there will be a bevy of viable options to choose from.

1. Kyle Pitts: TE, Florida

Kyle Pitts is my personal preference for the Giants’ first-round selection, and if he is available, Dave Gettleman should pull the trigger without hesitation. A 6’5, 239-pound perfect blend of speed and athleticism, Pitts is the quintessential tight end/wide receiver hybrid that is perfect for today’s NFL. Pitts has been compared to Raiders’ star tight end Darren Waller, and if the Giants could implement him into their offense, his production could be very beneficial. Now the question for most fans would be, “but why would they draft a tight end when they have Evan Engram?” The answer goes beyond the fact that Pitts is just simply a better prospect than Engram was. The best move for the Giants, or any team that drafts Pitts, would be to cross-train him as a receiver and a tight end to maximize his value. His presence on the field will do much more for that offense than I think most people realize. In my opinion, drafting Pitts is the Giants’ best-case scenario.

2. Jaylen Waddle: WR, Alabama

Waddle is another extremely enticing prospect that the Giants should very much consider if he is available. At 5’10, 182 pounds, Waddle is a speedster with dangerous twitch. Somehow overshadowed by his Alabama teammates Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Waddle was still incredibly productive in his tenure with the Crimson Tide. Only playing in four games in 2020 before fracturing his ankle, which resulted in surgery in October, Waddle still managed to log 28 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. He is an incredibly dynamic receiver that could open up a lot of opportunities for Daniel Jones and the offense in 2021. Maybe Joe Judge’s Alabama connections can land the star receiver in New York.

3. Rashod Bateman: WR, Minnesota

Bateman is one of the most electrifying prospects in the draft. A very impressive route runner, I think Bateman could be one of the best players to come out of this draft class. Ball skills, along with the toughness and grit to play on the outside, is just the type of weapon that could propel the offense. Bateman has tremendous awareness and speed that will help Jones.

There are several theories as to why the Giants’ offense stalled throughout the season. Barkley missing the season with an ACL injury, doubts about Daniel Jones’ abilities, and Jason Garrett’s play-calling can all be reasons to be debated amongst the fanbase. One thing is for sure, adding playmakers to this offense will benefit the production immediately.

5 impending free agents the New York Jets should bring back

With the start of free agency inching closer, the New York Jets have some decisions to make. With 17 unrestricted free agents, and some more restricted, some are going to walk and some are going to return. The question is: who are they going to bring back?

Not all of them should, obviously, but odds are a good number of them will. The number of players that should be brought back is somewhat small compared to the overall list, in all honesty. So, these are five players that the team should re-sign:

S Marcus Maye

This is an obvious one. In fact, it’s the most obvious thing the Jets should do this offseason. Marcus Maye was easily the best player on the team this past season, at least on defense. While playing in all 16 games, he compiled 82 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 11 passes defended, all career highs. He also added four tackles-for-loss and two QB hits.

Filling the hole left by Jamal Adams wasn’t going to be easy, but Maye made it look like it was. He did everything on the field. That’s why I have him listed as a safety and not restricted to free or strong. He can play both well.

The highlight of his season, though, was an image that resembled a real throwback.

Everyone remembers the infamous “butt-fumble” from the Mark Sanchez. This past season, Marcus Maye introduced the world to the “butt-pick.” That alone should have him resigned.

In all seriousness, though, Marcus Maye needs to be resigned. He is extremely vital to the defense and the overall team’s success.

CB Brian Poole

Brian Poole has unarguably been the team’s best cornerback the past couple of seasons after coming over from Atlanta. This past season, however, he only played in nine games. In those nine games, he had 44 tackles (2 for loss), 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 2 QB hits and a sack.

The Jets wouldn’t have to break the bank to bring him back, making him a smart re-sign. He’s a very capable and productive player for the cost and, to be honest, the team doesn’t have many reliable options in the secondary at this point.

Poole didn’t necessarily “prove it” after his one-year, $5 million deal. However, he showed enough to at least come back for another year.

LB Jordan Jenkins

Jordan Jenkins is another player who wouldn’t “break the bank” in a return. He has spent his entire five-year career with the Jets and should be brought back to continue with them. The only problem is, he had a noticeably down year after a great 2019 season.

This past season, he had, in 12 games, 32 combined tackles (3 for loss), 2 sacks, 6 QB hits and a forced fumble. The sack number is what really sticks out. In 2018 and 2019 he had 7 and 8 sacks, respectively. That number dropping to just 2 is not a good sight. However, I don’t think that’s enough to prevent them from bringing him back.

Jenkins is still under 30 and can provide nice production for a reasonable price. He should be brought back by the Jets.

LB Harvey Langi

Langi, being an inside linebacker, got substantial playing time with absences, specifically the opt-out of C.J. Mosley and the trade of Avery Williamson. Regardless, while on the field, he made an impact that was hard to ignore.

He had 60 total tackles, but other than that his number don’t fly off the page. Something that does fly, however, is him while on the field.

Harvey Langi isn’t the kind of player that’s going to break records or put up Pro Bowl statistics. His play style doesn’t really allow for that to be the case. Regardless, his play style and services can be valuable. He’s shown that.

While he doesn’t rack up very high tackle numbers, he’s always in the vicinity. While he doesn’t get a ton of sacks, QB hits or passes defended, he causes pressure. He does the type of things that lead to wins but don’t necessarily show up on stat sheets. As a result, the Jets could bring him back on a very team-friendly deal to help the defense.

CB Arthur Maulet

To end off the list, I’m sticking with defense. As I mentioned when making the case for Brian Poole, the New York Jets don’t have much to be excited about at cornerback. They have some young talent, but if they don’t make a big addition in free agency, Arthur Maulet could be a solid player to bring back.

Maulet re-signing wouldn’t be a headline, but it could be extremely beneficial for the defense. In 11 games last season, he had 29 total tackles, a QB hit, a sack, 5 passes defended and an interception. He was, whether it’s believable or not, one of the best players in the secondary for the Jets throughout the season.

He played last season on a one-year, $875,000 deal, which is not a big dent in the cap whasteover. If they can re-sign him to a similar deal, even if it’s slightly more money, it’s well worth it.

Maulet, along with Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Jordan Jenkins and Harvey Langey all should be re-signed. If they all will, however, remains a mystery at this point.

Sizing up PFL’s 2021 heavyweight season

PFL is currently gearing up for their return for the 2021 season. After COVID cancelled the 2020 season, the promotion is ready to hit the ground running this year. While no fights took place in 2020, PFL sure stayed in the news with a number of big signings.

One of the biggest signings for PFL in 2020 was Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1). The former UFC heavyweight champion completed his contract with the UFC back in July on Fight Island. That night, Werdum welcomed Alexander Gustafsson to the heavyweight division.

In reality, it smelled like a showcase for Gustafsson. Werdum looked awful against Alexey Oleynik in May where he lost a split decision and this was a quick turnaround. Many (including myself) wrote off the 43 year old former champion.

However, Werdum showed everyone up that night. After a quick takedown, Werdum was able to lockup an armbar for the win halfway through the round. From there, he immediately raised his value on the free agent market.

PFL and Bellator were both very interested in bringing in Werdum. Werdum had the Fedor rematch waiting in Bellator, but PFL wanted him to bring more attention to their heavyweight division. In the end, Werdum signed with the Pro Fight League and he will be highlighted this season.

Other PFL heavyweights to watch

There are three other PFL heavyweights I’m really watching for during the upcoming season. The most obvious one to me would be Ali Isaev (9-0). The heavyweight from Dagestan was the 2019 PFL heavyweight champion.

With four dominating performances, Isaev put the world on notice that he’s a threat at heavyweight. The next guy I have my eyes on is Justin Willis (8-2). “Big Pretty” hasn’t fought since March of 2019. That was the final fight he had with the UFC.

Willis took on Curtis Blaydes and came up short by decision. However, up until that point, Willis was 4-0 in the UFC and that included a win over former title challenger, Mark Hunt. Willis is definitely a sleeper in PFL’s upcoming season.

The last guy I have my eyes on is Mohammed Usman (7-1). The younger and much bigger brother of the current UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman. Mohammed Usman is riding a four-fight win streak as he makes his debut in the big leagues under the PFL banner.

I cannot wait for this upcoming season of PFL. The promotion took the time off last year to really raise the bar in terms of talent on their roster. I love that another big promotion is making waves in US MMA. You can view the full heavyweight roster below.

MetLife Stadium set to welcome back limited fans on March 1

Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that fans will be welcomed back to football games and concerts at MetLife Stadium starting March 1.

With the NFL’s free agency period set to get underway soon, the New York Jets and New York Giants may have earned some big pickups before the players start to move.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that relaxed COVID-19 restrictions will allow MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to welcome in fans at 15 percent of its capacity starting March 1. With a listed capacity of 82,500, this would bring in 12,375 fans to the stadium.

Murphy made the announcement on WFAN’s “Moose and Maggie” program, also announcing that indoor venues could welcome fans at a 10 percent capacity, which would open Newark’s Prudential Center to just 2,000 fans of the New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall Pirates men’s basketball team.

Though social distancing and face coverings would still be required, pre-admission COVID screenings would not, in contrast to a similar order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to reopen his state’s venues.

The Giants and Jets released a joint statement with the stadium to acknowledge Murphy’s comments…

As the months go on, we are hopeful that the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into MetLife Stadium will steadily increase. The health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and those in our communities remain our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Murphy and state health officials.”

“We missed seeing our loyal fans at stadium events this past year and are excited to welcome them back in 2021.”

MetLife Stadium’s next scheduled event is slated for August 5, a Guns N’ Roses concert rescheduled from last July. Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball is set to visit two weeks later, as is Kenny Chesney and his Chillaxification Tour two nights later.

The last sporting event held at the stadium came last February when the New York Guardians hosted the Los Angeles Wildcats for an XFL tilt. NFL schedules for 2021 have yet to be released, but the Jets’ home slate will feature a visit from the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Giants fans will no doubt await the Philadelphia Eagles’ annual visit after their Week 17 passiveness played a role in costing Big Blue a playoff spot.

As for the indoor venues, the first Devils game that would welcome fans would be a March 2 visit from the New York Islanders. Seton Hall has only one March home game on its schedule and that March 3 matchup against Connecticut would mark the team’s Senior Day festivities. Meanwhile, in Piscataway, Rutgers women’s basketball has a March home game schedule for March 5 or 6 against Ohio State, but the school has shown no signs of deviating from current Big Ten policies that allow a maximum of four family members to attend games in person.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Yankees prospect shut down for a month after being diagnosed with an elbow injury

New York Yankees, Clarke Schmidt

The New York Yankees‘ pitching depth suffered a blow early in spring training, as right-handed prospect Clarke Schmidt will have to be on the shelf for up to a month as he deals with an elbow issue.

Aaron Boone announced to the media that Schmidt had suffered an injury on the “common extensor” tendon. According to ESPN’s Marly Rivera, it is in the interior side of the right (pitching) elbow.

The promising young prospect is expected to be shut down for the next three or four weeks, and after that, he will have to get up to speed assuming there are no setbacks in his recovery.

The Yankees’ hurler had an MRI over the weekend, and was examined by Dr. Ahmad, who confirmed the diagnosis according to Rivera.

Schmidt had an outside chance of making the Yankees’ rotation, although the smart money was on him starting the year at Triple-A and getting accustomed to competing in the high-minors before throwing him into the fire again.

The Yankees need to have him around as quality depth

He made his Major League debut with the Yankees in the shortened 2020 season, but wasn’t particularly successful over a small sample.

In three games, one start, Schmidt pitched 6.1 frames with a 9.95 K/9 and a high 7.11 BB/9. He finished with a 7.11 ERA and a much more decent 4.30 FIP.

Now, the Yankees will likely hold a competition between Domingo German and Deivi Garcia to see who will take the fifth spot in the rotation. Other arms, such as Jhoulys Chacin, Asher Wojciechowski, and Michael King could be considered dark horses.

Schmidt is routinely ranked as one of the Yankees’ top three prospects, and is already a Tommy John surgery survivor, having had the surgery back in 2017. If he has no setbacks, he could pitch himself into a rotation spot later down the road.

UFC: Dan Ige now will face Gavin Tucker after Ryan Hall’s injury

The UFC has found a new opponent for Dan Ige (14-3). Originally, Ige was supposed to face Ryan Hall (8-1) on March 13th. However, recently, Hall suffered an injury to his hip and had to pull out of the featherweight matchup.

There was initial talk about the promotion pushing back the fight until April or May. That is when Hall will be ready to compete again. However, Dan Ige insisted on staying on the March 13th card due to the fact that he has a baby due in April.

The UFC then went to work on a replacement opponent and they found one. Dan Ige is now going to be taking on Gavin Tucker (13-1) in a few weeks at The APEX. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was first with the news. Tucker is unranked, but he’s one of the best prospects in the featherweight division.

Dan Ige will be fighting for the first time since his headliner last July against Calvin Kattar. It was a huge opportunity for Ige to leap in the rankings had he won. However, he came up short and lost by unanimous decision. However, he did represent himself well that night.

Ige is currently ninth in the UFC‘s featherweight division. From a rankings perspective, this is a bit of a risky fight taking on Gavin Tucker. However, the promotion is known for loving guys who just want to fight and that’s what Ige wants.

Big UFC opportunity for Gavin Tucker

As mentioned, this is a very big opportunity for Gavin Tucker. Tucker currently isn’t ranked in the UFC’s rankings, but he’s right on the edge. He made his debut with the promotion back in 2017.

After winning in his UFC debut, he dropped his second fight by decision. That loss was also the first and only loss of his career. Since then, Tucker has bounced back nicely with three consecutive wins.

We just saw him back in December at UFC 256 when he defeated Billy Quarantillo by decision. Now, he’s getting someone in the UFC’s top ten. Should Tucker pickup the win, you know he will have a ranking by his name the following week. This should be a fun scrap on March 13th.

After big knockout at UFC Vegas 19, what’s next for Derrick Lewis?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 19, the heavyweights took center stage. In the main event, “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) took on Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (14-3, 1 NC). Both men carried winning streaks into the octagon on Saturday night.

Curtis Blaydes was the heavy betting favorite on Saturday night. Blaydes was the second ranked heavyweight in the UFC and outside of Francis Ngannou, nobody has been able to touch him inside the octagon. Most expected a heavy dose of wrestling from Blaydes on Saturday night.

Derrick Lewis is the heavyweight knockout king. He stands alone atop the UFC‘s heavyweights when it comes to knockouts. The Black Beast has freak power and for that reason, many expected Blaydes to focus on the wrestling and grappling. We’ve seen Lewis struggle there before.

However, early on in the fight, Blaydes was content with standing with Lewis. Curtis Blaydes seemed apprehensive and tentative to shoot with the power of Lewis. Derrick Lewis seemed to be trying to time an uppercut on a shot from Blaydes.

In the first round, Curtis Blaydes actually got the better of the standup. The range was really bothering Lewis and Blaydes seemed to find a rhythm on the feet. In the second round, Blaydes tried to transition to his wrestling. However, Lewis defended the first takedown and they stayed standing.

On the second takedown attempt, Lewis landed the uppercut that he was trying to time. A lifeless Blaydes flopped to the floor and ate a few follow up shots. Another knockout win for the UFC‘s heavyweight knockout king.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 19?

When the UFC rankings come out tomorrow, I would fully expect Derrick Lewis to be ranked second. He’s now on a four-fight win streak and he also holds a victory over current top contender, Francis Ngannou.

While many focus on just his knockouts and his interviews, Lewis has put together quite the run in the UFC’s heavyweight division. If Jon Jones wasn’t moving to heavyweight, The Black Beast would be getting the winner of Miocic/Ngannou 2 which happens next month.

However, with Jones getting the next shot at the title, the UFC will have to do something else with Lewis. The perfect fight for Lewis is the winner of this weekend’s main event at UFC Vegas 20.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane are battling it out and whoever wins will be ranked in the top five. Lewis hasn’t fought either of those top contenders so a matchup between them would make perfect sense. Perhaps that would be the co-main event to the Jones heavyweight title fight later in the summer.