UFC: Dustin Poirier will pull himself out of title picture if not offered the fight he wants

Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) is still riding high after his massive victory at UFC 257. It’s been just over a week, but the fight world is still buzzing about Poirier’s performance and his knockout over former two-division UFC champion, Conor McGregor (22-5).

Poirier’s run in the lightweight division is something truly special. He’s defeated the likes of McGregor, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, Dan Hooker, and Anthony Pettis. Since 2016, only Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) has been able to defeat Poirier.

After Poirier won at UFC 257, he made it clear that he believes he’s the uncrowned champion if Khabib is retired. When asked what he wanted next, Poirier said there were only three fighters who he was interested in at the moment.

In the post-fight press conference, Poirier listed off McGregor, Nate Diaz (20-12), and Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). Dana White said that the UFC wanted to put Poirier against Michael Chandler (22-5), however, Poirier hasn’t seem interested.

In a new interview with MMA Junkie, Poirier reiterated the fact that he’s only interested in certain opponents. Poirier went on to say in this recent interview that the UFC can put on another title fight and he’d remove himself if he’s only offered fights that don’t make sense to him.

What will the UFC do?

“I want to be the world champion, and Charles is a guy that’s paid his dues,” Poirier said to MMA Junkie. “Let him and Chandler fight for the belt. If they want Chandler in there for the title, and he’s calling for the title. Let them fight for the belt. I’ll take a step back and just watch.”

The UFC is now put in a very interesting position. Really, out of anybody inside the top five or six in the lightweight division, a fight with Charles Oliveira would sell the least in terms of PPVs.

Yes, Oliveira is on this incredible run where he’s won eight straight. However, he still doesn’t have massive buying appeal. In those eight wins, the only main wins of significance were Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson, who was dominated by Justin Gaethje earlier in 2020.

Michael Chandler is a much bigger opponent in terms of business for the UFC. The same can be said for McGregor and Nate Diaz. Based on Poirier’s current position, I personally believe that the trilogy with McGregor is likely going to come next.

As of right now, I just can’t see the promotion making the fight between him and Oliveira. I think Oliveira needs to get one more signature win to build up the awareness around him a bit more. Oliveira is like the Leon Edwards of the lightweight division. Resume is great, but drawing power is not.

NASCAR Cup Series Preview 2021: Roush Fenway Racing

RFR is seeking redemption after a brutal 2020 NASCAR season, as both Chris Buescher and Ryan Newman fell out of the top 20.

2021 Roush Fenway Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Ryan Newman 6 Scott Graves Kohler Generators/Guaranteed Rate/Castrol
Chris Buescher 17 Luke Lambert Fastenal/Fifth Third Bank/Castrol

History

The team was originally founded by auto entrepreneur Jack Roush in 1988, enjoying instant success with future Hall of Famer Mark Martin behind the wheel of its long-standing No. 6 Ford. His organization expanded to a multi-car organization by 1992, with several renowned drivers passing through his facility, including Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards. After Martin finished in the runner-up on four occasions (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002), the team won consecutive Cup Series titles with Kenseth (2003) and Busch (2004). The latter for Busch, coming in the No. 97 Ford, was the first held under the NASCAR playoff system.

In 2007, the Fenway Sports Group, headed by Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry, purchased a 50 percent stake in the team to operate it alongside Roush. The team has been a two-car operation since 2017, with Newman taking over the No. 6 in 2019 and Buescher arriving in the No. 17 (previously piloted by Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) a year later.

2020 in Review

Triumph nearly became tragedy at the Daytona 500. Newman, having previously won the event in 2008, was leading on the final lap, but inadvertent contact from runner-up Ryan Blaney launched him into an airborne wreck, one exacerbated when Corey LaJoie drove into the wreckage head-on. After several tense minutes, Newman was removed from the car was airlifted to the hospital, having sustained injuries described as serious, but he miraculously emerged from the clinic two days later with his daughters Brooklyn and Ashlyn by his side.

Newman vacated the car while he recovered, giving way to Ross Chastain. Thanks to the coronavirus-induced pause, he only missed three races, but he struggled upon his re-entry, earning only one top ten upon his return (a sixth at Talladega). His two top tens were the lowest tally of his full-time career.

As for Buescher, he took over the No. 17 from Stenhouse and got off to a good start with a third-place posting at Daytona. But the 2015 Xfinity Series champion failed to maintain that speed, earning only one other top-five posting (a fifth at the Daytona road course in August).

Meet the Drivers

Ryan Newman

Experience: 20th full season
Career Cup Victories: 18 (Last: spring Phoenix, 2017)
2020 finish: 25th
Best standings finish: 2nd (2014)

Set to enter his second decade of full-time Cup racing, Newman is a relic from the turn of the century as one of three full-time races that partook in “Winston” Cup racing (Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are the others). Ever since he beat out Jimmie Johnson for the Rookie of the Year award, few drivers have been as tenacious and hungry to win as Newman. Even when things were dire last season, Newman kept his drive…literally and figuratively, as he remained one of the hardest drivers to pass.

It’s clear that RFR isn’t the powerhouse it used to be, but Newman has made the most of the equipment before. He reached the playoffs, without a win, as recently as 2019, the first Roush Ford to make it there since Stenhouse won two races a couple of years prior.

Chris Buescher 

Experience: 6th full season
Career Cup Victories: 1 (summer Pocono, 2016)
2020 finish: 21st
Best standings finish: 16th (2016)

There’s no doubt that Buescher can compete at the NASCAR level. He took the underfunded Front Row Motorsports to the NASCAR playoffs in his first full season by virtue of leading at the time of inclement weather and owns championships at both the Xfinity and ARCA levels. Prior to his Roush endeavors, he drove another underfunded car, the No. 37 at JTG Daugherty, to a top 20 finish in the standings. But he struggled to find his footing last season, despite earning a career-best eight top tens. After consecutive top-tens at Bristol and Las Vegas during the playoffs, Buescher finished no better than 20th over the final six races. He should nonetheless be a threat to win at Daytona, where he has earned all but two of his six top fives at the Cup level.

Outlook

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Newman or Buescher to steal a win and the playoff spot that comes with it in 2021. Nothing more needs to be said about Newman’s tough luck at the end of Daytona and Buescher has been at or near the front toward the end of several events at both Daytona and Talladega. But a more realistic goal for this couple should probably be getting back into the top 20 of the standings.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Mets: Baseball (Supposedly) Returns This Month

Even though a nor’easter is sweeping through the tri-state area, the New York Mets hope to play baseball this month. Luckily for the Mets, they will be in the warm, COVID-19 filled, sunshine state of Florida. With plenty of dirty laundry surrounding the Mets at the moment, here are some things to look forward to this month.

Pitchers and catchers officially report to Port St. Lucie on February 17, and position players join them on February 22. Five days later, the Mets open up their 31 game spring training schedule against the Miami Marlins.

Thor’s Return

Even though he is unlikely to pitch in a Spring Training game, Noah Syndergaard‘s, likely shirtless, presence in camp will be a welcomed sight. Syndergaard is on pace to be ahead of schedule to return from Tommy John surgery, and we will see how much progress he has made.

Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor are amongst the newcomers joining the 2021 roster. The big trade with the Cleveland Indians brought them the starting pitcher and shortstop they were looking for. The big question remains whether their former Indian teammate, Trevor Bauer, because the most expensive newcomer for the Mets.

James McCann will get his first opportunity to work with and learn the Mets pitching staff. After two years of Wilson Ramos, the pitchers can breathe a sigh of relief with McCann behind the plate. McCann is known for his ability to call a game, understanding his pitchers’ tendencies. He also improved as a pitch framer to go along with his solid defense. The most interesting dynamic will be with Jacob deGrom as he tries to retake his Cy Young crown.

Off The Field Distractions

Between Jared Porter’s scandal and Steve Cohen’s deleted Twitter account, the Mets have been in the headlines for plenty of reasons. Let us not forget about Robinson Cano’s suspension, which goes forgotten after many January events. Those questions may not linger past the first week of camp, but the New York media will be ruthless. The off field issues are a non-factor or perpetrated by media figures with an agenda against the franchise.

Mets fans have a legitimate reason to be excited about the season for the first time in years. They have a new owner, a combination of retained and new talent, and they are the favorites to win a very competitive NL East. Along with all of this, the Mets could have more additions to rev up excitement, and maybe controversy, for the 2021 Steve Cohen owned Mets.

Yankees News: Brian Cashman non-committal on Domingo German in turn of events

New York Yankees, Domingo German

The New York Yankees are preparing for a tentative spring training start on February 17, but they have plenty of decisions left to make. General manager Brian Cashman has been working like a madman to bolster the starting pitching rotation and also secure an adequate bullpen, which is easier said than done.

The starting rotation has been hedged on quality players returning from injury, specifically Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. As for Luis Severino, he’s expected to return in late summer, so his impact on the 2021 campaign might not be as significant as we would’ve hoped. The Yankees are also expecting Domingo German to make a return from suspension, but there is no guarantee he will be a part of the roster, despite previous assumptions he would be activated.

Several weeks ago, co-owner Hal Steinbrenner stated that he must feel comfortable with the progress German has made as a man before welcoming him back to the organization.

“I have to absolutely feel comfortable that he deeply, deeply regrets and is sorry for what he did, and I absolutely have to be comfortable with the fact that he’s turned his life around,” Hal Steinbrenner said on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio. “Those two things are for sure.”

The Yankees put a lot of effort and time into upholding their stature as an organization. Cashman also reaffirmed Steinbrenner’s comments during a zoom meeting this past week.

“He’s on the roster,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday. “He’s going to be coming to Major League spring training and we’ll have a sit-down in person conversation. We have connected with him clearly via smartphone. But we’re going to meet in person when we get to Tampa, and we’ll take it from there.”

The New York Yankees could use German, but some things are bigger than baseball:

German is an intriguing player who could play a big part in the 2021 season. The last time he pitched was in 2019 when he earned a 4.03 ERA over 143 innings. He earned 18 victories with 9.63 strikeouts per nine. German was taking fantastic steps forward before a domestic abuse issue that was witnessed by an MLB employee. Domingo was immediately suspended for the remainder of the season and missed the entire 2020 campaign as a result.

While management needs to speak with German before welcoming him back, Cashman did state that German is doing well and his family is staying safe. These are all positive signs, but nothing is ever a guarantee.

“We look forward to getting (German) back in the fold,” Cashman added. “I can report everything’s going well with him and his family, but we’re obviously looking forward to meeting him and everybody else down in Major League camp.”

New York Giants: Nate Solder sounds like he’s mulling retirement

New York Giants, Nate Solder

Nobody expected the 2020 season to be as tumultuous as it was, thanks to COVID-19 and its effects on the planet. The New York Giants were not exempt from the hardships that followed, and players around the NFL elected to opt-out of the 2020 season due to the complications the virus curated.

One Giants player they decided to sit out last year was Nate Solder, the team’s starting left tackle. After the Giants drafted Andrew Thomas in the first round, the expectation was that Solder would swap over to the right side. Moving forward, the expectation is that the Giants will either retain Cam Fleming or insert Matt Peart in 2021. Solder’s playing days with Big Blue might be coming to an end, and if they cut him, he would save them about $10 million in cap space (post-June-1).

There is always the possibility that the 32-year-old lineman retires, as his latest comments indicate he might be ready to hang up his cleats.

“In a lot of ways, I felt like I was letting my teammates down,” Solder told ESPN. “I felt like I was letting the new coaching staff down. The fact is, as a 32-year-old NFL player, it just hurts my chances of having my career trajectory take off at this point. I just have to trust in God and see where he leads me.”

Solder’s football career might be trending downward, but it is his livelihood at the end of the day. He could look to find a new home elsewhere, but that could mean traveling across the country for months on end while his family is left behind. That seems to be a serious factor in his future plans.

Sitting out for the 2020 season was difficult for him in the first place, as the decision revolves primarily around his family. His son, who has been battling cancer for years, was simply more important than the game, justifiably so.

“Trust me, it was an internal tension. But once it became clear, the priority of my family’s lives, of our children and my in-laws and parents and all the connections in our community, man, I just value people more than I value my career in the NFL.”

The New York Giants will likely move on from Solder either way:

For Nate, this is life, but for the Giants, it is business. If the veteran elects to retire, the Giants will save far more than the $10 million they would collect if they cut him post-June 1. At this point, I would say there’s a 50/50 chance he retires or is cut, but we won’t know for a few months. Either way, Solder doesn’t seem too motivated to return to the football field, especially if Covid continues to influence the NFL next season.

New York Yankees Player Profiles: Darren O’Day the Yankees great hope for the bullpen

New York Yankees, Darren O'Day

The New York Yankee’s Darren O’Day has had a rebirth in his pitching style and the mound he will be throwing from. O’Day is the Yankee’s latest acquisition by general manager Brian Cashman to improve the Yankees team. O’Day is old by pitching standards; he is 38 years old but that has not affected his performance as one of the best relievers in the game. Darren has had a long-time association with the Yankees facing them for seven seasons with the Baltimore Orioles alongside Zack Britton. The Yankees and O’Day reached an agreement that will pay him $2.5 million on a one year deal with both a team and player option for 2022.

O’Day will bring a whole new look to the Yankee bullpen; he is a right-handed submariner. His sidearm delivery gives a different look that right-hand hitters find difficult to figure out. He is not a power thrower by any means, which is also different from most Yankee relievers. His fastball is only 86 mph, but his command and arsenal of pitches serve him well. He throws a four-seam fastball and sinker and his strikeout pitch, the slider.

O’Day brings a drastically different look to the Yankees bullpen, contrasting particularly with Britton’s sinkerball approach. Hitters will face Chad Green’s fastball, O’Day’s sidearm slider (which resembles an overhand cutter), Britton’s bowling ball, and Chapman’s heater and slider combination. The Yankees like to make opposing hitters dizzy in late innings by making them face relievers with distinct and varied approaches; O’Day brings with him the ultimate tool in changing a hitter’s eye level. O’Day was one of the best relievers in the game last season, going 4-0 with a minuscule 1.10 ERA.

Let’s get to know the New York Yankee’s O’Day. He was born Darren Christopher O’Day on October 22, 1982, in Jacksonville, Florida. He attended Bishop Kenny High School and played baseball there for the Crusaders. After that, he attended the University of Florida in Gainsville, where he played for the Gators from 2003 to 2006. There he won several awards. He graduated with a degree in agriculture and life sciences but was undrafted. He signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, and in 30 games, he was 0–1 with a 4.57 ERA in ​43 13 innings.

The New York Mets selected O’Day in the Rule 5 draft during December of 2008. After spring training, he made the roster but was designated for assignment by the Mets two weeks into the season. He was claimed by the Texas Rangers in April of 2009 and made his major league debut on the same day. He was an effective reliever for the Rangers with an ERA of 1.94 in 64 games that year. The following season he pitched in 72 games with an ERA of 2.03. In 2011 he had two injuries that limited him to 16 games but had an ERA of 5.40. He also pitched in eighteen minor league games. He did not pitch in the postseason.

The Baltimore Orioles claimed O’Day off waivers on November 2, 2011. O’Day settled into the 8th inning setup pitcher role later in the 2012 season, often leaving the game in a manageable state for closer Jim Johnson. O’Day posted a 7–1 record with a 2.28 ERA by the end of the 2012 season. In 2013 he continued to pitch well for the Orioles, going 5–3 as their 8th inning setup man while posting a 2.18 ERA in 68 games. He collected two saves and pitched 62.0 innings while striking out 59 batters and holding opponents to a .210 batting average.

O’Day had a career year in 2014, as he pitched 68​23 innings in 68 games and collected a 5–2 record with four saves. He posted a 1.70 ERA along with a 0.89 WHIP. He also struck out 73 batters and held opponents to a career-best .174 batting average. In 2015, O’Day was selected as an All-Star. He finished his career year with a 1.52 ERA in 68 appearances, totaling 65​13 innings. He compiled a 6–2 record and set a career-high with six saves. He also set a career-high with 82 strikeouts.

O’Day had a poor 2016 but rebounded from the season, registering a healthy season in which he appeared in 64 games. He also had an ERA of 3.43 in ​60 13 innings in 2017. O’Day appeared in 20 games for the O’s in  2018 before, undergoing season-ending surgery on his left hamstring and being traded to the Atlanta Braves. O’Day opened the 2019 season on the IL with a right forearm injury; he was activated to the major league roster on September 5. In 2019 he was 0–0 with a 1.69 ERA in 5.1 innings over 8 games. On November 8, 2019, he re-signed with the Braves on a one-year, $2.5 million contract, with a club option for a second year. He finished the 2020 season 4-0 with an ERA of 1.10. The Braves declined his option, and the New York Yankees signed him on January 27, 2021. The contract for the Yankees was for one year and $2.5 million. Being one of the best pitchers in 2020, the New York Yankees hope to replicate that season this year. If not Zack Britton he is the perfect setup man for Aroldis Chapman and is a compilable replacement for Tommy Kahnle.

Although O’Day sounds like a traditional Irish name, O’Day is actually Polish; his original name was Odachowski and was changed to O’Day by his older brother when he was married. O’Day is married to Elizabeth Prann, an anchor for CNN Headline News. The pair have a six-year-old daughter named Claire. The family will be taking up residency in the New York suburbs.

 

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Tight ends

If Chris Herndon has truly rediscovered his rookie form, the New York Jets’ tight end situation could be one of their smaller concerns.

The Position: Tight End
On the Roster: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Trevon Wesco
Free Agents: Daniel Brown, Ross Travis
Reserve/Future: Connor Davis

Chris Herndon is set to enter his fourth season on the New York Jets’ roster, which might as well make him a relic in green.

To put things in perspective: of the 17 men to catch a pass during the 2018 season…Sam Darnold’s debut campaign…the tight end is the only one still on the active green roster. He was second on the team in most major receiving categories, picking up 502 yards on 56 receptions, four of which went for scores. Since then, however, Herndon has struggled to maintain that kind of consistency. A four-game suspension and a subsequent injury limited him to 18 snaps in his sophomore year. He struggled to find his footing for the majority of the 2020 campaign, but the final stages started to bring out the Herndon of old, as he tallied 145 yards on 14 receptions, a couple going for scores.

At a crossroads on offense, the Jets could use a veteran playmaker to help stabilize things ever-so-slightly. He’s entering the final year of his original rookie deal and is clearly the best of what the Jets’ tight ends have to offer.

Chris has a lot of ability and it’s just like everybody else, you’re fighting the battle with yourself to go out there and be able to do it,” veteran quarterback Joe Flacco said of Herndon, per Max Goodman of SI, after the Jets’ November loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Herndon had a pair of receptions in that game, including a highlight-reel touchdown, his first score since December 2018. “He’s a young player with a ton of ability.”

Elsewhere on the Jets’ roster, Ryan Griffin failed to live up to the $10 million contract extension afforded to him in the midst of 2019. Second-year man Trevon Wesco dealt with injuries and inconsistency and the Jets more or less ended a plan to use him as a fullback in the early stages of the season.

Free Agents-to-be

Daniel Brown

Used primarily as a blocker and a special teamer, Brown has earned nine receptions over two years in New York, though one went for a touchdown in the Jets’ November 2019 visit to Washington. He was part of the team’s final training camp cuts last year but reinstated shortly after.

Ross Travis

Travis played 10 snaps with the Jets last season, mostly on special teams, after shuttling on and off the practice squad (as well as the reserve/COVID-19 list).

Will They Draft?

Depends on their faith in Herndon, but, even if it’s strong, no one would fault the Jets for using one of their excess draft picks on a tight end. Florida’s Kyle Pitts is the consensus top choice and likely won’t be on the table for the Jets (who have far greater needs to fill), but the latter days are rife with possibilities. Herndon’s fellow former Miami Hurricane, Brevin Jordan, may be the next best option and someone to potentially target with the extra third-round choice yielded from Seattle. Hunter Long (Boston College) and Matt Bushman (BYU) could be worth keeping an eye on, while small school choice Quintin Morris (Bowling Green) upped his stock at the Senior Bowl over the weekend (3 receptions, 52 yards in Saturday’s exhibition).

Veteran Possibilities

Jared Cook, New Orleans

Set to turn 34 in April, Cook can be a Frank Gore-like addition to the Jets’ tight ends…but he would contribute far more on the field. Over the past two seasons with the Saints, Cook has scored 16 touchdowns and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2019. He can serve as a calming influence for Herndon, whom the Jets apparently still envision as the long term option, and help him maintain consistency. If the Jets can get him on a short-term deal, this would be a strong match.

Gerald Everett, LA Rams

Everyone knew about Everett’s catching prowess coming out of South Alabama, and he’s lived up to that hype so far by catching 74 percent of his targets to date. But Everett’s improved blocking, particularly in the run game. Everett figures to be one of the top tight end free agency targets after the Rams re-upped with Tyler Higbee. If he’s willing to face a training camp competition for more snaps, this could be an intriguing match. Head coach Robert Saleh has no doubt studied Everett extensively during his time as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator.

Ross Dwelley, San Francisco

Constantly overshadowed by George Kittle in San Francisco, Dwelley got a bit of an extended opportunity over veteran Jordan Reed when Kittle’s injury woes forced the Niners to turn to their bench. Dwelley is a restricted free agent, but a reunion with former Niners overseer Mike LeFleur, as well as an extended opportunity to contribute in New York, could serve as a selling point.

Outlook

For the time being, Herndon is going into the future as the Jets starting tight end, but he will likely have one of the hottest seats in Florham Park. Expect the Jets to add some help from outside at tight end, especially with the current backup help struggling and extensive cap space.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Ottis Anderson on one thing Wayne Gallman does better than Barkley

New York Giants, Wayne Gallman

Saquon Barkley will be the starting running back for the New York Giants barring another injury before this season. However, there’s a thing or two that he could learn from Wayne Gallman, who ended up winning the starting spot in his absence. That’s what former Giants running back and Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis Anderson believes, at least.

Anderson spoke on the Valentine’s Views podcast and talked about the Giants running game, particularly their main backs Saquon Barkley and Gallman.

What can Barkley learn from Gallman?

“I’ve said for a long time the Giants should never get rid of that kid. I’m glad they kept him around because he’s very valuable and I love what he’s done. He’s a one-cut and take what you give. He’s not trying to hit the home run every time he gets the ball in his hands. That’s the difference between him and Barkley,” Anderson said about Gallman.

He also compared the situation to his own career and spoke about thinking of every play as a home run. That’s a tendency that Barkley has, which has sometimes resulted in great plays but other times in lost yardage. According to Anderson, the Giants should sit Barkley down to look at Gallman’s film. Despite being the less flashy and athletic back of the two, Gallman found his own success last season on shorter gains.

Gallman played in 15 games and had a career high 682 yards last season. He mainly filled in for Barkley after Barkley was taken out for the season with an ACL tear in his second game. As a free agent, it remains to be seen where Gallman will end up – but he could very well leave the Giants and cash in on his talents with a team looking to bring in a running back.

It would be a loss for the Giants, but an understandable one. It’s hard to ask Gallman to stick with his current role as the second back behind Barkley after the best year of his career.