UFC Vegas 21 main event ends in a No Contest

Leon Edwards

In the main event of UFC Vegas 21 we saw a big time matchup in the welterweight division. One of the best welterweights in the world, Leon Edwards (18-3), was making his long anticipated return against the surging Belal Muhammad (18-3).

2020 didn’t go according to plan for Leon Edwards. Entering the year, Edwards appeared close to a UFC title shot having won eight fights in a row. He was scheduled to headline a fight night in March against former champion Tyron Woodley. However, the fight was scrapped due to the pandemic.

Edwards ended up not competing at all in 2020 after entering the year with such promise. He was looking to turn that bad fortune around tonight in his return. However, he wasn’t going to have an easy return taking on Belal Muhammad.

Just over a month ago at UFC 258, Belal Muhammad defeated Dhiego Lima. Muhammad made it clear that he felt he needed to be more respected in the division and he wanted some top ranked guys in his next fight.

After Khamzat Chimaev fell out of this main event slot against Leon Edwards, Muhammad jumped right in. Tonight, at UFC Vegas 21, Belal Muhammad had a golden chance to put his name directly in the title picture.

UFC Vegas 21 Recap

Round 1

There was no touch of the gloves to kick off the UFC Vegas 21 main event. Leon Edwards came forward immediately with pressure. Edwards opened the striking with a nice body kick. Muhammed tried throwing some hooks early, but was a bit out of range.

Edwards cracked Muhammad with a big 1-2 before he forced a clinch. Muhammad was able to reverse the position and landed a good elbow on the break. Edwards hurts Muhammad bad with a huge headkick.

Muhammad was wobbling around, but Edwards couldn’t put him away after Muhammad forced a clinch. The speed and length was really bothering Muhammad here in the first round.

A big body kick lands for Muhammad. Edwards answers with a big body kick of his own. Another nice 1-2 lands for Edwards and he follows it with another big straight left. The round comes to a close and it’s 1-0 Edwards at UFC Vegas 21.

Round 2

Normally Belal Muhammad is the one pressuring but early at UFC Vegas 21, Edwards was the one forcing the issue. Both men exchange jabs to start the striking in the second. Edwards goes for a body kick but accidentally pokes Belal Muhammad in the eye.

It’s a bad eye poke and this fight appears over. Referee Herb Dean waves the fight over after Muhammad cannot continue. The UFC Vegas 21 main event is going to end in a no contest.

Leon Edwards and Leon Edwards fight to a No Contest – Eye Poke (Round 2)

New York Mets: Defense Struggles in the Ninth in 4-3 Loss to Nationals

The New York Mets and Washington Nationals were reluctant to play defense in Saturday night’s matchup. Both teams combined for five errors on the night, and it helped lead to a Nats 4-3 victory in walk-off fashion.

The Mets’ offense got started early thanks to two Nats’ first-inning errors. Juan Soto‘s error allowed Michael Conforto to advance to third and J.D. Davis to second on his single. Both came around to score on Carter Kieboom‘s throwing error, giving the Mets an early 2-0 lead. The bats went silent for the rest of the game as their third run came on a wild pitch in the seventh inning.

Pitching Strong As Ever

Mets pitchers were solid under the bright lights. Jordan Yamamoto allowed an RBI double to Josh Bell in the first inning but settled in after. Yamamoto pitched 3.1 innings, allowed one run, and retired eight in a row at one point. Jonathan Villar‘s error at third base caused the end of Yamamoto’s start. Through 8.1 innings this spring, Yamamoto has allowed one run and no home runs.

Edwin Diaz was electric and efficient in his one inning of work. He sandwiched a one-pitch out between two, three-pitch strikeouts. Diaz also reached triple digits with his fastball and has retired all nine batters this spring with five strikeouts. Miguel Castro and Drew Smith continued their strong months as each hurled a scoreless inning. Both pitchers are very undervalued parts of a deep bullpen.

Things got crazy when Ryley Gilliam entered in the ninth. Yadiel Hernandez singled to lead off and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jackson Cluff‘s bunt single moved Hernandez to third and put the Nats in business with no outs. A fielder’s choice allowed the Nats to tie the game, then an error by third baseman Mark Vientos but the winning run in scoring position.

Gilliam uncorked another wild pitch to move runners to second and third for Andrew Stevenson. After getting the second out, Yasmany Tomas singled past a diving Wilfredo Tovar to win it for the Nats. Gilliam has allowed three runs and five hits in his two outings this spring.

David Peterson (0-0, 0.00) takes the mound in Port St. Lucie as the St. Louis Cardinals return to town. Carlos Martinez (0-1, 11.57) throws for the Cards at 1:10 p.m. ET on SNY.

New York Rangers: Morgan Barron recalled to Taxi Squad (Report)

Cap Friendly reported on Saturday night that center Morgan Barron has been recalled and placed on the Taxi Squad.

The New York Rangers have reportedly placed  center Morgan Barron on the Taxi Squad per Cap Friendly. The 22-year-old has been playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL.

The Rangers have not officially made a statement about this transaction so it is possible that this could be a salary cap move rather than an actual recall.

Barron was selected 174th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. This season at Hartford he has recorded five goals with seven points in eight games. Three of his five goals have come on the power play along with one game-winning goal. He has currently recorded points in six consecutive games and seven out of his last eight games for the Wolf Pack.

The potential recall is interesting as it comes on the same day that center Brett Howden was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.

Other Transactions

In other news from Cap Friendly, goaltender Igor Shesterkin was placed on IR. Shesterkin has been sidelined with what has been described as a mild groin strain. He suffered the injury in the Rangers victory over the New Jersey Devils on Mar. 4.

Shesterkin has appeared in 15 games this season with a 6-7-1 record. The rookie has a 2.31 goals-against average along with a .921 save percentage.

The Rangers have been using both Alexandar Georgiev and Keith Kinkaid in the net with Shesterkin sidelined. Kinkaid recorded a 4-0 shutout against the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.

It was his first shutout since Nov. 15, 2018.

RJ Barrett’s career game propels Knicks back over .500

Coming off their worst game of the season, the New York Knicks got off to a slow start against a team missing their leading scorer.

But RJ Barrett had seen enough and went on to drop a career-high 32 points in a much-needed rebound win. The Knicks got their acts together in the last three quarters to obliterate Oklahoma City Thunder, 119-97, on Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Barrett had 13 in the third quarter, where the Knicks started to pull away. He shot 12-of-21 with three triples and added five rebounds, three assists, and three steals in a complete performance.

The Knicks also drew inspired performances from Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley.

Randle also bounced back from a season-low seven points in Milwaukee with his second triple-double of the season (26 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists). He was the first Knick to have multiple triple-doubles in a season since Mark Jackson in 1988-89.

Quickley came off the bench and took over the point guard chores from the ineffective Frank Ntilikina, who started but played only seven minutes. The Knicks were still missing Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) though Empire Sports Media has learned that he’s also dealing with losing a close friend. A source familiar with the situation said Rose attended the funeral of Langston Hampton, the younger brother of his best friend and personal assistant Randall Hampton.

Elfrid, Payton was also a late scratch with a hamstring injury.

The backcourt pairing of Quickley and Barrett in the second half presided over the Knicks’ breakaway combining for 22 of New York’s 32 third-quarter points.

The Thunder played without their leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with a quad injury. But their starting unit, composed of two rookies, two sophomores, and Al Horford, jumped to an early big lead.

The Knicks’ low energy from Milwaukee seemed to have carried over in a sloppy start as they allowed the Thunder to shoot 71 percent and trailed by as many as 11.

“I thought we responded well after that. I thought we played strong in the second half, our willingness to share the ball. Once our defense got it going, it got us on the open floor,” Tom Thibodeau said.

After issuing only two assists in the first quarter, the Knicks finished with 22, and more importantly, their defense held the Thunder to just 37 percent shooting the rest of the way.

Alec Burks also had 15 points off the bench while Reggie Bullock hit four threes and finished with 14 for the Knicks, who improved to 20-19.

The win came at a critical time as the Knicks are about to wind up their road trip with back-to-back tough games against the Eastern Conference’s top two teams—Brooklyn Nets on Monday and the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: The Draft Network names wide receiver as number one need

New York Giants, Devonta Smith

Going into the NFL Draft as well as free agency, the New York Giants have more than one need they need to fill before they can take a step forward. They did nearly make it into the playoffs in 2020, but a lot of luck was involved for them to stay in the race and the Giants can’t count on that again this year. However, while their need to add talent is clear, it’s not so clear just where that talent needs to go.

We can, however, get some idea of which areas the Giants might be looking at just from looking at the tape last season. The Draft Network, one of the better outlets breaking down draft prospects every year, did just that and came up with a list of positions the Giants need to address – receiver was at the top of it.

Taking a look at the options

Without a true No. 1 receiver, Jones and the entire New York offense struggled to put together drives all year in 2020. Filling that role in free agency or the draft could boost Jones’ performance and confidence, in turn benefiting the entire Giants offense.

Kenny Golladay is a great fit here in free agency, and after trade deadline rumors linking him with the Giants, it’s likely New York is continuing to look at Golladay as one of their options.

Golladay has been a thousand yard receiver for the past couple years when he’s been healthy, but his availability is in question. It looks like the Giants have the highest chance of picking up a playmaker through the draft, where there’s a number of highly rated receiver prospects such as Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle.

It’s likely that one or two of these players will be off the board by the time the Giants pick at number eleven overall, but considering the depth at the position in this class, they have a chance to get a quality playmaker that will help Daniel Jones regardless. Assuming, of course, the Giants go the orthodox route and take a receiver – under Dave Gettleman, you never quite know if they’ll take the expected path, after all.

New York Giants rework OT Nate Solder’s deal, clear cap space

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants have made another move to clear some salary-cap space ahead of the 2021 new league year. The Giants have officially reworked veteran offensive tackle Nate Solder’s contract, per Ian Rapoport. Solder will officially return in an unspecified role in 2021. The move to rework Solder’s contract has cleared salary cap space.

This move comes as no surprise. The Giants reportedly wanted to bring back Nate Solder and Solder reportedly wanted to be back with the Giants. But there was no way New York could bring Solder back at his original cap hit of $16.5 million. This is not the first move the Giants have made on the offensive line to clear cap space.

Earlier this week, the Giants cut offensive guard Kevin Zeitler to clear almost $10 million in cap space. Zeitler was the Giants’ best starting offensive lineman in 2020. His release shows how difficult of a salary cap position the Giants are in right now. The Giants placed the franchise tag on Leonard Williams which will cost them around $19-21 million in cap space. New York has to get their salary total down before the start of the New League Year on Wednesday.

The Giants have made a plethora of roster moves to free up cap space. David Mayo, Cody Core, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate are the four cap casualties so far. Levine Toiliolo, CJ Board, and now Nate Solder have had their deals reworked to free up cap space but keep the players on the roster.

Nate Solder is unlikely to return as the starting left tackle in 2021. Andrew Thomas is entering his second season and should stay in that role. Solder could potentially compete for the starting right tackle position with second-year tackle Matt Peart. Matt Peart showed promise in his 2020 rookie season and general manager Dave Gettleman expressed confidence in Peart as a starter going forward. It seems likely that Solder’s role will be as a swing tackle or depth piece in 2021. His reworked contract should reflect that.

The details of the reworked contract have yet to be revealed, but this post will be updated once those numbers are reported.

New York Yankees Recap: LeMahieu and LaMarre power the Yankees to win over the Pirates

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees were back home at George M. Steinbrenner Field to play the Pittsburgh Pirates. Corey Kluber started for the Yankees, and JT Brubaker started for the Pirates. It was a beautiful day for a game, the game-time temperature was in the high ’70s, and the game was played under bright sunny skies and no wind. The game was televised on the YES Network and MLBN.

After pitching 2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts in his first outing, this was Kluber’s second start of the spring. The Yankees stretched him out today in preparation for the regular season.

Shortly after 1 pm, Kluber faced Adam Frazier, who got a stand-up double off the Yankee starter. Hayes was fanned, a pitch hit Reynolds. Evans hit into a double play ending the half. In the bottom DJ LeMahieu led off against Brubaker lined to the left for a single. Aaron Judge lined out to the right. Aaron Hicks doubled driving in DJ for the Yankee early lead.

Alford struck out, Wolter bunts out, and Gonzalez lined out for a quick second inning for Kuber. Kluber is known for the Kluber elite slider that so many have tried to copy, and he used it several times today. In the bottom, Gleyber Torres singled sharply to left. Gio Urshela, who has recovered from shoulder surgery ground to third with Torres advancing. Gary Sanchez, who has had three homers this spring, ground out on his eighth pitch. Brett Gardner, who is off to a torrid start and has had a Grand Slam, already had a sharp liner to first for a single, moving Torres to third. Back to the top of the lineup, DJ LeMahieu homered to right for a three-run shot.  Yankees 4 Pirates 0.

Kluber out for a third inning popped out Cruz, but following that was a Stokes homer making it 4-1 Yankees. Frazier singled. Hayes singled. Reynold flew out to Judge. Frazier advanced to third. Evan popped out in the infield. At the bottom, Rodriguez replaced Brubaker. Judge struck out after a long shot just left of the foul pole. Hicks laid down a bunt that rolled all the way to third base that the Pirates waited to go foul but didn’t. Stanton popped out.  Luke Voit struck out to end the inning.

Something that was notable in the game is that the new health protocols separate the players in the dugout from the manager and coaches that sit out on the field behind protective netting.

To start out the fourth, Kluber nailed Alford with a hit-by-pitch. He was hit and the ribs and immediately taken out of the game. Smith pinch ran for Alford. Wolters was thrown out while Smith advanced to second. Smith then advanced on a Kluber wild pitch. Gonzalez ground out but Smith scored for a 4-2 Yankee game. O’Neil Cruz flew out. Kluber finished off four innings giving up two runs, but the Kluber slider was on display. Yankees 4 Pirates 2. Torres flew out to start the bottom. Gio Urshela lined out to left. Sanchez struck out to end the inning.

New York Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman came out in the fifth to get some work in. Stokes struck out, Frazier lined out, and Hayes ground out as Chapman mixed his pitches for a 1-2-3 inning. At the bottom, Gardner struck out swinging. DJ struck out looking. Judge lined out to second to end the 1-2-3 fifth.

The Yankee’s sidearm Darren O’Day took over in the sixth. Reynolds greeted O’Day with a  long one over the centerfield fence. Yankees 4 Pirates 3. O’Day had a 1.10 ERA last year and didn’t give up home runs. But today that was not the case. Evans struck out swinging. Smith got caught looking. Wolters struck out while getting hit with the ball.  At the bottom, Hicks lined out to third. Stanton chopped out. Mike Ford ground out to first. Yankees 4 Pirates 3.

Justin Wilson took the mound for the New York Yankees at the top of the seventh. Gonzalez struck out swinging. Cruz popped out. Stokes singled. Frazier singled for two on. Hayes popped out for a scoreless frame. Gleyber Torres singled for the second time in the game. Urshela singled on a fielder’s choice. Peraza running for Torres was nailed at second. LaMarre homered driving in two runs making it Yankees 6-3 Pirates. Greg Allen flew out to end the seventh.

On the mound for the Yankees in the eighth was Chad Green for his second game of the spring. In his first outing on Wednesday struck out the side. Swaggerty doubled from a ball that was in no man’s land in right. Castro followed that with a two-run shot over the centerfield fence. Yankees 6 Pirates 5. Smith ground out. Susac flew out. Owen walked. Cruz flew out but the Pirates picked up two runs. Brito led off the bottom and homered hitting the right-field pole. Yankees 7 Pirates 5. Duran singled on a booted ball. Duran got thrown out stealing. Breaux chopped out. Ford flew out to far left.

With last licks on the line for the Pirates, Luis Cessa came in to close it out for the Yankees. Mitchell ground out to Ford. Bae popped out to Duran and Martin reached on a throw to first lifting Ford off the base. Swaggerty struck out ending the game. Final Score 7-5 New York Yankees. The winning pitcher was Kluber, Brubaker was the loser and Luis Cessa got the save.

The New York Rangers blank Boston in Artemi Panarin’s return

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

The New York Rangers finally got the total 60 minutes of complete play that head coach David Quinn wanted. The Rangers scored in each of the three periods in defeating the Bruins 4-0. The game also saw the return of Artemi Panarin, who had missed the past nine games for personal reasons.

The Rangers got goals from K’Andre Miller, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, and Ryan Strome. Mika Zibanejad had two assists. Panarin got an assist on Strome’s goal, but it was obvious that his presence gave the Rangers a huge emotional boost after losing three straight games.

Kreider continues to be one of the main contributors to the Blueshirts. Per NYR Stats&Info, Kreider’s nine goals since Feb. 24 are the most in the NHL over the span. His 13 points over the span are the third-most in the NHL.

Keith Kinkaid made 18 saves for the shutout victory. He earned his first win since Oct. 31, 2019, and his first shutout since Nov. 15, 2018. Kinkaid was bolstered by a solid defense, led by Adam Fox and Miller. With over 23 minutes of ice time, Miller has logged 20 or more minutes of ice time in more games than any other NHL rookie thus far in the season.

While the veterans stepped up for the Rangers, so did many of their younger players. Over the last 10 games, at least one Ranger who is 23 years old or younger has tallied a point on 23 of the team’s 29 goals. In addition, at least one Ranger who is 23 years old or younger has tallied a point on nine of the team’s last 10 goals.

The New York Rangers got a huge boost from the return of Panarin

“It was definitely a huge boost getting him (Panarin) back,” Zibanejad said in his post-game interview. “Not only just for the game but for having him around all the guys again. I thought the whole team really came together today. A real team win, as we played really solid over the 60 minutes and I think he had something to do with that.”

Head coach David Quinn echoed those sentiments in his post-game Zoom conference. “Having back meant so many things. Not just on the ice but mentally.” Quinn said. Our guys certainly hold him in high esteem. He is a well-liked teammate. Our guys were dying for him to come back for a lot of reasons. We put him back in our lineup and all of a sudden we got a little more swagger. Having him in our lineup certainly gave us a jolt.”

Strome talked about the importance of this win during his post-game interview. “I thought we all came to play today,” Strome said. “Up and down the lineup, everyone contributed whether it was on the score sheet or not. Everyone was a part of the game and everyone was part of the win. We need to string them together and we need to be a little more consistent.”

The Rangers return home from this six-game road trip on Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WR Vyncint Smith headed back to the New York Jets

New York Jets

The New York Jets are set to welcome back Smith, who posted career-best numbers during his first season with the team in 2019.

The New York Jets announced the re-signing of receiver Vyncint Smith on Saturday afternoon. Smith, who set to be a restricted free agent, joined the Jets off the Houston Texans’ practice squad in 2019.

Smith, born in Germany and an alum of Division II Limestone College, dealt with injuries during the 2020 season, limited to only a single 13-yard reception in seven games. During his debut Jets campaign, Smith earned 225 yards on 17 receptions, each career-bests to date.

Additionally, Smith showed off a brief rushing prowess in his first New York season with 52 yards on a trio of carries. His biggest play of the season was a 19-yard scoring carry in his Jets debut, earned in an October visit to Philadelphia.

Smith also became a threat in the return game for the Jets, putting up 299 yards on 10 kick return turns in 2019. During his injury-plagued season last year, fellow receiver Braxton Berrios and mid-season pick-up Corey Ballentine took over such duties. Smith is one of the rare Jets on the current roster with postseason experience, having played a majority of offensive snaps in Houston’s 2018-19 Wild Card appearance against Indianapolis.

Smith is the first of the Jets’ wide receiver issues to be resolved this offseason. He was among the free agents-to-be along with Breshad Perriman, and Jeff Smith (no relation). Jamison Crowder could also be a departure for salary cap reasons, with potentially $10.5 million in cap space available upon his departure.

The Jets’ receiving situation has been well-discussed with the quarterback situation still not resolved. They haven’t had a 1,000-receiver since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker each reached the plateau in 2015. The team has high hopes for second-round choice Denzel Mims, while Berrios is also under contract with Lawrence Cager.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Yankees News: Great Luis Severino injury update as Spring Training continues

New York Yankees, Luis Severino

The New York Yankees are going into the 2021 season with the expectation that starter Luis Severino will not be a part of the rotation. His timeline for return has him joining the team in late summer, which means the Yankees will have to supplement his loss in the meantime.

Luckily, the Yankees did a solid job adding starting pitching this off-season, even if they took a few big risks in the process. General manager Brian Cashman admitted that he was forced to take a few calculated risks based on financial flexibility and ownership’s desire to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

The New York Yankees receive good news on the injury front:

However, the latest updates on Severino are inspiring, as he’s taking significant steps forward toward a return, which might lead him to a more efficient recovery timeline and previously anticipated.

Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey is convinced that Severino will return to 100% health and make an impact this upcoming season.

“I’ve seen a lot of first-time bullpens after Tommy John (surgery),” Harkey said, “and watching Sevy’s was probably the most comfortable I’ve ever seen a player.”

Harkey said Severino looked “comfortable” and “aggressive.”

“Zero worry about whether it’s surgically repaired,” the bullpen coach said.

Harkey detailed why Severino looks as good as he does, complementing his work ethic and undying desire to make a full comeback.

“It’s all because of hard work,” Harkey said. “He’s worked his tail off to get to this point. Through a series of serious injuries and rehabbing for months and a year, it takes a toll on your mind, and definitely takes a toll on your body. But it also gives you the chance — if you dig into it — you can do things now to your body that you weren’t able to do when you were healthy because you have that extra time.”

The last time Severino pitched was in 2019, pitching just 12 innings after recovering from another significant injury. That next spring training led to Tommy John surgery, so he’s only pitched 12 innings over the past two years, indicating he might suffer through some speed bumps along the way in 2021.

However, we know Severino can be a quality pitcher, hosting a 3.39 ERA in 2018 over 191.1 innings. His 10.35 strikeouts per nine and 19 wins tell the story, and adding him back to a rotation that seems to be flush with talent should get fans excited.