PFL 2 Recap: MacDonald and Cooper shine in 2021 season opener

Last night, PFL held their second event of 2021. Last week, the promotion held their first event and it was a night filled with upsets. Two former champions lost and Anthony Pettis lost his highly anticipated PFL debut.

Last night, Rory MacDonald (22-6-1) was set to make his PFL debut. MacDonald signed an exclusive deal with the Pro Fight League just before 2020. He was a massive signing and he was expected to make his debut during the 2020 season.

Of course, the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID. With that, MacDonald has sat on the sidelines waiting to get back into the cage. Well, he got that chance last night.

Meeting him in his PFL debut was Curtis Millender (18-7). Like MacDonald, Millender is a veteran of both the UFC and Bellator. He was a recent signing for PFL after MacDonald’s original opponent fell through for last night’s second event.

When the fight got underway, it didn’t take long for MacDonald to get the fight to the ground. Given MacDonald’s overall skillset, his path to victory in this one was on the ground and he didn’t take long to get it there.

MacDonald was able to get Millender’s back, but he was struggling to lock in a rear-naked choke. The Red King started working heel kicks to the thighs and opened up his hooks to do so.

Millender saw this as an opportunity and he tried to get up. However, in doing so, he went right into MacDonald’s trap. MacDonald locked in the choke when Millender stopped fighting the hands and he got the submission win in his PFL debut.

PFL Champion Impresses

In the co-main event of the evening, previous PFL champion Ray Cooper III (21-7-1) returned to take on Jason Ponet (20-13-1). The fight didn’t last very long and Cooper was incredible impressive.

In the first round, the two men found themselves in a clinch along the fence. Ponet attempted a knee but it was caught by the former PFL champion. Cooper slammed Ponet to the ground and started working on the floor.

It didn’t take long before Cooper locked up an arm-triangle for the submission victory. Both MacDonald and Cooper were incredibly impressive at PFL 2 with their first round submission victories.

I, along with many fight fans, am very excited about the potential matchup between MacDonald and Cooper. Whenever it does happen during the 2021 season, it will definitely be one to watch.

Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley has one secret ingredient to playing well

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

One of the main reasons the New York Knicks are having such a successful 2021 campaign is rookie Immanuel Quickley, who offers fantastic scoring production off the bench. When Quickley was selected, nobody expected him to be this influential, as CBS gave the pick a D+ at 25. However, the Knicks knew they were getting something special, a hard-working youngster who would stop at nothing to be great.

So far this season, Quickley is averaging 11.7 points, 2.1 assists, and 2.2 rebounds over 19.5 minutes per game. He has a .394 field-goal percentage and is connecting on .387% of his shots from three-point range. He attempts 4.8 shots be on the arc per contest and is hitting nearly 90% of his free-throw attempts, which is absolutely stellar.

Quickley has shown that he has a bright future at the NBA level, already making an impact as a late first-round pick. In fact, the Knicks are still dabbling with the idea that he could be their future point guard, but he might be better suited as a shooting guard paired with a veteran like Derrick Rose. He has far outperformed his fellow rookie Obi Toppin so far this season, but his main ingredient to success is exactly what you would think it would be.

“I always try to go in and play free,” Quickley said. “Having fun is probably the biggest thing I emphasize every time I’m on the floor.”

Having fun is Immanuel’s primary way of developing and enjoying the game of basketball. A lot of players get wrapped up in the monetary aspect or the tangible offerings, but Quickley simply loves the game.

To be the best, you have to captivate an internal flame that keeps you motivated and confident. Quickley has the mentality of Kobe Bryant, heaving up shots after hours to improve his abilities come game time. Even fellow youngster RJ Barrett has noticed his trends and projected motivating words on his influence late in games.

“He’s big time, especially in the fourth,” RJ Barrett said. “He really gave us a good push there, got us a good lead kind of on his own. He got going, we were looking for him and he just continued to deliver.”

The Knicks are developing a strong core of youth players, and after years of poor drafting, it seems as if they finally had a few home runs. Barrett is well on his way to becoming a star player this season paired with Julius Randle, and Quickley is already a complementary benefactor. Hopefully, things continue to progress as they have been, and the front office it will be quite happy with their draft picks the past few years.

Sean O’Malley Has Proven How Special Of A Fighter He Is; But Is It Time For Him To Take On A Top Ten Ranked Fight?

Sean O'Malley

Over the last three years, the UFC has produced some phenomenal young talent, men and women alike. Living up to their potential at a very young age, these starlets have the ability to shape the UFC’s next generation of greatness and have already shown how dominant they can be. This has been demonstrated in the likes of Jimmy Crute, Miranda Maverick, Song Yadong, and Umar Nurmagomedov, to name a few. But looming largely at the forefront of this talented group of youngsters has been no one but the bright, rainbow-haired, striking wonder boy in Sean O’Malley.

Rising to fame through Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017, O’Malley has been a sensation ever since he’s stepped foot in the octagon and has illustrated how deadly his striking can be (ESPN). After proving his knockout power and legitimacy against Eddie Wineland last June, O’Malley suffered a terrible foot drop injury against his opponent Marlon Vera later that summer, which resulted in his first UFC loss and sidelined him for several months (ESPN). Despite suffering such a crippling injury, O’Malley made his return to the octagon a little over six months later for UFC 260 on March 27th, emphatically reasserting his presence in the Bantamweight division by delivering a brutal TKO against Thomas Almeida (ESPN). Looking healthy and comfortable, O’Malley pressured and tormented Almeida with a flurry of big punches and leg kicks, showcasing once again just what kind of striking talent he brings to this stacked Bantamweight division.

But after turning 26 last fall and virtually dominating every fight he’s been in, O’Malley has proven just how gifted he is and needs to be granted his first real test at 135. Though Wineland, Vera, and Almeida all made for fair opponents, O’Malley’s actions in the octagon have spoken loud and clear, and it is time for him to match up with a Top Ten ranked opponent for his next fight.  Moreover, O’Malley is entering his prime, and as a young fighter, he still has so much to prove but won’t be able to do so if he keeps on getting matchups that won’t test his overall skill set as a mixed martial artist. And as a result, it’s time for Dana White to explore bigger fights for him to take on.

However, with that said, who makes for the best matchup against the Suga Show? Prior to fighting Vera several months ago, O’Malley already felt he deserved a Top Five fight (ESPN). Moreover, he recently reinforced this bold claim by taunting a potential challenge from the number one contender in the division, in Petr Yan (ESPN). Though he does have a fair point to shoot for the stars considering what he’s accomplished, O’Malley still has a handful of ranked fighters in front of him that not only have been waiting and working toward a title shot as well but as a whole, could also really give him a run for his money. And if there’s anything left for O’Malley to prove before he gets a title shot, it’s that whether he can stand with the best of them and take down at least one of the Top Ten fighters in his division. So without further ado, here are the top three opponents O’Malley should fight next:

3. Dominick Cruz: This matchup would be outstanding for a variety of different reasons and could potentially come to fruition this year. Though he hasn’t called out anyone since his victory against Casey Kenny, Cruz has stated that he is open to fighting O’Malley and is certainly looking to get in another fight by the end of this year, according to a recent interview he had on the Ariel Helwani Show (ESPN). But despite that, there’s a bunch of significant other reasons why this matchup is as good as it is. For starters, Cruz has an incredible set of credentials on his resume and has put together an impressive record of 23 wins with only 3 losses over his career (ESPN). Not only is Cruz a two-time Bantamweight Champion, taking out some of the best fighters we’ve seen in the division’s history. But on top of that, his style and approach toward mixed martial arts is very unorthodox with his constant, differentiating movements and feints, which would present O’Malley with an unfamiliar challenge and a new level of adversity he hasn’t been exposed to yet. In short, considering how special and unique of a fighter Cruz has been and still is at 135, O’Malley should relish the opportunity to take on this fight. And if O’Malley were to win, his goal of taking on a Top 5 fight would become guaranteed.

2. Pedro Munhoz: Though he might be fading out of his prime a bit, losing two of his last three fights against both Aljamain Sterling and Frankie Edgar, Munhoz actually makes for a very good matchup for O’Malley, and here’s why. First and foremost, one of the most impressive facts about Munhoz’s career in mixed martial arts is that all five of his losses have either been decided by split or unanimous decisions (ESPN). In other words, Munhoz is one of the toughest fighters in the division and has never been knocked out by anyone in his career, which in itself is a big challenge for O’Malley, who depends on his knockout power to win his fights. On top of that, Munhoz has proven how versatile he can be on the ground and could test O’Malley on his grappling skills as well, something we haven’t seen a whole lot of from O’Malley. When all is said and done, it’s important that O’Malley gets a chance to test his skills against one of the best in this division, someone who can not only can stand and go the distance with him but who can also challenge him in a variety of different ways. And after a big bounce-back victory against Jimmie Rivera earlier this year, Munhoz has shown that he still has what it takes to win in this competitive division. So if O’Malley really wants that Top 5 fight he’s been craving for, taking on Munhoz would certainly bring him one step closer.

1. Marlon Moraes: Since his bout with the former Bantamweight champ Henry Cejudo nearly two years ago, Moraes has really struggled with regaining the menacing and elite fighter status he used to have (ESPN). Losing back-to-back fights against both Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font last year, Moraes has progressively slipped his way down the rankings, and another loss could perpetuate his downfall even further (ESPN). So why does he deserve a fight with O’Malley? Well, there are a few reasons to factor in here. To begin with, both losses Moraes sustained were against the number two and number three ranked fighters in the division in Sandhagen and Font, two fighters that are debatably in their respective primes and have been steadily climbing up the rankings (ESPN). In addition, Moraes will not want to suffer a third loss in a row, and as a result, he’s going to do everything he can to ensure he gets a victory in his next bout. For O’Malley, this makes for a top fight because he not only gets to test his skill against a very well-versed and technically gifted mixed martial artist, but he also would be going up against Moraes’s best work. Though he might appear to be the easiest challenger on this list, it’s important to keep in mind that Moraes did knockout both Rivera and Sterling prior to coming for the belt against Cejudo, demonstrating he can stand with some of the best (ESPN). So if anything, a matchup with Moraes would be perfect for O’Malley and would grant him the opportunity to prove why he deserves a Top 5 fight.

Grading the New York Giants’ 2021 NFL Draft 1st round haul

new york giants, kadarius toney

The moment Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants’ draft strategy changed as their primary option came off the board. Instead, they considered trading back for the first time in years and Gettleman’s first time in the history of his career.

With Smith and Jaylen Waddle off the board, the Giants struck a deal with the Chicago Bears, moving back to the 20th overall pick, collecting a haul in the process. They added a fifth-round pick for the 2021 NFL draft, but a first-round and a fourth-round pick in 2022. An incredible haul for a team that rarely ever maneuvers in the NFL draft.

To put things into perspective, when the Steelers moved back 10 selections in 2019 with the Broncos, they acquired the number 52 overall pick and a future third-rounder, whereas the Giants added a first-round pick and several mid-round selections.

While nobody anticipated the Giants moving back, they 100% won this trade, even “fleecing” the Chicago Bears, which is how Gettleman would’ve put it.

What did the New York Giants get with Kadarius Toney?

Not only did they add draft capital, but they also managed to land Florida playmaker Kadarius Toney, who had a stellar 2020 season down south. He finished with 1,145 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns. Toney is an extremely interesting player that can be used as a gadget option out of the backfield, but also on wide receiver screens in space.

When looking at him objectively, he’s not a physical receiver that will win on the outside, but he can thrive in the slot and from a “Z” alignment on the interior, avoiding press coverage and using his shifty ability to create separation and get into the open field.

The best part about Kadarius is that when he has the ball in his hands, anything can happen. In the blink of an eye, he can take a pass to the house, and while he does have some issues creating separation against press coverage, the Giants will get creative with him and move him around the formation with pre-snap motion. I do see the selection as a potential cutting bait with Sterling Shepard, who has a club OUT in his contract after 2021.

Nonetheless, I gave this first-round grade an A- based on what Toney brings and the draft capital they added moving back nine selections. While DeVonta Smith did go to Philadelphia and Dallas managed to snag Micah Parsons, the Giants walked away winners in this scenario, setting themselves up with a contingency plan in case Daniel Jones doesn’t take a positive step forward this year but also more assets to plug holes in 2022.

New York Yankees News: Gary still clueless? Could the Cressey affect be in gear again? and more

Gary Sanchez still doesn’t get it

The New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez still seems “clueless.” The clueless term came about last season when he said he didn’t understand why he wasn’t playing. He lost playing time because he wasn’t catching well, and most of all, he wasn’t hitting the ball when his backup catcher Kyle Higashioka was excelling.

Now, after losing his everyday catcher job to Higashioka again, he still seems clueless. After last night’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he told reporters that he wasn’t in a slump. Is he telling us this is the new normal? He said this was different and not like last year. He also said it’s early in the season and that the club hadn’t even played a month yet. Well, Gary, this writer says you are in a slump, and according to simple math, it has been a month.

To be completely fair to Sanchez, his slump is not for lack of trying. Probably no one has worked harder to get better and be prepared to play at a high level. While many players were resting and enjoying their winter off, Sanchez played winter ball and then worked out and worked on his catching at the Tampa complex. The only problem with all of that extra work is that it hasn’t translated to positive results.

Could the Yankees have another inside track?

Eric Cressey, the Yankee’s head of the training and strength/conditioning departments, was likely very influential in the hiring of  2 times Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber who had been working out with Cressey at this Florida facility during the offseason. The New York Yankees in close contact with Cressey had the inside track to how Kluber was doing. When the Yankees viewed his pitching demonstration, they hired him two days later.

Now Cressey is involved with free-agent pitcher Anibal Sanchez who has been working out with Cressey’s staff for the last three weeks. A source tells @TheAthletic. He will throw a four-inning bullpen (Friday) at Cressey Sports Performance. Sanchez is a former Cy Young nominee while with the Washington Nationals. The Athletics Ken Rosenthal says Sanchez could pick a team as early as this week. We know that Yankee’s general manager Brian Cashman leaves no stone unturned in finding talent, although there is no direct knowledge of Cashman speaking about Sanchez with Cressey.

The Astros bad blood reaction starts today

The New York Yankees return home to Yankee Stadium today to face the Detroit Tigers. They don’t face the Houston Astros until next week, but there is a connection today. The Tiger’s new manager is A.J. Hinch, the same manager involved in the cheating scandal that enveloped the Houston Astros in 2017. Hinch was suspended over a year ago for his part in the scandal. The same day he came off suspension, the Tigers hired him.

Next Tuesday, the Houston Astros will play at Yankee Stadium for the first time since MLB revealed that the Astros did cheat in 2017 that cost the Yankees a chance at a World Series appearance and that cost Aaron Judge the Rookie of the Year Award that went to Jose Altuve. If you know anything about Yankee fans, you know they have long memories. The Astros can look forward to at least loud boos when Astros players are introduced at the Stadium. We may see some of that today as well to greet A.J. Hinch.

Mike Francesa, not an Aaron Judge fan

Aaron Judge has suffered an image problem since his 2017 break-out season with one injury after another. Last season he played in less than half the games. This season already, he has had two mysterious ailments that have cost him playing time. Last night in Baltimore, he was again sat down by manager Aaron Boone. For the second night in a row, Boone described Judge’s absence by saying it’s a lower-body soreness that’s hard to describe.

WFAN’s Mike Francesa takes issue with Boone’s statement that Aaron Judge is tough as they come. Francesa suggested that the New York Yankees could have swept the Orioles, and splitting the series “doesn’t cut it.” One could wonder if that outcome would have been different if Judge was in the lineup on Wednesday and Thursday. Reacting to the “tough as they come” comment, Francesa said, “never plays.” that is, of course, an overstatement; the fact that he does seem tender at times is concerning.

 

The UFC has terminated the contract of Diego Sanchez

The last remaining fighter from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter is no longer with the UFC. Dana White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that the promotion has officially terminated the contract of Diego Sanchez (30-13).

Sanchez was set to take on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-15-1, 1 NC) next weekend at UFC Vegas 26. However, we learned earlier this week that Sanchez was out of the fight, but we were not given a clear reason as to why.

After that announcement, a string of odd events occurred. Sanchez took to his Instagram to show his fighter meeting with the UFC commentary and production team from UFC 253.

The Nightmare’s controversial coach Joshua Fabia is seen in the video criticizing the commentary for being disrespectful. There was some back and forth before the video ended.

After that post, Sanchez posted a number of stories including stating that he was forced out of next weekend’s fight by the UFC. Last night, he posted another story with the caption of ‘Free at last’ while tagging other MMA promotions.

What happened with the UFC?

Per Okamoto’s story this morning, it all started out when Fabia requested all of Sanchez’s medical records that the UFC had spanning over the last fifteen years. Seeing how out of character this is, the UFC started their own investigation.

They went to Sanchez’s team and asked about the current state of Sanchez’s health. The UFC pressed on if there are any pressing medical issues regarding his health whether they be short-term or long-term.

Sanchez’s team came back to the UFC and said they couldn’t confirm that and he hasn’t gone through any kind of neurological evaluations recently. When receiving that information, the promotion decided to cancel next weekend’s fight and release Sanchez from his contract.

The release ends and incredible run for Diego Sanchez in the UFC. He won the first season of TUF and had been under the promotion for the last sixteen years. This fight next weekend was set to be his final show, but it looks like he will close his career elsewhere.

Bellator announces that Yoel Romero – Anthony Johnson is off

The one matchup that fans were the most excited about when it comes to the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix was Yoel Romero (13-5) – Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6). The two were supposed to fight next weekend at Bellator 258.

Rumble and Romero were both released from their UFC contracts last year. Almost immediately, Bellator snatched both men up and put them in the upcoming Grand Prix. The two knockout artists seemed like they were going to deliver the goods for the promotion.

However, late last night, we learned that the fight was off. Bellator announced that Yoel Romero was not cleared and the fight next weekend with Rumble is off. You can read the full statement below.

“Yoel Romero did not clear pre-fight medical testing and as a result, his Bellator MMA debut against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has been postponed. Bellator will confirm a tournament alternate to face “Rumble” Johnson in the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix as soon as possible.”

Bellator statement on Yoel Romero

What’s next for Bellator 258

This is a major hit to next weekend’s Bellator card. Yes, there are still some great fights including Juan Archuleta – Sergio Pettis, but the world was waiting for the battle between Rumble and Romero.

At this time, there is no word as to why or what made Romero fail his pre-fight medicals. Hopefully it’s not something that will keep him from competing moving forward. While Romero is 43 years old, he still seems to have plenty left in the tank.

I’m very curious to see who the promotion can find to take on Rumble next weekend. Rumble appears to be in phenomenal shape and he looks like he’s ready to make a statement at Bellator 258.

If Rumble wins next weekend, he will move on to take on Vadim Nemkov for the title in the semi-finals. However, before we can think about Rumble fighting for the Bellator title, we will have to figure out who he’s fighting first. This will be a story to follow over the coming days.

Knicks News: RJ Barrett’s improvement will blow your mind, what does Luca Vildoza bring?

new york knicks, rj barrett

If not for the magical development of New York Knicks‘ 20-year-old shooting guard RJ Barrett, they might not be as successful as they’ve been this season. Currently sitting in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, Barrett has been the Robin to Julius Randle’s Batman.

Randle is having an MVP caliber season, and he’s dragging Barrett along with him as one of the best young players in the NBA. So far this season, RJ is averaging 17.6 points per game, a 3.3 point increase from his rookie season in 2019–20.

Barrett is also averaging 3.0 assists and 5.7 total rebounds per game. His .449 shooting percentage from the field is almost a .05% increase, and his three-point percentage has seen a .07% increase, skyrocketing from .320 a .390. Altogether, his statistics have taken a significant step forward in the right direction, and the Knicks couldn’t be happier about his development as he trends toward becoming a star.

However, if not for a few veteran mentors, Barrett’s development might be a bit slower. Point guard Derrick Rose has played a significant part in helping him mentally.

“At halftime, whenever I get a chance, I try to get him, get out of his own head, get out of his own way and let him know, ‘Don’t get frustrated,’ ’’ Rose said. “He does miss shots … [but] he’s a perfectionist, so whenever I see him down, I try to talk to him as much as possible. And the second half, he came out totally aggressive.’’

Responding to Rose’s comments, Barrett confirmed the assumption that he’s a “perfectionist.”

“Yeah, yeah I am that,’’ Barrett said sheepishly, scratching his face. “I will say that. I hate when everything’s not perfect. I hate missing. If I do everything right and I miss the shot or I do everything right then I turn over the ball, I hate when things aren’t perfect.”

What are the New York Knicks getting in Luca Vildoza?

Vildoza signed with the Knicks, who is working on a buyout with Bastonia, his current Spanish club. The 25-year-old can play both guard positions and is shooting 38% this year, scoring over 10 points per game.

While Luca isn’t eligible to play just yet, he will be available for the postseason, representing a finisher from the point guard position and someone who can create with either hand. He can hit shots from all levels of the court and has a bit of flair to his game. He should add a well-rounded presence at the PG position, something the Knicks have been lacking behind Derrick Rose.

They don’t like to use Immanuel Quickley in that role, pairing him as a shooting guard with Rose or Elfrid Peyton. Having quality depth down the stretch is extremely important, especially as fatigue starts to set in with aggressive play during playoff games.

New York Yankees: 3 major takeaways from Yankees finale loss to the Orioles

The New York Yankees met the Baltimore Orioles yesterday in the series finale of the four-game set. The Orioles came out with the win, with the two teams splitting the series in Baltimore. The Orioles won the first game, the Yankees took the middle two, and the Orioles took the last game in a 10 inning win. Jordan Montgomery got the start for the Yankees with Gary Sanchez catching, and Jorge Lopez started for the O’s. Neither pitcher was involved in the outcome of the game. The Yankees could have won the game if it wasn’t for some bad luck in the ninth when Gleyber Torres hit a ground-rule double that bounced into the stands, tieing the game but not allowing DJ LeMahieu to score.

Darren O’ Day let Montgomery down

Jordan Montgomery didn’t have his best of games, but I wasn’t bad either. He pitched five full innings allowing 2 earn runs. His command wasn’t as good as his last outing, and he only stuck out one batter over the span. But he didn’t let the game get away from the Yankees. Things were still looking good when Chad Green came to the game to replace Montgomery; he pitched two scoreless innings striking out 4 Orioles.

In the eighth inning Darren O’Day, who was stellar, came into the game to replace Chad Green; he gave up an earned run and couldn’t strike out anybody. Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees tied in the ninth and struck out the side. In the bottom of the 10th, the usually perfect Jonathan Loaisiga gave up the winning run. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it when the Yankees don’t hit home runs; they don’t win games.

Giancarlo Stanton is hot

Without a doubt, Giancarlo Stanton is the hottest of the Yankee hitters. He leads the team in home runs (6) and shares the most RBI’s (15) with Gio Urshela. Last night although not hitting a home run, he went 3 for 5. In the previous game, he also went 3 for 5 with a home run. In just two games, he has brought his batting average from .162 to .250. These performances show that if Stanton can remain healthy, he can be an MVP.

Tyler Wade instead of Mike Tauchman, really?

Before yesterday’s game, the New York Yankees traded Mike Tauchman for Oakland giants pitcher Wandy Peralta and another player to be named later. Yankee fans and this writer are not all that thrilled with the trade. Tauchman was the better hitter, although he may not be that much of an upgrade except for his baserunning and ability to steal bases.

For his part in last night’s game Tyler Wade, couldn’t put down an everyday bunt, possibly causing the New York Yankees from winning the game. Tauchman may have been the better option, but now the Yankees are stuck with Tyler Wade. Tauchman put up some pretty good number in 2019, but a poor season in 2020 and a slow start in this season sealed his fate. For that, we have a pitcher that no Yankee has even seen throw a pitch. I guess a good question is how many left-handed relievers do the Yankees need?

The New York Yankees start a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium. Game one will feature the Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole against the Tigers’ Tarik Skubal.