Bellator 261 Preview: Who will become interim heavyweight champion?

Tonight Bellator is back and the interim heavyweight title is on the line. In the main event, the promotion will hand an interim title to either Tim Johnson (15-6) or Valentin Moldavsky (10-1).

Bellator already has a heavyweight champion in Ryan Bader (28-6, 1 NC). However, Bader hasn’t defended his heavyweight title since Bellator 226 back in 2019. Bader is currently in the light heavyweight Grand Prix with no ETA on his next heavyweight fight.

With that in mind, the promotion has decided to keep things moving in their heavyweight division. Who would have thought back in 2019 that Tim Johnson would be fighting for a Bellator heavyweight title?

Johnson made his Bellator debut back in 2018 and was knocked out in the first round of his first two fights. However, 2020 was a turnaround year for Johnson. Johnson stopped Tyrell Fortune and Matt Mitrione before getting a rematch with Cheick Kongo.

Kongo had knocked him out in their first fight, but the second fight was much different. At Bellator 248, Johnson picked up a split decision win. With three straight wins, Johnson has been put in this headliner, but he’ll have his hands full tonight.

Bellator 261

Standing across from Tim Johnson at Bellator 261 will be Valentin Moldavsky. Moldavsky has been perfect since he joined the promotion. The Russian made his Bellator debut back in 2017. Since then, he’s gone a perfect 5-0.

Moldavsky trains under Fedor Emelianenko and alongside the current Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov. Fedor has built himself quite the team and Moldavsky is looking to become the team’s next world champion.

If you were to ask me two years ago who’d win this Bellator 261 main event, I wouldn’t have given it any thought. I would have said Moldavsky without thinking twice. However, Tim Johnson’s 2020 has made me rethink everything.

He’s shown incredible toughness and grit on his way to winning three fights in a row. However, I don’t think he picks up his fourth tonight. I think we see another Russian champion crowned tonight.

Prediction: Valentin Moldavsky by TKO – Round 3

New York Yankees: Yanks/Sox renew rivalry tonight, series preview

New York Yankees, Domingo German

One of the oldest baseball rivalries is between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The two teams have never liked each other since Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125k to finance a Broadway production he was involved with. As history has shown, Ruth became one of the best baseball players in the game. He hit many home runs off his old team and set the fire for the rivalry.

Before the “Babe,” the Yankees had not won a World Series, but they won four Championships after acquiring him. Ruth was so popular with the Yankees that the increased fans allow the Yankees to build their first new stadium. It was called “the house that Ruth built.” More recently, the Yankees have won a total of 27 World Championships to the Red Sox 9. The most recent win for the Yankees was in 2009 and 2018 for the Sox.

The rivalry causes heated conversations between fans of both teams due to the closeness of Yankees Stadium and Fenway Park that often leads to a beer being poured over a head. It seldom gets gruesome, but the opposing fans don’t like each other as one so frequently caused the other to lose a game, series, or postseason.

The teams faced each other in the AL Championship three times. The New York Yankees won twice, in 1999 and 2003. The Red Sox won in 2014. The two teams have also met once in the Division Series (ALDS), in 2018, with Boston winning 3-1, a series which included a 16-1 Red Sox win in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, the most lopsided postseason loss for the Yankees in their history.

Whether the two teams are playing at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park in Boston, the games are exciting and take on an intensity seldom seen between teams. Tonight they renew that rivalry at Fenway Park.

Tonight, June 25th, 7:10 pm: 

In Boston, the Yankees will send out starter Domingo German to face the Red Sox Martin Perez tonight at Fenway Park. German other than two games, has been one of the Yankee’s most dependable pitchers. However, he is coming off two of his worst starts of the year, giving up more runs in the two games than he has since April. But he can be lights out at his best, which the Yankees hope is the case tonight. He is 4-4 with an ERA of 4.17 with 63 strikeouts. Tonight will be his thirteenth start of the season, with the Yankees winning eight of his starts.

German will face Martin Perez, who is 5-4 with an ERA of 4.32; the two pitchers stat-wise are pretty evenly paired. Perez is coming off a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals when he gave up just one run over five innings, striking out 3 Royals. Giancarlo Stanton, of all Yankees, has hit the best off of Perez. Stanton has a .429 batting average off him with 2 home runs in 7 plate appearances. Tonight’s game will be on the YES Network, NESN, and MLBN out of market.

Saturday, June 26th, 7:15 pm: 

The Saturday evening game will feature Jordan Montgomery for the Yankees and Nathan Eovaldi for the Red Sox. Montgomery is coming off one of his best games of the season. Against the Oakland Athletics, he allowed just a solo home run in the Yankees 2-1 win. The New York Yankees have won his last six starts in a row. He is 3-1 with a 4.03 ERA.

Eovaldi is an ex-Yankee pitcher that has done very well with the Red Sox. He is 7-4 with an ERA of 3.90 in 15 starts. He is coming off a loss to the Kansas City Royals when he gave up 3 runs in only four innings of work. The Red Sox has won nine of his fifteen starts on the season. Saturday’s game is a nationally televised game on the FOX Network.

Sunday, June 27th, 1:10 pm:

Sunday’s matinee will be ace against ace. The Yankees will have Gerrit Cole on the mound, and the Red Sox will send Eduardo Rodriguez to face Cole. Gerrit Cole is 8-3 with a 2.33 ERA. Cole has been solid for the Yankees despite getting little run support in his games. He is coming off a June 22nd loss when he went seven innings, giving up just two runs, but the Yankee bullpen failed him.  Cole has an unbelievable 123 strikeouts on the season.

After sitting out last season due to heart problems caused by the coronavirus, Eduardo Rodriguez has pitched well for the Red Sox this season, going 5-4 but with an elevated ERA of 6.07. The Red Sox lineup has given E-Rod a lot of run support. He is coming off an eleventh inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays. However, he gave up all five runs that the Rays scored. Sunday’s matinee will be broadcast on YES, NESN, and nationally on TBS.

 

 

Tashaun Gipson ready for Chicago Bears defensive turnaround

Entering year four of the Matt Nagy era, Sean Desai will be the Chicago Bears‘ third defensive coordinator in four seasons and tasked with getting the Bears’ defense back to the top. One advantage Desai has over first-year defensive coordinator’s is familiarity with the defense. Having been with Chicago since 2013, Desai has seen the defense built up and perform at a high level.

Chicago will be returning 10 of 11 starters in 2021, including the safety tandem of Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, giving the Bears continuity on the backend of the defense.

“I think Sean is one of the brighter young minds in the game so to have him as my defensive coordinator, I definitely understand what he can bring to the table,” Gipson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And with the talent he got on defense, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to see.”

While Desai will have his own defensive schemes, there will be some shades of Vic Fangio’s defense, something that will be a key factor in determining how Chicago’s defense performs in 2021, especially considering Fangio’s 2018 defense was the best in the NFL. In order for Desai to really excel, he’ll need to put his players in a position to succeed on any given play.

“A guy who’s going to let us playmakers make plays. And that’s one of the things, he’s not going to handicap nobody on defense,” Gipson said. “I think that with a guy like Sean, you see that everyone gon’ be able to make plays, from the safeties to the corners to the linebackers to the d-line and when you have a defense that’s rich in talent like the Chicago Bears defense, where you got guys capable of changing the game on every level, having a guy like Sean is huge because you have a guy who can truly put every guy in position to make a game-changing play at some point in the game.”

Gipson’s statement is accurate: Playmakers make plays. However, to make plays, playmakers need to be put in positions to succeed, something that is a staple of any great coach. Statistically, Chicago’s defense has regressed in takeaways and sacks over the last two seasons, however, with a more aggressive defensive scheme in 2021, veterans like Gipson should contribute to a defensive resurgence.

Yankees News, 6/25: Taillon takes major step forward, Cashman on the trade prowl

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, jameson taillon

The Yankees took on the Kansas City Royals on Thursday afternoon, looking to string together another victory — thankfully, they did so in fashion. The Yankees have only lost two of their last nine games and plastered the Royals for eight runs in the win. However, the biggest positive on Thursday was starting pitcher Jamison Taillon, who lasted 6.1 innings, allowing five hits and just one earned run. This was undoubtedly his best game of the season, and considering he currently hosts a 5.18 ERA, this clear progression is worth writing home about.

Prior to Thursday’s game, Taillon had lost his last four contests, giving up 12 earned runs during that time frame. He also allowed 20 overall hits and walked six batters. To see him take a significant step forward is exactly what the starting rotation needed, especially with Corey Kluber out for the next few weeks having suffered a shoulder injury.

The Yankees will now take on the Boston Red Sox on Friday evening with Domingo German on the mound. German has a 4.17 ERA and has allowed 14 homers and 67 hits over 69 innings pitched this year. For Boston, they will feature Martin Perez, who hosts a 4.32 ERA; the Yankees should have an advantage in this game. Boston is coming off three losses over their last four games, including two consecutively to the Tampa Bay Rays. They have scored just three runs in their past two games, indicating a minor cold streak.

The Yankees currently sit 3.5 games back from Boston and four games back from the 1st place Tampa Bay Rays. They can make a major dent in that number heading into a three-game series over the weekend.

The Yankees will likely be active during the trade deadline:

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com stated that Ketel Marte would be a perfect trade target for the Yankees, who’re in need of offensive/utility support:

Ketel Marte of the D-backs would be the best solution, though he is signed through 2022 (with affordable club options for 2023 and ’24), so the price tag to acquire him could be more than Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is willing to pay.

Marte would be a phenomenal pick-up for the Bombers, as he’s currently hitting .366 with four homers and 21 RBIs over 36 games this season. Logging an 11.7 batting and baserunning combined above-average score, he has been an offensive weapon for the Diamondbacks since returning from injury. The Yankees could use a utility player in the infield on a relatively affordable deal.

Knicks News, 6/25: Reggie Miller details what Knicks need to be contenders, JJ Redick interest

J.J. Redick, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks blew everybody’s minds last season with their rise to playoff contention, courtesy of head coach Tom Thibodeau and Julius Randle. Randle took a notable leap forward in his development, averaging 24.1 points, 6.0 assists, and shot .456 from the field. He also connected on a career-high .411% from 3-PT, a noticeable difference from his .277 mark in 2019.

The Knicks already have a star player, now they just need a superstar to take them to the next level and provide the firepower necessary to compete during the postseason. If you look over to the Brooklyn Nets, losing Kyrie Irving and deploying an injured James Harden simply wasn’t enough, despite having arguably the best scorer of all time in Kevin Durant carrying the load. Teams ultimately need more than one star to make a run in the postseason, and the Knicks have the available funds to do so this August.

18-year veteran Reggie Miller detailed what the Knicks need to take that next step, and it starts with acquiring a superstar this off-season.

“To me, I think they need a superstar,” Miller said Thursday afternoon. “For instance, I’m just saying, if they would’ve had a Damian Lillard along with a Julius Randle, that’s something where you can really say, OK, the Knicks are loaded and ready.

Hypothetically placing Damian Lillard on the Knicks is easier said than done, as President Leon Rose would have to part ways with significant draft capital and player personnel to even tease the Portland trailblazers into considering a deal.

“They are a superstar away from really taking it to the next level.”

While acquiring Lillard would require the Knicks to sell the farm, they do have a few alternative options they can target in free agency. For example, veteran Chris Paul will be available this summer, and Kyle Lowry is also expected to hit the open market.

Lowry signed a one-year, $30.5 million deal last season, and averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists, and shot .436 from the field over 46 games. At 35 years old, he’s undoubtedly getting up there in age but has earned six All-Star appearances over his last seven seasons. While the Knicks will likely go younger at point guard, Lowry might be intrigued by a one-year deal in the $25 million range, which could offer a solid stopgap for the Knicks, allowing them to draft a PG and develop him behind Lowry (possibly Tre Mann).

“I’m saying this year, what they did and how they played, how hard they played, they made the Knicks more attractive for a superstar,” Miller said, “ ’cause the last few years, nobody wanted to come to New York and play there. It’s a little bit more attractive now if you’re a superstar. There’s a little bit of a building block now. And it’s New York.”

What do you think about the idea of signing Kyle Lowry or trading for Lillard? Comment here!

 

Knicks have potential interest in sharpshooter JJ Redick?

Another rumor that has bubbled to the surface is the Knicks’ potential interest in JJ Redick. With family in Brooklyn, Redick taking his talents to New York makes sense, but at 37 years old, he doesn’t offer much aside from a sharpshooter off the bench. This past season, he only averaged 7.4 points over 44 games. The season prior, Redick averaged 15.3 points, shooting .453 from 3-PT, attempting 6.6 shots per game from range.

Redick would likely be a cheap shooter off the bench for New York, offering instantaneous scoring prowess and more efficiency from beyond the arc. While I would prefer the Knicks to go younger and sign a shooter on a multi-year deal, Redick could be a cheap, one-year player.

 

Giants’ Xavier McKinney fires back at Eagles for purposefully losing game in Week 17

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

With the New York Giants pushing to win the NFC East in Week 17 of the 2020 campaign, they faced off against the Dallas Cowboys in a must-win game. Thanks to a late interception by safety Xavier McKinney, the Giants walked away victors in the contest, but it wasn’t enough to secure a playoff spot as the Philadelphia Eagles purposefully lost against the Washington Football Team to gift them a playoff appearance.

Of course, for Giants fans, this was a blasphemous move, as the Eagles pulled starter Jalen Hurts and inserted Nate Sudfeld, who threw for 32 yards and an interception to finish off the game.

Even Philadelphia’s own players projected negativity after losing to secure a higher draft selection. However, Giants safety Xavier McKinney expressed his frustration recently on the All Things Covered podcast.

“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t, man. I’m not gonna lie,” McKinney said. “It was tough. That was my first pick. . . . It was a winnable game for them.”

With the Giants putting it all on the line and desperately needing a Philadelphia victory, not only did they lose purposefully but snagged DeVonta Smith right out from underneath Big Blue in the draft. Philadelphia and the Dallas Cowboys executed a draft-day trade, sending the Eagles into the 10th overall spot, where they subsequently selected Smith, McKinney’s former teammate.

“I turn on the game and I start watching, and I’m like, ‘Damn, they just about to give it up.’ They gave it up, man. It was rough, it was rough to see it happen like that,” McKinney said.

Soon after Doug Pederson pulled Hurts and lost the game, Eagles management fired him due to differing perspectives on the future of the team. Seemingly, they used Peterson as a scapegoat for the transgressions that ensued in the Week 17 defeat to Washington, who made the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Fortunately, the Giants spent a boatload of money and had a quality draft to further improve the team on both sides of the football. Hopefully, the Giants won’t need an NFC East rival to make the playoffs in the future, instead winning enough games to put a cushion between them and the second-place team in the division.

Red-hot Yankees have a prime opportunity to get closer to Boston in the East

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

The New York Yankees won another game against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, thus securing another series victory. The Bombers are among the hottest teams in the American League (besides the white-hot Houston Astros) and have won seven of their last ten contests.

A few days ago, the Yankees were 8.5 behind the first place and were fourth in the American League East. Right now, they are only four games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, the division leaders, and 3.5 back from the second-placed Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees have a premier opportunity to make things very, very interesting in the division: they will travel to Fenway Park this weekend to play a three-game set with the Red Sox. If the Bombers sweep, they will be only 0.5 behind their arch-rivals in the standings.

A big weekend for the Yankees

The players know it’s a big weekend. They have been playing well, Luke Voit returned with a bang (two, actually) and the offense has been swinging the bat well as of late.

Overall, the Yankees look better than the last time the two teams met, back in early June.

New York and Boston previously played in The Bronx from June 4-6, and the Red Sox ended up sweeping the three-game series by a combined score of 18-10.

“To have a chance to chip away at that lead, this is a big series for us,” Judge told MLB.com. “It’s going to be a packed house, weekend series at Fenway: Those are always fun. We’re ready; guys are swinging the bats well, our pitching staff is doing their thing. If we go in there and take care of our business, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”

In a week from now, if things go right for the Yankees and if they play quality baseball, they could be looking at their rivals from the top.

Will the Yankees earn a much-needed sweep of the Red Sox?

Former UFC champion wants a boxing match with Logan Paul

It’s crazy to think that the hottest boxing fight that anyone can get is a fight with either Logan Paul or Jake Paul. Outside of the major stars in boxing like Canelo and Tyson Fury, the Paul Brothers are the biggest thing that the sport has going for it.

Honestly, that probably says more about the state of the sport of boxing than it does the Paul brothers. Love them or hate them, both Logan and Jake have done a great job of building their online presence and have transitioned well into generating interest in their boxing careers.

Logan just boxed Floyd Mayweather a few weeks ago and Jake Paul is lined up to box former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in August. It is indeed a very unique time in the world of combat sports.

We are seeing a lot of former UFC fighters and even champions moving over for special boxing matches. Anderson Silva just took on former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Most MMA guys hadn’t had a ton of success, but Silva put on a boxing clinic. 

After the fight, Silva said he’d be interested in potential boxing matches with the Paul brothers. Yesterday, we learned that another former UFC champion is coming out of retirement and he has his eyes set on Logan Paul.

UFC vs Boxing

Yesterday, former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans (19-8-1) told ESPN that he’s coming out of retirement. Evans hasn’t competed since June of 2018 when he was knocked out by Anthony Smith. That loss was Evans fifth consecutive loss.

However, after a few years away, the 41 year old is ready to jump back in there. Evans is interested in both boxing and MMA. If his next venture is in the squared circle, he’s interested in either Roy Jones Jr or Logan Paul.

Logan Paul now finds himself in a very interesting position. He just boxed Mayweather and now he potentially has the choice of two former UFC champions. If Logan Paul wants a legit opponent next, he has options.

Given what we just saw from Anderson Silva, I would advise Logan to take a fight with Evans before Silva. However, it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. Would you be interested in a boxing matchup between Logan Paul and Rashad Evans?

New York Yankees: 3 Major takeaways from series win over the Royals

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Last night the New York Yankees faced the Kansas City Royals on a top 10 weather day at Yankee Stadium. It was an absolutely lovely day for the rubber game, determining who would win the series. It was a day that drew celebrities to watch the Yankees. Ex-manager Joe Torre was on hand, as well as Yankee pitcher Jose Contreras, Godzilla Hideki Matsui, and all-time best Yankee fan Paul Simon. The Yankees won the game in an 8-1 laugher.

Taillon has his best outing of the season

Jameson Taillon came to the New York Yankees in a trade just before spring training in a trade with the Pittsburg Pirates. Taillon hadn’t pitched in almost two years due to two Tommy John surgeries. The Yankees hoped in this risky move that Taillon could return to his previous form and become a solid number three starter for the team.

So far this season, Taillon has become somewhat of a disappointment as he hasn’t returned to that form they hoped for. He has had problems with his command and has mostly failed to put hitters away after two outs. Although he has shown a few bright spots, he has been inconsistent at best. However, last night at the Stadium, he showed that he could pitch deep and put players away. The Yankees hope this is a turning point for Taillon and build on a strong showing. Catcher Gary Sanchez said after the game that Taillon had good command of his pitches and changed up his pitch selection. Taillon got his second win of the season, going 6.1 innings, allowing only one run while striking out six Royals.

Sanchez and Judge on fire again

The oft-criticized catcher Gary Sanchez has done a remarkable turnaround in the last two weeks or so. After nursing a batting average under .200, he now seems like the star he was in 2017. It may be that a minor tweak by hitting coach Marcus Thames in Sanchez’s leg kick may have done the trick. He has seven home runs in his last thirteen games and a now respectable .240 batting average. Also, the good news for the Yankees is that this is not just a few good games; it appears he has found his stride and that it will continue.

Slugger Aaron Judge is a completely different story; he has had a better than average season leading the team in home runs and hitting for contact. But for the last ten days, he has gone into a mini-slump striking out a lot and not hitting for power. Last night that all changed; Judge was on base all five times. Breaking out of that slump last night, he in his first at-bat, he homered into the short porch at Yankee Stadium. He doubled, hit two singles, and also walked on the night. Judge, Sanchez, and Luke Voit all homered in the game.

Torres, Gardner, and Frazier still struggle

The New York Yankees have really turned things around of late, winning seven of their last nine games. This is mostly because the top five in the lineup have been hitting. In this series, the Yankee top five have gone 10 for 22 with four home runs, a double, and eight RBI’s, but all the players haven’t joined the party. Of the top five, only Torres has continued to struggle. The addition of the returning Luke Voit has also added power to the lineup.

Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier haven’t been able to pull it all together this season. Gardner, the 37-year-old veteran holdover from the 2009 World Series team, is batting just .201, with only 2 home runs on the season and a lowly 8 RBI’s. Clint Frazier hoping to add to his 2020 performance, is still playing good defense but is hitting a poultry .188 with five home runs and 14 RBI’s. His poor play has cost him to lose his starting position in left field that he now shares with Miguel Andujar.

 

 

Reacting to a Knicks mock trade for Minnesota star Karl Anthony-Towns

karl anthony-towns, knicks

The New York Knicks struggled during the postseason for a variety of reasons, one of them being a lack of scoring production from their big men. Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson simply couldn’t get the job done offensively, despite being solid defenders and shot blockers. With Mitchell Robinson heading into the final year of his deal and averaging just 8.4 points over three seasons of play, the team could be looking into a more efficient scorer at the position.

There are several players who could fit the bill, but one rumor indicates potential interest in Minnesota Timberwolves star, Karl Anthony-Towns. Adding an elite scoring center to a team that already has a Julius Randle and RJ Barrett represents a significant addition, but at what cost?

Brett Siegel of NBA Analysis proposed a trade scenario that would have the Knicks part ways with significant capital in order to land Towns:

Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: C Mitchell Robinson, F Kevin Knox II, F Obi Toppin, NYK 2021 1st Round Pick (Pick #19), DAL 2021 1st Round Pick (Pick #21), NYK 2023 1st Round Pick (Top-10 Protected)

Anthony-Towns is currently on a five-year, $158.2 million deal, and is set to earn $31 million next season with three years left on his contract. At 25 years old, the Minnesota star averaged 24.8 points, 4.5 assists, 10.6 rebounds, and shot .486 from the field this past season. In addition, he connected on .387 of his shots from downtown, averaging 6.3 per game. This was the lowest mark since his 2016 season, traditionally averaging over .400 from 3-PT land.

There is no question that Karl is a bonafide superstar, and luring him to New York would obviously command an astronomical allocation of assets. In this proposed deal, Minnesota, which is seemingly a rebuilding team, would add Robinson, Toppin, and three first-round selections.

The question is, is it worth parting ways with so much talent and assets for the Knicks?

Alternatively, they could consider an option like Myles Turner, who the Indiana Pacers might be looking to trade this off-season with Domantas Sabonis playing a similar role.

Turner is a poor man’s Anthony-Towns, averaging 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and shooting .477 from the field. However, he is an elite defender, averaging a career-high 3.4 blocks per game compared to Karl’s 1.1. He is a true defensive center with sufficient scoring prowess and untapped potential, which might fit Tom Thibodeau’s mold a bit more efficiently at a far lesser cost.

Personally, I’m not even convinced the proposed deal would sway Minnesota, as they would be recouping a former first-round bust, a second-year player who didn’t make a significant impact this past season, and Robinson in the final year of his rookie deal. The three first-round picks represent complete shots in the dark. Ultimately, they would be parting ways with one of the best players in the NBA for no guaranteed starters or producers, aside from Mitch, who was injured for a large portion of the 2020-21 season.

In addition, the Knicks might be on willing to part with this much capital in the first place, rather than allocating it toward a player like Turner and spending their first-round selections to upgrade the point guard position, or at least provide support behind a free agent signing.

Do you think the Knicks should attempt to trade for Karl Anthony-Towns or would this be a mistake? Comment below!