PFL women’s lightweight and heavyweight finals set

MMA, PFL

Tonight, the PFL was back with their second playoff card of the 2021 season. The women’s lightweight division and heavyweight division took center stage this evening. In the main event, Kayla Harrison (10-0) took on Genah Fabian (4-1).

Harrison was the massive betting favorite heading into the 2021 PFL season and she made it look easy through her first two fights. She completely dominated her first two fights. Genah Fabian was looking to play spoiler by pulling off the massive upset.

However, it was not meant to be. Harrison did her thing and in the first round, she was able to take Fabian down. Once the fight was on the ground, it was simply a matter of time.

Harrison immediately transitioned to the mount and started brutalizing Fabian. Fabian gave up her back and Harrison rained down shots until the referee stopped the fight. Another dominant performance from Kayla Harrison.

In the other PFL lightweight semifinal, we saw Mariana Morais (17-11) take on Taylor Guardado (2-1). Originally, Larissa Pacheco was supposed to fight Guardado, but Morais stepped in after Pacheco missed weight.

The fight was very competitive between these two. Guardado did a good job with her pressure and landed some really solid shots in the first couple of rounds. Morais was able to use her judo to secure top position in the first and the third round.

The last two rounds were very easy to score with Guardado taking the second and Morais taking the third. The first round was incredibly close. Guardado landed the better shots while Morais secured a takedown. Ultimately, two of the three judges gave the fight to Guardado and she will now take on Kayla Harrison in the PFL finals.

PFL Heavyweight Finale Set

In addition to the women’s lightweight playoffs, we also saw the heavyweights battle it out for a spot in the PFL finals. In the first heavyweight semifinal matchup we saw the 2 and 3 seed go head-to-head as Russia’s Denis Goltsov (27-6) took on Croatia’s Ante Delija (18-4).

Heading into this matchup, Goltsov was a significant favorite. Delija was just 1-1 leading into the playoffs, and nobody was giving him much of a chance. However, he came to play spoiler tonight at PFL 8.

In the first two rounds, Goltsov was really controlling the first half of the round. However, Delija ended up on top to finish both rounds. In the first round, he controlled Goltsov for a significant portion of the round.

The third round was all Delija as he got an early takedown and controlled Goltsov. In the end, all three judges gave the fight to Delija as he pulled the upset and clinched a spot in the PFL finals.

Delija then sat back and watched Bruno Cappelozza (12-5) take on Jamelle Jones (12-6) in the other semifinal matchup. Cappelozza was another big favorite as the top overall seed after scoring two first round finishes. Jones was going to look to be the spoiler in this one.

However, it was evident from the opening minute that he was going to have his hands full. Cappelozza controlled the striking at range and showed off a big speed advantage in his matchup with Jones.

In the second round, a stiff left straight from Cappelozza put Jones down and he followed up to end the fight. Bruno Cappelozza will not take on Ante Delija in the PFL finals.

New York Yankees Recap: Higashioka and Velazquez power the Yankees to win over the Twins

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

After sweeping the Boston Red Sox and going 8-2 in their last ten games and overtaking the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, the New York Yankees took on the Minnesota Twins in the first game of a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Jameson Taillon was on the mound for the Yankees and John Gant for the Twins. The Yankees won the game 7-5.

In the first, Max Kepler led off for the Twins and ground out to Odor at second. Jorge Polanco dunked in for a base hit to no man’s land in center. Josh Donaldson flew out to Stanton in right. Polanco tried to steal second, but Higashioka threw a lazer to second for the final out. At the bottom, Luke Voit leadoff for the Yankees and flew out to center. Rizzo ground out for the second out. Aaron Judge tapped out to the mound for the final out of the inning. No score.

At the second, Luis Arraez flew out to Stanton in right. Miguel Sano went down on strikes. Nick Gordon flew out to Judge in center for a 1-2-3 inning for Taillon. At the bottom, Joey Gallo struck out swinging. Giancarlo Stanton ground out to center. Rougie Odor went down on strikes to end the scoreless inning. No score.

The third inning was led off by  Ryans Jeffers, who went down on strikes. Jake Cave tapped out to first. Andelton Simmons ground out to Wade at third. At the bottom, Andrew Velazquez had a  leadoff triple. Higashioka got an RBI double scoring Velazquez who was alble to walk home. Tyler Wade worked a walk. Luke Voit hit to far left to get double scoring both Wade and Wade. Anthony Rizzo sac flew out to center with Voit scoring. Aaron Judge, with one out, struck out swinging. Gallo hit into the catcher’s glove. New York Yankees 4 Twins 0.

Max Kepler led off the fourth inning by striking out looking. Polanco struck out. Donaldson ground out to short. At the bottom, Giancarlo Stanton chopped out to third. Rougie Odor faced the new Twins pitcher Danny Coulombe and flew out to right. Velazquez singled to short. Velazquez stole seond. Kyle Higashioka hit a two-run bomb just inside the left-field foul pole driving in two. Wade ground out. New York Yankees 6 Twins 0.

The fifth inning was scoreless for both teams. The top of the sixth was not good for Taillon or the Yankees as the Minnesota twins racked up 3 runs in the inning. Kepler doubled. Polanco doubled, and Cave homered. The bottom of the sixth was led off by Odor, who ground out. Velazquez went down looking. Higashioka flew out to the right to end the inning. New York Yankees 6 Minnesota 3. What looked like it was going to be a laugher had turned into another close game for the Yankees.

The seventh inning was led off by Sano, who ground out. Gordon struck out swinging. Jeffers popped out at the end of the half. At the bottom, Wade struck out swinging. Voit flew out to right field. Rizzo ground out for a very fast inning for Peralta and Albers. New York Yankees 6 Minnesota Twins 3. Wandy Peralta had an excellent 1.2 innings.

The top of the eight with new Yankee pitcher Zack Britton on the mound, Cave ground out. Simmons reached for a single. Simmons reached second on a wild pitch. Kepler struck out swinging for the second out of the inning. Then, Polanco got a line-drive single to center, and the Twins picked up another run. It was Polanco’s third hit of the game. Donaldson went down swinging, but the Twin nibbled closer, tacking on another run.

Aaron Judge led the bottom of the eight, who hit it hard but directly to second for the first out of the inning. Gallo struck out for the third time in the game. Stanton homered to the short porch in right field to get an insurance run for the Yankees.  Odor went down on strikes. New York Yankees 7 Minnesota Twins 4.

At the top of the ninth, with the last licks on the line for the Twins, Luis Arraez against the new Yankee pitcher and closer Chad Green flew out to left field. Miguel Sano hit a homer just inside the left-field foul pole. Brent Rooker pinch-hitting for Nick Gordon struck out looking. Ryan Jeffers stuck out swinging for the New York Yankees seventh straight win, a season-high.

The final score was the New York Yankees 7 and the Minnesota Twins 5. The winning pitcher was Jameson Taillon; the loser was John Gant. The save went to Chad Green (6).

 

 

 

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari named key rookie for 2021 season

new york giants, azeez ojulari

The New York Giants took wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the first round, but it might be another player that makes the biggest instant impact in their fates during the 2021 season. Some are predicting that player to be outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, the team’s second round pick who they took after a long fall out of a projected first round selection.

There’s a lot to like about Ojulari – he was projected to go as high as the top 10 in this year’s draft, shores up the pass rush which hasn’t been a deep area of the Giants defense for years, and adds more talent for a low price to a defensive line that was hurt by the loss of tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

All of those things are reasons why Ojulari was named the pivotal rookie for the Giants in a recent list from NFL.com which included selections for every team.

Kadarius Toney might have been the Giants’ first-round pick, but he’s dealt with issue after issue over the last few months. Meanwhile, Ojulari is beginning to make his mark. Edge rusher Oshane Ximines just recently was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list and has just five career starts to his name, so the opportunity is there for the taking. Ojulari can compete for starting reps and bolster the overall depth of a quality front.

Ojulari had one tackle in the preseason opener for the Giants and was praised particularly for the way he beat Jets tackle and higher draft pick from last year Mekhi Becton to do so.

He’ll likely have a growing role in coming games, and with Kadarius Toney struggling with different problems this offseason and taking a slower start to his career, Ojulari may just be the first Giants rookie this season to make his mark as an impact player.

New York Jets update status of players injured on Thursday

New York Jets

Carl Lawson and Zane Lewis are done for the year, but the New York Jets appeared to have dodged a bullet with two other starters.

The New York Jets announced on Thursday that defensive lineman Carl Lawson and safety Zane Lewis will miss the 2021 season after sustaining injuries during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers.

Lawson’s departure is particularly devastating to a Jets team that bestowed him $30 million guaranteed to bolster their pass rush. At $45 million total (over three seasons), Lawson was the Jets’ most expensive offseason acquisition. He established himself as one of the league’s most promising pass rushers despite a relatively pedestrian sack total. Last season, he was one of 11 defenders to create at least 10 sacks, according to ESPN’s advanced stats department.

Per Connor Hughes of The Athletic, Lawson (ruptured Achillies) sustained the injury during a pass rush drill in the red zone. Lawson previously tore his ACLs in his sophomore years at Auburn (2014) and the Bengals (2018), missing the whole year in the former.

The Jets declared that Bryce Huff took over Lawson’s reps for the remainder of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Lewis (torn his patella tendon/sprained MCL) was looking to make the team as an undrafted freshman free agent out of Air Force. He was a cornerback with the Falcons but the Jets were planning to use him as a safety.

In addition to Lawson and Lewis, each of whom was carted off the field, the Jets also lost receiver Denzel Mims (hip) and defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins (knee) to ailments. However, the Jets reported that each will be labeled day-to-day.

Thursday marked the latter of two joint practices between the Jets and the Packers in Green Bay. The collaboration will conclude with a preseason contest on Saturday late afternoon at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks training camp roster now up to 18 after signing Dwayne Bacon, Aamir Simms

The New York Knicks have officially added Dwayne Bacon and Aamir Simms on Thursday.

According to ESPN’s NBA front office insider Bobby Marks, Bacon’s deal is non-guaranteed while Simms is on an Exhibit 10 or training camp contract. Ian Begley of SNY first reported the signings.

Bacon, who played with Evan Fournier in Orlando and Kemba Walker in Charlotte, is coming off a career season with the Magic. He appeared in all 72 games, including 50 starts. He averaged 10.9 points and 3.1 rebounds with 1.3 assists in 25.7 minutes, all career highs.

Simms, who went undrafted last July, was on the Knicks’ Summer League team. The former Clemson forward averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11 minutes in Las Vegas.

Simms is a candidate to take the Knicks’ remaining two-way spot. Jericho Sims, the 58th pick, is the other Knicks’ two-way player for next season. Two-way player contracts do not count against the salary cap.

For the 2021-22 season, two-way players will be paid $462,500 or equivalent to 50% of the minimum salary applicable to those with zero years of service ($925,000 per Spotrac). Two-way players will also be eligible to be on a team’s active roster for a maximum of 50 games during the regular season.

Knicks players on guaranteed deals:

PG Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, Miles McBride

SG Evan Fournier, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes

SF RJ Barrett, Alec Burks, Kevin Knox

PF Julius Randle, Obi Toppin

C Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson

The Knicks currently have 14 guaranteed deals and two non-guaranteed players in Bacon and Argentine guard Luca Vildoza. Bacon and Vildoza will likely fight for the last guaranteed spot in the roster. The Knicks have until the opening night of the season to guarantee Vildoza’s salary.

Vildoza is on a short vacation in Vitoria, Spain, but he is expected to rejoin the Knicks for the training camp and preseason games.

NBA teams are allowed to bring 20 players to the training camp. But the Knicks will need to cut the roster down to a maximum of 15 active players and two two-way players.

The NBA training camp begins on Sept. 28.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderamo

 

New York Jets DE Carl Lawson carted off from joint practice session

carl lawson, new york jets

Lawson was one of several key New York Jets injured on Thursday as they prepare for a preseason contest in Green Bay.

Per multiple reports from Green Bay, New York Jets defensive end Carl Lawson was carted away from a joint practice session with the Packers with an apparent leg injury. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo have stated that Lawson will undergo an MRI on his Achillies, a tear of which would end his 2021 season.

The Athletic’s Connor Hughes stated that Lawson went down during a pass rush/red zone drill. North Jersey.com’s tandem of Daryl Slater and Joey Chandler revealed that Lawson tried to get up but was unable to put any weight on the affected leg. Head coach Robert Saleh has yet to comment on the incident. 

Adding to the wariness behind Lawson’s injury is his medical history. ACL tears in 2014 and 2018 respectively cost him his entire sophomore season at Auburn and nine games with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Lawson established himself as one of the rising pressure artists in the NFL during his time in Cincinnati. Eager to bolster their pass rush, the Jets inked him to a three-year, $45 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. That contract made him the most expensive addition of the Jets’ eventful offseason.

Alas for the Jets, Lawson wasn’t even the only major contributor to leave Thursday’s proceedings with an injury. Another Hughes report said that Denzel Mims limped off the field with a trainer with defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins while D.J. Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News said that undrafted rookie cornerback Zane Lewis was likewise carted off. The Jets might’ve caught a break when it comes to Mims, as Brian Costello of the New York Post says that Mims was removed as a precaution.

The Jets’ joint practices in Green Bay are in preparation for a preseason game on Saturday late afternoon at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

PFL Playoffs Preview: Heavyweights and Women’s Lightweight take center stage

Tonight, the PFL returns for the second playoff event of 2021. Last week, we saw the men’s lightweight and welterweight playoffs with two finale matchups booked. Tonight, it’s the women’s lightweight division and the heavyweight division that will take center stage.

Before previewing tonight’s PFL playoff action, there is one important note. The top seed in the women’s lightweight bracket has been pulled from the event. Larissa Pacheco (15-4) started her PFL season with two first round knockouts. She appeared to be on a collision course with Kayla Harrison (10-0).

However, Pacheco missed weight by two pounds and was pulled from the PFL playoffs. Mariana Morais (17-11) now steps in for Pacheco and will take on Taylor Guardado (2-1) in the first semifinal matchup. Of course, all eyes are going to be on the main event and the second lightweight semifinal matchup.

That matchup features the two-time PFL champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison. Harrison has stormed through all of her competition in her ten professional fights. Standing across from her tonight is Genah Fabian (4-1). Fabian is 2-0 with one finish thus far in the 2021 season.

PFL Heavyweights and Predictions

The other PFL playoff matchups feature the promotion’s heavyweight. The featured semifinal matchup pairs together Bruno Cappelozza (12-5) and Jamelle Jones (12-6). Cappelozza earned the top seed with two first round knockouts this year.

Jones was able to get into the playoffs while only having competed once in the 2021 PFL season. In his one performance, he was able to score a first round stoppage over Klidson Abreu back in June.

In the other PFL semifinal we have a matchup between two European heavyweights. Russia’s Denis Goltsov (27-6) takes on Croatia’s Ante Delija (18-4). Delija went 1-1 this season with a loss to Cappelozza while Goltsov went a perfect 2-0.

We should be in for a tremendous night of fights in the PFL playoffs.

Official Predictions: 

  • Kayla Harrison – Genah Fabian – Harrison by TKO (Round 1)
  • Bruno Cappelozza – Jamelle Jones – Cappelozza by TKO (Round 2)
  • Taylor Guardado – Mariana Morais – Morais by Decision
  • Denis Goltsov – Ante Delija – Goltsov by TKO (Round 1)

Mets reportedly ‘leaning towards’ shutting Jacob deGrom down for the season

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

The 2021 season has been on a downward spiral for the New York Mets for a few weeks now. Owners of a multiple-game lead in the NL East as recently as last month, they started to lose some ground and drop important games, and are currently out of a postseason spot.

The Mets are 60-60 in the NL East, but remain 4.5 games out of the first-place Atlanta Braves as of Thursday afternoon. They have been without their best position player, Francisco Lindor, and their top pitcher, Jacob deGrom, for a while now.

Speaking of deGrom, he is currently, and officially, inside of a two-week shutdown window given to him on August 13. After that, the team would reevaluate him and determine whether or not he would be ready to resume throwing.

The situation, however, is worrisome. According to Pat Ragazzo of SI.com, the Mets are leaning towards shutting down deGrom (right elbow inflammation) for the rest of the season.

A return to action is already difficult, but the Mets are holding out hope for their ace to come back in September and help them overcome their deficit. Per Ragazzo’s source, though, there is about a “99.9%” chance that he won’t pitch again in 2021.

The Mets may not have their ace to save them

The Mets have gone 13-20 since the All-Star break and could completely fall out of contention soon if they don’t pick things up soon.

The Mets do not want to push their prized arm into rushing back, especially since they are on the verge of non-contention, having gone 12-20 since the All-Star break to fall below .500, as well as 4.5 games back in the NL East.

The Mets are reportedly not confident that deGrom’s elbow inflammation will be healed enough to resume throwing by August 27. If that’s the case, he would have run out of time to return this year.

The last time deGrom pitched was on July 7, before the All-Star break. He is currently 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP and 146 strikeouts in 92 innings (15 starts).

A line of Parise-Pageau-Wahlstrom could be dynamite for Islanders this season

As we continue to sift through the dog days of August before talk of training camp begins, things continue to remain extremely quiet on the Islanders’ front. But that doesn’t mean it’s never a bad thing to look ahead.

I wrote earlier this week Zach Parise is primed to have a bounce-back season wherever he’s suiting up. It’s all but confirmed he will be an Islander, despite the team still not providing any formal announcement. Once the Isles do make his signing official, things will shift to where he’s used by head coach Barry Trotz in the lineup.

Several projections have Parise slotting in on the third line as the Isles’ top-six, barring another trade or signing, looks all but set with Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Palmieri (also re-signed), Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier. If that is indeed the role he’s given, Parise will most likely be linemates along with J.G. Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom.

Having those three on a line together has the chance to add a big boost to the Islanders’ attack.

Pageau is coming into this year fully healthy after he suffered an injury in the playoffs. He was a force for the Islanders before a broken hand compromised his ability to contribute. Wahlstrom will too be back on the mend after suffering a setback in the Penguins series that kept him out the rest of the postseason. This will be his second season after a solid rookie campaign where he tallied 21 points in 44 games. He is expected to be a full-time regular and one of the Islanders’ more prominent scoring threats with Jordan Eberle departing for Seattle. Parise, as stated already, is motivated to find his game again after having the last four years of his contract bought out by his hometown Minnesota Wild.

Wahlstrom and Pageau already have chemistry going back to last season when the freshman forward was inserted next to the Ottawa native during the Isles’ hot streak in March. They meshed really well together and gave the Islanders a solid one-two punch outside their top-nine. There was an even stronger connection in the postseason before Wahlstrom went down. And they like each other.

“His attitude is top-notch on and off the ice,” Pageau said about Wahlstrom during the year. “He’s doing the right things and paying attention to all the details and that’s how you get better… He’s doing everything possible to be apart of this team.”

“My guy. He’s just awesome,” was how Wahlstrom described Pageau. “He’s a guy I really look up to and I love being around him.”

The addition of Parise though adds another intriguing factor. He will bring some much-needed offense to a line usually considered the checking line. Everyone can point to his disappointing campaign last year — 18 points in 45 games — but he’s still a capable contributor.

Prior to last year, Parise combined for 53 goals from 2018 to 2020.

What also should be acknowledged: Wahlstrom will also have the opportunity to learn from one of the best veterans in the league.

Pageau is a great mentor to have, but Parise held the captaincy during his tenure in New Jersey, where ironically he was under the watch of current Islanders boss Lou Lamoriello. He was also an assistant for many years with the Wild. That kind of experience will be vital for Wahlstrom, who is still has a ton of room to grow.

As a whole, the Pageau-Wahlstrom-Parise trio has all the makings of a very being very effective if formed. Each player brings something different to the table.

The Islanders offense is expected to be better from previous years, and these three can be a big part of it.

 

 

 

 

Julius Randle downplays Knicks-Hawks Christmas showdown: It’s just another game

Julius Randle is hyped to play on Christmas Day, but it’s not because he’ll face the Atlanta Hawks, the team that foiled him and his New York Knicks in last season’s NBA playoffs.

For Randle, it means much bigger than who is their opponent.

“Playing in the Christmas game is always an honor. Those are big games that you want to be a part of. Those are definitely the games that the NBA highlights. The fact that you have a Christmas game is a huge honor,” Randle said on The Jump on Wednesday.

It will signal the Knicks’ return to the holiday games after a two-year absence. Randle views it as a recognition of the winning culture they established in New York last season.

With Randle growing into an All-Star and an All-NBA forward, the Knicks finished fourth in the regular season that ushered their return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. But despite a career season that saw him won the Most Improved Player award, Randle could not elevate his game in the playoffs with the Hawks defense ganging up on him. On the flip side, Trae Young soared higher and emerged as the new Garden villain leading the Hawks all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

For the Hawks, this will be their first Christmas game since 1989. They are 9-11 on the holiday games, while the Knicks hold a 22-31 record and the most Christmas games by any team in the NBA.

“Being the fact that it’s Atlanta, you know for me it’s just another game,” Randle said. “You know, it’s all part of the process, of our season on what we want to build and to be where we want to be at the end of the season. Everything is game by game. Obviously, there’s a lot of anticipation and a lot of stuff because of the first round series (last season). But I’m just looking forward to being able to have that experience of playing at Christmas in front of my family and friends. It will be cool.”

For the Knicks fans who have already circled this game on their calendar, it will be a lot cooler to have their revenge game on Christmas Day.

Randle will be playing his fourth Christmas game, but it will be his first under the Knicks. He holds a 1-2 record on the holiday games with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that originally drafted him. He averaged 13.3 points on 47 percent shooting with 7.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.7 steals in those three Christmas games.

Randle is looking forward to another crazy atmosphere in his first Christmas game at the Garden, like the one he experienced during the playoffs.

“Absolutely insane! It goes crazy! That’s intense energy,” Randle said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of crazy games — national championship in my hometown at Cowboys Stadium, playing in Kobe’s last game — but I’d definitely say the intensity and energy of the Knicks fans at the Madison Square Garden was definitely the most fun experience so far.”

The Knicks-Hawks showdown will open the four-game Christmas Day schedule at 12 noon (ESPN).

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo