New York Yankees: Coming alive in the eighth the Yankees sweep the Rangers

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

Tonight after taking the series from the Texas Rangers, the New York Yankees looked for the sweep of the Texas team as they continually looked for a place in the wild card series. With the win last night and Toronto’s loss, they are tied for that second spot. So, the Yankees sent Corey Kluber to the mound with great urgency to face the Ranger’s Taylor Hearn looking for their third must-win in a row. The Yankees won the game 7-3.

Yonny Hernandez opened the game facing Kluber and struck out looking. Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled to no man’s land in left-center. Falefa stole second. Andy Ibanez struck out looking. Nat Lowe struck out, tapping into catcher Higashioka’s glove. At the bottom, DJ LeMahieu led off for the Yankees and flew out to left. Luke Voit ground out to third. Aaron Judge struck out in order. No score.

The second inning was led off by Adolis Garcia, who reached on a hit to short. Willie Calhoun singled with Garcia scoring on the play. DJ Peters reached on a fielder’s choice. Brock Holt reached on another fielder’s choice. Jose Trevino singled. Hernandez ground out to first, leaving two on base. At the bottom Giancarlo Stanton singled off the right-field wall; he hit it so hard he had to stay at first. Joey Gallo walked. Gleyber Torres, with two on and no outs, ground out to third with the runners advancing. Gio Urshela had a broken-bat out to left-center. Kyle Higashioka flew out to the right-field wall. New York Rangers 1 Yankees 0.

.Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off the third inning by flying out. Ibanez flew out. Lowe flew out to Gardner, going 1-2-3 for Kluber. Brett Gardner led off the bottom by singling to left. LeMahieu flew out to right. Voit ground into a double play to end the inning. Rangers 1 Yankees 0.

Adolis Garcia led off the fourth ground out. Calhoun ground out to first. Peters doubled. Holt singled to left on a ball that LeMahieu couldn’t corral it, scoring another Rangers run. Trevino ground out to end the inning. At the bottom, Judge struck out swinging. Stanton ground out to short. Gallo popped out to third to end the inning. Rangers 1 Yankees 0.

In the fifth inning, Hernandez led off by doubling to center. Kiner-Falefa singled, with Hernandez scoring from second. Ibanez lined out to a diving Urshela. Lowe coming up knocked Kluber out of the game. Lowe faced new Yankee pitcher Wandy Peralta and reached on a fielder’s choice, Falefa reached third on a bad throw. Garcia popped out, and Calhoun ground out to first to end the half. At the bottom, Torres walked. Urshela singled. Higashioka doubled to left field, scoring Torres and Urshela. Gardner ground out. LeMahieu hit into a double play. Higashioka was called out as he tried to reach home. Texas Rangers 3 New York Yankees 2.

Peters led off the sixth inning flew out to center. Holt tapped back to Peralta for the second out. Trevino ground out. Luke Voit led off the bottom by striking out. Judge walked. Stanton walked and knocked Hearn out of the game. Gallo faced the new pitcher Dennis Santana and walked to load the bases with only one out. Torres went down on strikes. A ball got away from the catcher, and Judge scored to tie the game. Urshela went down looking but stranding two; the Yankees tied the game. New York Yankees 3 Rangers 3.

Hernandez led off the seventh inning against new pitcher Clay Holmes and struck out looking. Kiner-Falefa struck out looking. Ibanez ground out. At the bottom, Higashioka singled to center. Speedy Tyler Wade replaced him as a pinch-runner. Gardner at the plate, Wade stole second. Gardner struck out. Wade stole third. LeMahieu struck out. Anthony Rizzo flew out to center, stranding Wade at third. Yankees 3 Rangers 3.

The eighth inning was lead off by Lowe facing new pitcher Chad Green and flew out to short. Garcia singled on an E6. Garcia tried to steal but was called out at second. Calhoun lined out directly to LeMahieu. At the bottom, Judge popped out. Stanton struck out swinging. Gallo doubled. Torres doubled to score Gallo and the Yankee lead in the game. Urshela singled with Torres safe at home for the Yankee two-run lead. Sanchez homered, driving in two more runs. Gardner walked. LeMahieu grounded out to third. New York Yankees 7 Rangers 3.

With last licks on the line for the Rangers, DJ Peters came to the plate in the top of the ninth against closer Aroldis Chapman and popped out to third. Culberson pinch-hitting struck out.  Trevino stuck out swinging.  The final score was the New York Yankees 7 and the Texas Rangers 3. The winning pitcher was Chad Green, and the loser was Spencer Patton.

 

 

 

New York Giants: Shane Lemieux has surgery on knee, will miss rest of season

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

The New York Giants have taken another loss on the offensive line, but not a surprising one. This time, it’s guard Shane Lemieux that has been marked as out for the season after undergoing surgery on his knee. The surgery is to repair his patellar tendon, after sustaining an injury during training camp and attempting to play through it before deciding on surgery.

Lemieux was on the field when the Giants took on Denver in week 1, but it wasn’t a long day for him. He played 18 snaps before being taken off for newcomer Ben Bredeson, and was absent for the next game. Some of the questions towards the coaching staff after the game were about whether Lemieux would undergo surgery, but no immediate response was given.

Now, we know that Lemieux will miss the rest of the season after surgery turned out to as the only viable option.

This is the second major injury that the Giants are dealing with on the offensive line. The other one, of course, is the leg fracture that will leave Nick Gates out for the rest of the season. Thanks to these two injuries, the Giants have effectively lost two of the players that they expected to start this season on the O-line and will have to rely on a far more unproven lineup.

There’s been talks recently about moving Matt Peart to guard, but those talks no longer seem like speculation. With Lemieux not coming back this season, a change of place for Peart might just be a necessary move for the offensive line’s depth in a season where the position group is especially thin.

New York Jets: Grading Week 2’s loss vs. New England

robert saleh, jets

Zach Wilson’s struggles prevented the New York Jets’ offense from moving forward, but Sunday served as another good showcase for the defense.

New York Jets 6 (0-2)

Top Offensive Performer: RB Michael Carter (11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions 29 yards)
Top Defensive Performer: S Marcus Maye (6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup)
Top Specialist: KR Braxton Berrios (4 returns, 95 yards)
Up Next: Sunday @ Denver (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

New England Patriots 25 (1-1)

Top Offensive Performer: RB James White (6 receptions, 45 yards, 5 carries, 20 yards, 1 touchdown)
Top Defensive Performer: DB J.C. Jackson (3 tackles, 2 interceptions)
Top Specialist: K Nick Folk (4-for-4 field goals, 1-for-2 extra points)
Up Next: Sunday vs. New Orleans (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Offense: D+

Whether it’s fair or not, the state of the Jets’ offense is going to be judged by Zach Wilson’s progress. Even the most optimistic Wilson prophet had their faith shaken on Sunday, as none of his four interceptions could be excused by a baseball-style official scorer. A struggling offensive line missing the services of Mekhi Becton did little to help out: a metropolitan comeback effort was stymied by four sacks of Wilson, all coming in the second half.

The struggles of Wilson masked some encouraging offensive progress: Michael Carter flourished in expanded duties despite the loss of Becton, earning 88 yards (59 rushing) from scrimmage in his second NFL contest. Ty Johnson maintained consistency with 50 yards on a dozen attempts. Carter and Johnson united to obtain half of the Jets’ 18 first downs.

In terms of passes that landed in the hands of Jets receivers, Braxton Berrios continued his strong start, earning a career-best 73 yards on seven receptions while Corey Davis (2 receptions, 8 yards) was held in check. Elijah Moore (4 receptions, 47 yards) hinted at his greater powers while the Jets continued to struggle with generating momentum amongst the tight ends, particularly when they got deeper in New England territory. Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft united for a mere 18 yards on a trio of receptions.

In another positive development, the Jets did earn 336 yards of offense on Sunday, besting their totals from all but two games from last season.

Defense: C+

Considering the awkward position Wilson’s turnovers left them in, the defense did commendable work on Sunday. Highlight reels will immortalize Damien Harris’ touchdown run that took several defenders into the end zone with him, but the makeshift unit put forth a respectable effort in their first Mac Jones experience. The 15th overall pick from April’s draft proceedings was limited to mostly dink-and-dunk endeavors, picking up only 186 yards on 30 attempts.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley started to resemble his Baltimore self, limiting his assignments to 20 yards on four receptions while picking up a team-best 10 tackles. Safety Michael Carter II allowed only 17 yards on five grabs. Quincy Williams appears to be another Joe Douglas waiver wire gem, allowing only 13 yards and earning a tackle in the backfield.

New York’s pass rush also upped its game, tripling its sack total from Week 1. John Frankin-Myers is the only Jets on the sack ledger in each of the first two weeks, having also forced a recovered fumble of Jones. Marcus Maye and Sheldon Rankins earned the other quarterback takedowns, all of which came in the first half. The Jets also forced three New England three-and-outs, up from one against the Panthers.

The Jets were once again beaten by multi-talented running backs: in addition to Harris’ arduous but well-publicized run to glory, the Jets were beaten for 65 yards and a score by White. It’s certainly a few notches down from Christian McCaffrey’s wild ride in Carolina, but worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Special Teams: C+

Matt Ammendola returned to his regularly scheduled kicking duties on Sunday with Thomas Morestead in tow. Ammendola wound up accounting for all of the metropolitan scoring; he converted from 21 and 35 yards out but missed a 53-yarder in the third quarter. Wilson’s de facto arm punts limited Morestead to a single 45-yard attempt.

In addition to his offensive breakout, Berrios further solidified his prescience on the Jets’ return game, averaging just under 24 yards per kick attempt. His 38-yard return in the late stages of the third quarter set up Ammendola’s first field goal of the day.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

NFC North Recap: What did we takeaway from week two?

With week two of the 2021 NFL season officially in the books, how did the NFC North, the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings perform? For the first time all season, the NFC North finished with two wins and two losses, as Chicago and Green Bay secured their first wins of the new year while Minnesota and Detroit lost for a second straight week.

1) Chicago Bears

What more could you ask for if you’re a Chicago Bears fan? Sunday saw the Bears get their first win of the season with rookie quarterback Justin Fields getting extended playing time after veteran quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with an apparent knee injury. Fields was explosive as a runner but also showcased the ability to throw wide receivers open, as evidenced by dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns to Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson.

The Bears’ defense was also fired up, after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow four times, forcing a fumble and three interceptions. Sitting down with Maxx Smith, my co-host for the Fireside Bears YouTube channel, I mentioned how Cincinnati was the perfect opponent for the Bears defense to turn everything around.

What’s next for the Bears? Well with Dalton’s future uncertain, the Fields show has officially arrived and a new energy has descended upon the Bears locker room as the team looks to stack wins between September and October, laying the foundation for a potential playoff run over the final two months of the season.

2) Minnesota Vikings

Someone needs to figure out what’s wrong with the Minnesota Vikings and quickly if possible. Kirk Cousins tossed three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to beat the Arizona Cardinals, who scored 34 points, including 17 points in the second quarter. For the entire afternoon, outside of one sack, the Vikings’ offensive line did keep Cousins upright but when the game mattered the most, the Vikings failed to capitalize.

Switch over to the defensive side of the ball, traditionally a strength of the Vikings under Zimmer and there are mixed reactions. Two interceptions and three sacks weren’t enough to propel the Vikings past the Cardinals either, despite one interception being returned for a touchdown. Minnesota lost this game because Kicker Greg Joseph failed to missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired after Cousins and the offense marched down the field on a nine-play, 58-yard drive that took 2:09 off the clock.

What’s next for the Vikings? Three straight home games against the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions gives the entire team an opportunity to get some wins at home. Zimmer knows the Vikings need to win at least two of these three games, maybe even all three to stave off the hot seat, which could get hot quickly.

3) Green Bay Packers

Well, the Packers are officially back. If you watched Green Bay on Monday night, Aaron Rodgers and the offense started slow but picked up steam as the game progressed. Major credit goes to running back Aaron Jones, who scored four touchdowns while Rodgers connected with wide receiver Devante Adams eight times for 121 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

One name that stuck out on the Packers’ defense was rookie cornerback Eric Stokes. The 29th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft had two pass breakups and one tackle, shutting down Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus on a key play to force a Lions punt. Green Bay’s defense as a unit did improve as the game progressed with defensive coordinator Joe Barry proving he can get the whole unit playing at a high level.

Up next for Green Bay is a primetime matchup in the Bay Area against the San Francisco 49ers, who’ve won two straight road games. With the 49ers’ defense playing at a high level, San Francisco’s defense will present Green Bay’s offense with another great test to see if Rodgers can get Green Bay clicking even more.

4) Detroit Lions

The Lions haven’t looked as bad as many expected and while flaws do exist, Detroit’s offensive line has looked more than solid so far. Penei Sewell, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Matt Nelson gave quarterback Jared Goff more than enough time to throw. With wide receiver Tyrell Williams out, Quintez Cephus stepped up, catching four passes for 63 yards, including one touchdown. Cephus averaged15.8 yards per reception, proving he could be a big-play threat in Detroit’s offense.

The Lions’ defense did do enough to remain in the first half of the game but big plays throughout the second half helped break the game wide open in Green Bay’s favor. Having a banged up secondary, with Jeffery Okudah, the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft sidelined for the year doesn’t help Detroit’s case but the defensive line did look solid, sacking Aaron Rodgers on three occasions.

What’s next for Detroit? The Baltimore Ravens will come to town with a road trip to Chicago in week 4. It’s very much possible that the Lions start the 2021 season winless through the first quarter of the season but credit head coach Dan Campbell for continuing to have his team fight on every play, even when the game seems out of reach.

 

New York Jets, former Giants LB B.J. Goodson retires

A fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2016, Goodson partook in seven special teams snaps for the New York Jets on Sunday.

New York Jets linebacker B.J. Goodson announced his retirement on Wednesday afternoon, ending a career bookended by stops with each of the metropolitan area’s football squads. Goodson signed with the Jets last week and partook in seven snaps on special teams during the Jets’ 25-6 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Goodson entered the league as a fourth-round draft pick (109th overall) of the Giants in 2016, hailing from Clemson. The Giants hosted his first three NFL seasons before trading him to Green Bay in exchange for a draft pick shortly before the 2019 season opener.

He tallied 251 tackles and four interceptions over six NFL seasons, which also took him to Cleveland. The Jets brought him in as an injury replacement for fellow interior linebackers Jarrad Davis and Blake Cashman, each of whom is out for the foreseeable future.

Goodson spent last season with the Browns and posted career-best numbers during the Cleveland playoff trek. He led the team with 91 tackles and six pass breakups (both career-highs) and also earned two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The former Tiger also started each of the Browns’ two postseason contests last winter and tied with M.J. Stewart for the team lead with 10 tackles in Wild Card triumph over Pittsburgh, their first playoff victory since the 1994-95 campaign. Goodson appeared in five postseason games, including the Giants’ most recent visit in the 2016-17 Wild Card round.

The Jets, sans Goodson, will return to action this Sunday afternoon, hitting the road to take on the Denver Broncos (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

After setback at UFC Vegas 37, what’s next for Ryan Spann?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 37, Ryan Spann (19-7) got his first crack at a main event with the promotion. He was taking on former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-16) who has turned into a bit of a gatekeeper at 205.

It was a massive opportunity for Spann who was looking to break through into the UFC‘s top ten at light heavyweight. However, the fight didn’t go according to plan for Spann.

When the fight first started, Spann looked pretty good. He looked very active on the feet. You could tell that he does a great job of listening to his corner. Often giving them verbal feedback while competed while their shouting instructions.

Spann was able to land a takedown at UFC Vegas 37 and land a few shots, but overall, it was a very swift and sour night for Spann. During an early exchange, Spann was dropped and hurt by Lionheart.

Spann was eventually able to regain his composure, but that didn’t last long. He would get wobbled and hurt again by Smith which resulted in him ending up with Smith on his back. Smith locked up a choke and Spann tapped at UFC Vegas 37.

Spann’s UFC Run So Far

As mentioned, this was Spann’s first real taste at the top of the light heavyweight division. It didn’t go well at all. However, that just goes to show that he has a lot more growing he needs to do.

Spann just turned 30 and he’s shown off a ton of raw tools during his run in the UFC. Back in 2017, Spann was finished in 16 seconds on his first fight on The Contender Series. After that loss, he went back the drawing board and won eight fights in a row.

During that stretch, he got another shot on The Contender Series where he picked up a quick first round finish to earn a UFC contract. Upon reaching the promotion, he started 4-0 which included wins over Devin Clark and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Since then, he’s just 1-2 in his last three with the two losses coming by first round stoppage. He also has a first round win over Misha Cirkunov during that stretch. This tells me that he’s a fringe top ten UFC light heavyweight, but still has to sharpen some things up before he’s ready for the top.

What’s next?

With that, what’s next for “Super” Ryan Spann? Well, there are a couple of options. If the UFC wants him to reset a bit, I like a matchup with Dustin Jacoby (15-5-1). Jacoby is 5-0-1 in his last six and he’s just outside the top fifteen. This would be a good measuring stick fight for both men.

If they want to keep Spann fighting ranked opponents, I would look at the Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) – Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) fight in October. Whoever loses that fight would be a good fight for Spann as the loser would be in a very similar spot as him.

The New York Jets run game has a huge opportunity ahead

michael carter, jets

As Zach Wilson struggles to find his NFL footing, the New York Jets’ run game could become a vital source of offensive stability.

Offensive salvation may have made its way to the New York Jets through the 2021 NFL Draft. But the Cleveland-based gift might’ve arrived not on Thursday of the proceedings…but Saturday.

To the surprise of no rational Jets fan, Zach Wilson’s arrival wasn’t a one-size-fits-all instant fix for New York’s green team. Calling for Wilson’s dismissal and closing the book on his Jets career after two games is asinine but there’s no denying that Gang Green needs to develop some sort of offensive momentum, even if the results don’t translate on the scoreboard.

As one rookie has faltered, it might be prudent to turn over further trust to another: It may be time to give the Michael Carter project a jumpstart…the running back, that is (though the similarly-named safety has likewise done his part on defense).

Yes, turning the offensive reigns over to a rushing attack seems archaic by 2021’s professional football standards. But, as we know by now, the Jets aren’t really in any position to turn any form of offensive assistance. The unit has pulled itself out of the cesspool that Adam Gase dragged them into, as their 336-yard output on Sunday against New England bested their tallies in all but two games from last season. But if the Jets want to look at a 2021 season that likely won’t end in the postseason with proud eyes, they need to push the offense in the right direction.

Nothing more needs to be written about the Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback but a leading rusher has proven equally elusive. No Jets rusher has reached four digits in yardage since Chris Ivory in 2015, three years after Shonn Greene became the most recent homegrown back to do so.

It’s incredibly easy to understand why the Jets would be reluctant to turn over major offensive responsibilities to the run game. The last time they tried that, they got burdened with Le’Veon Bell drama and $4 million in dead cap space. It’s going to be a long time before the Jets ever break the bank open for a rusher and they’re not exactly hiding their minimalist approach: whereas Bell’s four-year deal was worth $52 million, the contracts of the six rushers currently stationed on the Jets’ roster are worth just about a quarter of that.

But the bargain bin, as anyone who has spent ten minutes in their local Target can testify, can yield delightful prizes. The early returns on Carter, and some of his rushing compatriots, suggest he could become a buried cult classic, like a copy of Idiocracy with a $3.99 price sticker. The Meadowlands complex is well-known for hosting the game-changing antics of one North Carolina alum with the surname of Carter. A path is set for another to do the same.

Carter has the makings of a popular fantasy football waiver wire option as the season goes on. The former Tar Heel, subtly slid under the radar in the fourth round as April became May. He currently stands as the fourth-leading rusher in Chapel Hill history, ahead of tenured NFL veterans like Natrone Means and Gio Bernard.

michael carter, jets

The Jets’ rushing situation in the post-Bell era was in a state of flux upon his arrival: Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, and La’Mical Perine (the latter being a fourth-round choice in 2020’s virtual proceedings) were denied extended opportunities in a lost season thanks to the Frank Gore retirement tour while the team also added two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman to the fold on a cheap one-year deal. There was an unspoken understanding that a committee-like approach awaited once the season got underway.

Yet, there was something about Carter’s skillset, praised for his physicality, size, and off-tackle abilities, that convinced observers that he would break away from the pack sooner rather than later. Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur might’ve seen it coming through training camp comments from team reporter Randy Lange.

“He’s got such a good feel for holes and space,” LaFleur said in August. “When you think he’s about to hit something, he’s so tight to the ground and under control that you never really know where he’s going, but it always seems like he makes the right decision.”

That takeover might’ve come earlier than even his most optimistic believers anticipated.

The Jets’ finest offensive outputs came when they turned to Carter on Sunday. He was responsible for a third of the Jets’ 18 first downs (earning the necessary yardage on six of his 13 touches), totaling 88 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Jets rookie running back since Elijah McGuire had 131 in an October 2017 tilt against Jacksonville. Making things all the more impressive was the fact that Carter broke loose on an afternoon where the Jets were without offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton.

It was a performance that head coach Robert Saleh defined as “electric” in the aftermath of the team’s 11th consecutive loss to the Patriots. Saleh praised the way that the run game performed in general, as Johnson put up 50 yards through a dozen carries while Coleman had 24 on five. But he hinted that Carter may be developing the anticipated separation amongst the speedy trio.

“He was running his tail off (on Monday),” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “All three backs I thought showed up to play, but hats off to Michael.”

In addition to Carter’s progress, the Jets also continued to be enthused by veteran Ty Johnson. The former Detroit Lion has become a valuable find on the in-season free agency market, averaging 4.6 yards an attempt since donning a green uniform for the first time in October 2020.

As Wilson continues to deal with the dangerous obstacles traditionally thrown toward a rookie NFL quarterback’s way, the Jets need to find some sort of offensive stability. Both Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur know what it means to lean on a potent rushing attack in lieu of an established quarterback. LaFleur recalled just how important a ground attack led by Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida was in a Super Bowl bowl trek. Last year’s group, with Mostert joining Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, and Jamycal Hasty, helped partially alleviate an injury report that resembled a Pro Bowl roster.

“The run game, in general, is just critical, that’s what we all firmly believe,” LaFleur said in Lange’s aforementioned camp report. “If you can’t run the ball in this league, it gets really hard to throw the ball. There (are) only a few quarterbacks in the history of time that can just drop back and pick people apart and go up and down the field.”

Despite LaFleur’s insistence on having a good run game, the Jets rank in the bottom half of the league’s rushing attempts with 48 compared to 70 passes for Wilson, which currently ranks at the bottom of the top half. In addition to not wearing down Wilson (five of the top ten rookie quarterbacks with the most pass attempts since 2015 are no longer with the team that drafted them), both he and the team need to be as potent as possible, generate as much positive momentum as they can in a year that more than likely won’t end with the Jets’ among the 14 postseason squads.

A strong run game, mere inches away from him in the backfield, could be the perfect way to do that.

The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon on the road against the Denver Broncos (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Is the UFC targeting Sean O’Malley – Brian Kelleher?

Sean O'Malley

The UFC has been working on finding the next opponent for “The Suga Show.” Sean O’Malley (14-1) is currently sitting on the sidelines waiting for the promotion to finalize his next opponent so he can get back into the octagon.

Originally, the UFC was targeting O’Malley against Frankie Edgar at UFC 268 in November. However, due to some scheduling conflicts, O’Malley turned down the fight with the former lightweight champion.

Afterwards, there appeared to be some tension between O’Malley and the UFC. However, that tension has seemingly been resolved and now the promotion is focused on getting O’Malley booked.

The word is that the promotion is targeting UFC 269 for O’Malley’s return. The card is expected to be huge featuring three title fights and a number of other high-level fights. The UFC does tend to go all out for the end of the year PPV.

O’Malley’s addition to the card would just add another big name. With that being said, there’s been some rumblings surrounding O’Malley’s next opponent and the leading candidate posted on Twitter that O’Malley had accepted the fight. 

Is the UFC booking O’Malley – Kelleher?

Brian Kelleher (23-12) took to Twitter to say that O’Malley had accepted a fight with him. While no confirmation occurred, the fight would take place at UFC 269 as mentioned above.

However, some recent back-and-forth has seemingly put a little water on the flames. O’Malley’s coach Tim Welch commented saying that Kelleher was already booked according to the UFC.

However, Kelleher has denied that he has a fight lined up. Now, it’s not out of practice for the UFC to have a potential fight lined up for someone before even offering it to him. This could be the case with Kelleher, however, it could be something different altogether.

Kelleher is not currently ranked in the top fifteen. That said, he’s one of the more entertaining bantamweights to watch and he’s gone 4-2 in his last six UFC fights. O’Malley has publicly stated that he doesn’t care if his next opponent is ranked because his pay doesn’t change.

While I personally would rather see O’Malley fight someone in the top fifteen, there’s no momentum with that right now. A lot is still up in the air, but it does appear that the UFC is moving in the direction of booking O’Malley against Brian Kelleher.

Lamoriello’s vaccination rule another example of why Islanders are model franchise

One thing Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello has ingrained in the organization since he arrived three years ago is TEAM over everything.

All aspects of what the Isles do on and off the ice — and from a management standpoint — all have the best interests of the team in mind. It’s why they’ve become a beacon of stability, not only among their NHL counterparts but in the entire sports landscape. Yesterday’s announcement from Lamoriello was just another example of this.

“We will not allow any player in our organization to participate unless they are vaccinated,” the Isles’ boss said to the media for his pre-training camp presser.

Hats off to Lamoriello for making such a statement, and I’m not just saying that too because I am fully vaccinated. It shows again the mindset of a whole group of people, not just one person.

The league made its rules clear earlier this month that unvaccinated players can be suspended by their respective clubs and lose wages per day that they aren’t fully treated. That’s something Lamoriello and the Islanders won’t tolerate.

We saw last year how much COVID could wreak havoc on teams. Just ask the Devils, Sabres and Canucks; their seasons were massively halted because of the outbreaks that took place among players and staff. The Islanders were lucky to not have any players contract the virus last season, albeit a few scares.

It was noted too that there was one minor leaguer in the organization who wouldn’t get vaccinated and the plan being for him to play for a different club in 2021-22.  That call from him to do that sends a strong message that the organization is not willing to take any chances.

“We’re very conscious of what’s going on in the world,” said Lamoriello. “The Delta Variant now and where that’s at and we will be taking every possible precaution that we can to protect, to keep our players, our staff, our coaches as healthy as we possibly can and their families.”

The NHL is reportedly nearing 100% of having its players fully vaccinated, which they should be commended for. The Islanders will be one of those teams with everyone in that category because thats how the mentality is now around here — team above everything else.

There won’t be any Zac Rinaldo type situation. The Blue Jackets yesterday said they told Rinaldo to not report to camp because he has yet to get vaxxed.

Instead, the Islanders can keep their focus on more important things at hand, like preparing for an 82-game — hopefully longer than that — journey.

Phil Davis made the right choice moving to Bellator years ago

Phil Davis, MMA, UFC

This past weekend at Bellator 266, Phil Davis (23-6, 1 NC) was tasked with welcoming Yoel Romero (13-6) back to light heavyweight and to Bellator. Davis was coming off of a loss in the opening round of the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix against the champion Vadim Nemkov.

Davis had a great gameplan for Bellator 266. Romero is someone who likes to lull his opponents to sleep before exploding with something that catches them off guard. The problem for Romero is that Davis never quit moving.

He used great angles on the outside to work his jab and use his length. Then, in the second round, he started mixing in his wrestling which completely caught the former Olympic Silver Medalist off guard.

In the third round after realizing he could take Romero down, Davis went to the takedowns. Romero couldn’t get Davis off of him at Bellator 266 and as a result, Davis ended up walking away with a split decision victory.

That said, this fight was not a split decision. I think everyone in the world outside of the one judge who scored the fight for Romero knew that Davis one. Even Romero didn’t believe a scorecard went for him at Bellator 266.

Davis’ Bellator Career

Back in 2015, Davis became a free agent after having a good run in the UFC. Davis entered the UFC when he was just 4-0 and ended up going 9-3 during his 12 fights with the promotion.

Twice he got up to title eliminators, but both times he fell short of the mark. After losing a split decision to Ryan Bader, Davis tested out the market and made the surprising decision to sign with Bellator.

Upon signing with Bellator, Davis went a perfect 4-0 to start which included capturing the Bellator light heavyweight title. Now, he lost the title in his first title defense in another split decision to Ryan Bader.

However, Davis has now gone 10-3 with Bellator. After starting his career on the amateur circuit, Davis has gone a combined 19-6 on the biggest stage and he’s only lost to some of the best. His losses came against Ryan Bader (Twice), Vadim Nemkov (Twice), Rashad Evans, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Quietly, he’s put together a sensational career, and I don’t think he’s done yet. If he can put together another win or two, he might be challenging for the Bellator light heavyweight title again sometime in 2021.