Dan Hooker targets return to UFC’s featherweight division

One of the best and most exciting lightweights in the UFC is contemplating a switch in divisions. Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (21-11) is currently considering and leaning towards moving back to the featherweight division.

When Hooker made his debut with the promotion, he debuted at featherweight. However, after not having much success, Hooker decided to move up to the lightweight division. The move was an instant success.

After the move, Hooker strung together a winning streak before losing to Edson Barboza. After the Barboza lost, Hooker went on another winning streak that led him to a fight with Dustin Poirier.

This fight was being looked at as a title eliminator. Hooker looked great early and looked like he was going to get a UFC title shot. However, Poirier rallied and won three straight rounds to take the decision.

Back in January, Hooker took on Michael Chandler in Chandler’s UFC debut. Hooker was knocked out in the first round. He bounced back with a win over Nasrat Haqparast but was recently stopped by Islam Makhachev.

UFC Featherweight Return

After this loss, Hooker started thinking about his future. He posted a video on Twitter of him making the featherweight limit of 146 pounds. He then told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour that he was strongly considering returning to featherweight.

Hooker’s recent 1-3 stretch has made him reconsider where he should be in the UFC. Hooker fought the best of his career at lightweight, however, maybe the second time at 145 will be better for him.

He already has an opponent in mind that fans would be all for. Hooker told Helwani that he would love to fight ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung (17-6). Jung is coming off of a big win over Dan Ige back in June.

I think fans would be lining up to see a fight with Hooker and The Zombie. Both men are cut from a similar cloth and the fight would be incredibly exciting as well as technical.

At this point, the writing is on the wall for Hooker’s return to the featherweight division. Just a matter of when and who will be the opponent.

Freddie Kitchens should make the New York Giants offense more vertical

New York Giants, Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants have struggled to push the ball downfield this season. After twenty-six games with the team, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has finally been fired. The Giants made that decision yesterday after a disappointing 30-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

Daniel Jones has been throwing the ball deep at the lowest rate in the NFL this season. This is similar to last season. It was clearly time for the Giants to make a change, and make a change they have. Freddie Kitchens will take over as the Giants’ interim play-caller/offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season. This change should make the Giants’ offense far more vertical in its passing attack.

The vertical offense of Freddie Kitchens

Daniel Jones has attempted 331 passes so far this season. Only 23 of those passes have traveled 20+ yards downfield. That is only 6.9% of Jones’s attempts, ranking 36th in the NFL. Yes, 35 quarterbacks in the NFL are throwing deep passes at a higher rate than New York Giants starting quarterback Daniel Jones. Comparatively, 13% of Jones’s passes have been thrown targeted behind the line of scrimmage. The Giants are throwing the ball backwards more often than they are throwing the ball deep.

Quarterbacks in Freddie Kitchens’s offense tend to have a high average depth of target. Under Todd Haley in 2018, Baker Mayfield’s ADOT was just 6.8 but shot up to 9.1 once Freddie Kitchens took over. According to PFF, Mayfield’s ADOT under Kitchens in 2018 was 9.6 yards, a very deep average. Kitchens again had him over 9 yards in 2019, averaging 9.2 yards ADOT.

Compare this to Daniel Jones’s first two seasons in the NFL. Under Shurmur in 2018, Jones’s ADOT was 8.4 yards. Garrett’s notoriously non-vertical offense in 2018 brought Daniel Jones’s ADOT down to 8.0 yards. Daniel Jones’s ADOT so far this season is down to 7.5 yards. One must assume that Freddie Kitchens will implement more vertical passing concepts and try to raise Daniel Jones’s ADOT for the rest of the 2021 season.

Baker Mayfield threw 72 total 20+ yard passes in 2018 and 76 attempts in 2019. Kitchens had him airing the ball deep frequently. Daniel Jones threw 54 deep passes under Shurmur in 2018, playing in only 12 games. In 14 games under Garrett in 2020, Jones threw far fewer deep balls, only 43 total. This is obviously a problem, especially when considering Daniel Jones had a 132.5 passer rating on 20+ yard throws last season, the highest in the NFL. Hopefully the promotion of Freddie Kitchens will lead to more deep passes from Daniel Jones and the New York Giants offense.

What’s next for Miesha Tate after UFC Vegas 43?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 43, Miesha Tate (19-8) fought for the second time since making her return. Standing in her way was top ten contender Ketlen Vieira (12-2).

Tate made headlines the week of the fight with her comments about UFC champion Amanda Nunes. Nunes of course defeated Tate to win her first title back at UFC 200 when she brutalized ‘Cupcake’.

Tate has pointed to the fact that she wasn’t in the right headspace at that time in her career. However, she believed she was the best version of herself entering Saturday night and she said she was going to be the one to take Nunes out. 

However, before she could do that, she had to take out Vieira. Tate fought extremely aggressively on Saturday which is normally how she fights. However, she didn’t find the same success as she did when she returned earlier this year.

Vieira was very crisp with catching Tate as she came in. The former UFC champion looked bloodied and battered after the five-round fight. In the end, the judges gave the decision win to Vieira.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 43?

Now that Tate has suffered a setback, it’s time for her to reset. Had she won on Saturday, she might’ve been looking at a UFC title shot given her popularity in the sport and the lack of appealing challengers to Nunes.

However, Tate has to go back to the drawing board after this loss. She could be out for a while with a medical suspension potentially keeping her out up to six months with facial fractures from the fight.

When Tate does return, who should the UFC pair her against? Well, some have suggested that the promotion should pair her against Holly Holm (14-5) for a rematch. These two first fought back at UFC 196 when Holm was champion.

Tate rallied and choked out Holm in the final round to become champion. While this might be appealing, I’m not sure it makes a ton of sense given the fight that Tate just had. However, I wouldn’t put it past the UFC.

Another potential fight could be the loser of the Raquel Pennington – Julia Avila fight. The loser of that fight would be in a similar position as Tate and it would be a good fight for her either way.

New York Giants: Joe Judge cagey about Sunday’s playcalling plans

new york giants, joe judge

The New York Giants have fired OC Jason Garrett, and we don’t know yet who will call the offensive plays for the rest of the season. The initial speculation was that the job was going to move directly to former Browns head coach and current Giants assistant Freddie Kitchens, an obvious path due to Kitchens’ extensive experience working with offenses. But Joe Judge shot down that idea when he told the media that the matter is undecided.

“We’ll talk through it as the week goes,” Judge told reporters when asked if he knew who would call plays on Sunday. “We’ll work through it collectively as an offense and build into Sunday when it comes.”

Judge did go on to say that he has an idea of who might call the plays in the next game. However, he declined to share that name with the press.

“We’ve got a lot of things that may be a little bit up our sleeve. Any competitive advantage you want to have you want to keep to yourselves.”

Who will call plays for the New York Giants?

There is, of course, a chance that Kitchens is definitely going to take over the job and the Giants are just moving slowly to admit it. The Eagles not knowing the offensive coordinator, after all, could present an advantage. There’s no candidate that stands out in particular to call plays other than Kitchens, and Judge confirmed the Giants aren’t bringing in another coach to take over for Garrett for the rest of the season.

If we want to know for certain what kind of scheme the Giants will run on offense, we’ll just have to wait until closer to the game and see who ends up handling it.

One thing is for sure, though: whoever does call the plays can probably get better performance from the talent than Garrett could.

Just don’t expect too many big changes to come during this next game or the rest of the season. Even though a new offensive playcaller will have a different angle of looking at things compared to Garrett, there’s still no time this season to add an entirely new scheme and whoever take over for Garrett has to work around that fact.

Mets reportedly avoiding free agents with qualifying offers attached to them

The New York Mets want, and need, to sign several free agents if they want to keep up with the Atlanta Braves, and potentially the Philadelphia Phillies, in the NL East division. Sure, the trade market is also an option, but it’s unlikely that too many impact players become available this offseason.

However, while the Mets certainly want to sign several players who can contribute in 2022, there is one caveat. Per MLB insider Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and SNY’s Joe DeMayo, they will only consider free agents who did not receive the qualifying offer, at least at this jucture.

The problem is that most of the biggest names, the ones who can truly impact a game or a series, are attached to qualifying offers: Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, Nick Castellano, Robbie Ray, and many more.

The rule indicates that if a team (the Mets, in this particular case) signs a player attached to a qualifying offer, it will need to forfeit its second pick in next year’s MLB Draft. This year, the qualifying offer is valued at $18.4 million.

The Mets need to start thinking about the health of their farm

The Mets did not sign their first-round draft selection last year, Kumar Rocker. They will get that pick again next year, which is the tenth overall, but their regular selection, the 14th, would be unprotected, which means they would lose it if they sign a big free agent who received a QO.

But the landscape is not as bleak as it appears. Several top players, such as Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Starling Marte, Kris Bryant, Kenley Jansen, Kevin Gausman, Jon Gray, Carlos Rodon, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber did not receive the qualifying offer or weren’t eligible for it.

Additionally, they can, and should, focus on re-signing their own free agents. They have already lost Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup, but need to prioritize bringing back Marcus Stroman. Also, Javier Baez showed in half a season that he could be a long-term piece.

After not signing Rocker and trading 2020 first-rounder Pete Crow-Armstrong for Baez, the Mets really need to maximize the potential of their draft picks. Building a strong system should be a priority too, together with big league performance.

Chicago Bears: Way too early 2022 NFL Mock Draft

chicago bears

As the Chicago Bears appear to be on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, it’s time for a 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Before we get into all the fun, there are a few things to note. First, the Bears don’t have a first or fourth-round pick in 2022 due to the Justin Fields trade. Second, compensatory picks are not factored into the mock draft below. Third, these are merely projections and nothing is finalized, so if your favorite player isn’t listed below, don’t worry, that’s what future editions are for.

Let’s get into all the madness.

1) Round 2, 37th overall: David Bell, WR, Purdue

Allen Robinson is likely to hit free agency and the only wide receiver under contract that’s expected to be on the Bears roster in 2022 is speedster Darnell Mooney. That means a high pick needs to be spent on a wide receiver to invest for Justin Fields’ sake, investing in the Bears’ future.

Bell has quickly emerged as one of the biggest risers of this draft cycle. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Bell has everything needed to become a star wide receiver at the NFL level. He’s got the perfect combination of size and physicality. Don’t question Bell’s hands either, which have shown to be comparable to glue all throughout the 2021 season.

As a route runner, Bell has proven that while he may not be overly flashy, he does just enough to win due to his instincts. As he makes the jump to the NFL, expect to see him grow in this area to become a more complete wide receiver after lining up as an X, Z, and slot receiver in college.

Overall, Bell has the potential to develop into a quality wide receiver at the next level and the Bears should pull the trigger if he’s on the board in the second round.

2) Round 3, 78th overall: Jermaine Waller, CB, Virginia Tech

Much has been made of the Bears secondary this season, with Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson being the only two players who should be guaranteed starting roles in 2021. The Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley experiments have failed, meaning the Bears need to find a running mate for Johnson.

Waller is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, length is apparent in Waller’s frame as is his coverage ability, operating at a high level in both man and zone coverage. Having started 23 games since 2018, experience isn’t an issue for the Hokies cornerback, who should be a day one starter for the Bears.

Ball production isn’t an issue for Waller either, who has four interceptions and five pass breakups in 2021, including a pick-six against Notre Dame. Healthwise, Waller played just two games in 2020 due to arm and foot injuries. However, he’s rebounded nicely and put together a solid 2021 campaign.

3) Round 5, 148th overall: Obinna Eze, OT, TCU

Much of the Bears’ offensive line for 2022 is already set, with Cody Whitehair, Teven Jenkins, and Larry Borom set to return. What happens with interior offensive lineman James Daniels and Sam Mustipher remains to be seen but adding to the offensive line means investing in Justin Fields.

As a mid-round prospect who can develop into a potential starter down the road, Eze is a name to watch. Eze’s 6-foot-8, 334-pound frame is hard to ignore, as are his 25 consecutive starts. Eze’s arm length is apparent when watching him on film, as is his ability to keep pass rushers from getting around him easily.

Eze excels as a run blocker, where he’s able to climb to the second level with ease but the lack of flexibility is prevalent in Eze’s large frame, something that is holding him back from becoming a true pass protector.

4) Round 6, 184th overall: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State

Doubling down on CB might not be a bad idea for a secondary that needs a total makeover. Chase Lucas has flown under the radar in 2021 but is a name to keep an eye on. On tape, Lucas’ athleticism, tackling ability, and route recognition are prevalent. Perhaps the most underrated quality of his is the ability to play on the outside or move to the slot, a quality that should benefit him at the next level.

Lucas may not be overly flashy by any means but the willingness to tackle and locate the football with ease is prevalent in his game. Lucas’ length (6-foot-0, 185 pounds) and footwork are prevalent as a player who continues to be highly consistent.

Lucas may be flying under the radar but when the NFL scouting combine takes place in the Spring, don’t be surprised to see one of the faces of Arizona State’s secondary become one of the biggest risers during this draft season.

Knicks’ Julius Randle drops words of encouragement in win over Lakers: ‘That sh*t takes time’

knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks gained a bit of momentum on Tuesday evening when they overcame the Los Angeles Lakers 106–100. The Knicks lead for the majority of the game, displaying a bit of dominance, stifling off a late comeback attempt by Russell Westbrook and Co.

Finally, the Knicks’ starters stepped up and had adequate performances, as Julius Randle posted 20 points and 16 rebounds. Evan Fournier pieced together a 26 point game, adding four rebounds, shooting 57.1% from the field and 66.7% from three-point range. In two of his last three games, Fournier has hit 50% or more from deep, indicating an upward trajectory with his shooting.

The starters needed time to gel, despite starting off the season strong and showcasing some of their newfound scoring prowess. However, Randle stated after the game that it takes time and poor play never broke their confidence.

“18 games in? This s**t takes time. The thing about us is we’ve stayed encouraged, we stayed positive, we’ve had highs, we’ve had lows but once it starts clicking we’re going to be a really really good team.”
Inconsistencies are natural in the NBA, but when the second team is picking up the slack, it casts a dark shadow on the starters, who have stepped up lately knowing the team needs more production from their biggest names.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau mirrored a similar message, stating:
“The ball always finds energy. If we’re doing the right things when we’re pushing the ball and we’re attacking the rim, oftentimes those are the best shots you can get.”
The Knicks did everything right against the Lakers, holding them to just 37.4% from the field and 30.6% from three-point range. They limited Anthony Davis to just 20 points, a sufficient number for a player who regularly averages 25+. While Russell Westbrook posted 31, 10 assists, and 13 rebounds, his stellar outing wasn’t enough to propel Los Angeles to a win.
New York has an incredibly difficult schedule ahead, taking on the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, and Chicago Bulls consecutively. They will need the starters to be on the top of their game if they want to emerge victorious against competitive teams.

Mets voice frustration as top pitching target snubs them after last-minute change of heart

The New York Mets wanted to bring back left-handed pitcher Steven Matz, who pitched the first six seasons of his big league career with them.

While the Mets were keen on securing his signature, the hurler reportedly had a last-minute change of heart and his agent failed to come back to them after the St. Louis Cardinals made him a four-year, $44 million offer he ended up accepting.

“(The) Mets are upset about the Matz situation and his last minute call to Cardinals. They had the impression he was going to come back to them for a final chance. Sources say Mets would have gone to that level ($44M, 4 years)”, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman explained via Twitter.

Matz had a fantastic 2021 campaign, with a 14-7 record, a 3.82 ERA. A 1.33 WHIP, and 144 strikeouts in 150.2 innings.

The Mets’ owner was an unhappy man this morning

“I’m not happy this morning. I’ve never seen such unprofessional behavior exhibited by a player’s agent. I guess words and promises don’t matter”, Mets’ owner Steve Cohen tweeted this morning, presumably about the Matz situation.

Matz’ market heated up this week, and it was clear he would sign before Thanksgiving. Lots of teams were behind his services, including the Jays, Mets, Cardinals, and many more.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Matz can make up to $48 million and will receive a signing bonus.

The Mets badly need rotation help after losing Noah Syndergaard to the Los Angeles Angels, and with Marcus Stroman currently a free agent, their depth consists of Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, Tylor Megill, and David Peterson. They need at least two or three arms, and were determined to bring back Matz after his one-year stint in Toronto.

However, it wasn’t meant to be, and the Mets will have to keep monitoring the market while they look for improvements. The Billy Eppler era didn’t start on the right foot, but there is still plenty of time to build a competitive roster.

Yankees could be in trouble as top short-stop market hits astronomical prices

yankees, corey seager

The shortstop market in free agency feels a lot like cryptocurrency, it continues to increase, but at some point, it will have to reset and buyers will be waiting. The New York Yankees are sitting patiently for an opportunity to strike, as agents are elevating the price tag of their star shortstops and expecting teams to bite before an expected lockout on December 1.

However, general manager Brian Cashman has been around the block a few times and knows how these deals usually work, which is exactly what he accomplished with DJ LeMahieu last year. He ended up landing LeMahieu on a six-year, $90 million deal when most believe he would breach $120 million in total.

Super-agent Scott Boras is seeking money in the realm of $200 million for his top players at shortstop, which would put the Yankees in somewhat of a bind.

“Perhaps more than $200 million.”

The Yankees have a ton of options on the table, including Corey Seager, Trevor story, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, and Javier Baez. None of them have been scooped up off the market, meaning the price tags can easily fall to match what teams are willing to pay.

However, reports have indicated that the Yankees are simply monitoring the market and not aggressively pursuing a specific player. Cashman works fast, though, and if he sees the right price tag for a player he desires, he will strike a deal in a moments notice. Considering he was just about willing to pay $25 million over one season for Justin Verlander, they clearly have plenty of money to spend and are ready to make a push for players they desperately want.

Nonetheless, they have the mega-deal of Aaron Judge waiting in the wings, so they have to be a bit financially flexible. They already have Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton on the roster, representing $300 million contracts, so it is entirely possible Cashman looks to the secondary market for a stopgap shortstop, which would save them a bit of change as they wait for Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza to reach the majors.

New York Yankees 11/24: Gary Sanchez, Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman, and more

freddie freeman, yankees

At the end of the season, the New York Yankees energized fans by saying the purse was open and the Yankees would be spending to improve the team for 2022. As the postseason drags on, and the Yankees have not yet made any splashes, fans are quickly becoming disenfranchised as the Yankees seem to be drawing back on their promise to hire some high profile players.

Gary Sanchez going nowhere

This writer is not sure what all the talk this week about Gary Sanchez is leading. Folks, he is not going anywhere. There are three main reasons. 1. The organization is still standing behind him with their support, even though he doesn’t deserve it. 2. There just aren’t many catchers out there this offseason that would be better than Sanchez. 3. The Yankees have much bigger fish to fry: SS, first base, oh and yeah, a number two type starter for the rotation.

Carlos Correa or Corey Seager won’t be in pinstripes

At the beginning of the postseason, the Yankees seemed primed to go after the best shortstop in the business, Carlos Correa, if not him then Corey Seager of nearly the same quality. But now both seem to be in the Yankees rearview mirror, and it’s not entirely clear why.

Are the Yankees sincere in not wanting to block Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza from making the bigs when they are ready or are the Yankees pulling back because the don’t want to spend the money after all?

Will postseason acquisitions come to a halt?

All the acquisitions, by purchase or trade, may be coming to a screaming halt. We are now one week away from the agreement that allows the owners and players to put on a baseball season. Yes, the expiration of the CBA comes on December 1.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has said the negotiations for a new contract are going very slow, and the sides are far apart. He also said it seems a lock-out is likely. If that happens, all transactions will also come to a halt. The last time there was an MLB work stoppage was in 1994, starting in August with no World Series and halting the start of the 1995 season.

Max Scherzer to the Dodgers?

It may not be of much interest to Yankee fans that industry sources say that free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer will likely end up with the Dodgers. What is concerning is that general manager Brian Cashman said getting a number two type starting pitcher was one of his priorities.

With Scherzer landing on the west coast, it’s just another Yankee pitching target that will be going off the market and not available to the Yankees. Noah Syndergaard of the Mets has already signed with the Angels, Justin Verlander with the Astros, and Eduardo Rodriguez with the Detroit Tigers.

Is Freddie Freeman the Yankees’ dream first baseman?

I think we can all agree that Yankee first baseman Luke Voit’s days with the Yankees are over. He was never a great defender and has had a great deal of difficulty staying healthy. Although several Yankees have replaced him, the Yankee via trade settled on Anthony Rizzo, who is now a free agent. The question is, Rizzo is not the hitter he once was, even though his defense at first is stellar. Also, will the Yankees want to pay the big bucks he will likely ask for?

The Yankees could stick with DJ LeMahieu, who is a Gold Glove second baseman. He is adequate, but his offense isn’t exactly exciting either. If the Yankees want a power-hitting lefty with the defense of Mark Teixiera, there is a free agent out there. His name is Freddie Freeman of the Braves that is now a free agent. Freeman and the short porch at the Stadium are the perfect match, and unlike Rizzo, his hitting is not in decline, anyone that watched the World Series knows that. In 2021 Freeman hit .300 with 31 home runs.

If the Yankees spend big for a shortstop, Freeman is probably not an option, but if they go with a stop-gap option at short, Freeman would make a perfect Yankee. Another wise addition could have been Belt of the Giants, but he just signed an $18 million one-year deal to stay with the Giants.