Greg Hardy gets a new opponent for UFC 270

Today we learned that next week’s UFC 270 card is having some last minute changes. Notably, a main card heavyweight matchup between Greg Hardy (7-4, 1 NC) and Aleksei Oleinik (59-16) is off. Ariel Helwani reported the news this afternoon that Oleinik has pulled out of the fight.

With that, the UFC has shifted and found a new opponent for Hardy. Hardy will now take on Sergey Spivak (13-3) on the main card. Spivak is actually a tougher fight for Hardy than the veteran Oleinik. Spivak will be looking to bounce back when we see him next Saturday night.

The last time we saw Spivak was when he was taking on surging heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall. Aspinall knocked Spivak out in the first round. That fight was back in September. The loss had snapped a three-fight win streak for Spivak.

During that winning streak, Spivak used his superior grappling to pick up some wins and even picked up a win over Aleksei Oleinik. He figures to be a tough test for Greg Hardy at UFC 270.

Last UFC fight for Hardy?

When Greg Hardy makes the walk at UFC 270, it could be for the final time as a UFC fighter. It has come out this week that next weekend will be the final fight of Greg Hardy’s contract. At this time, there’s no word on if the two sides planning on extending the deal or if Hardy plans on resigning.

Based on some recent comments from Hardy, it almost seems like he’s wanting to test the market. He will head into this final contest looking to snap a two-fight losing streak. The last time we saw Hardy was back at UFC 264 when he was knocked out in the first round by Tai Tuivasa.

Hardy won his first three professional MMA fights by vicious first round knockout. Given his background, he made his UFC debut in a co-main event slot when the promotion first debuted on ESPN+. Unfortunately for Hardy, he lost that first fight by disqualification.

Since that DQ loss, he’s gone 4-3, 1 NC in eight UFC fights. He’s looked like a very serviceable heavyweight, but he never really got going towards the top of the division. He needs a big performance next Saturday night to prove what he’s worth as his contract expires.

How the New York Giants could turn Kadarius Toney into Deebo Samuel

kadarius toney, giants

The New York Giants finally cleaned house. General Manager Dave Gettleman retired and Head Coach Joe Judge was fired. Now the Giants are searching for a new GM to run the front office. John Mara also wants to entrust the general manager with finding the head coach. One of the most intriguing head coach and general manager duos is Adam Peters and Mike McDaniel. This combination could maximize the talents of the Giants’ personnel, particularly wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

Over in San Fransisco, the 49ers possess a talented player with a skill set similar to Kadarius Toney. That player is wide receiver, Deebo Samuel. Samuel has had a dominant season for the 49ers playing as a wide receiver/running back hybrid in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Turning Kadarius Toney into Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel was a big-play threat this year, leading the NFL in yards per reception (18.2). Samuel totaled 77 receptions for 1405 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns this season. But the shifty receiver also took 59 carries for 365 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns in 2021.

This hyrbrid concept is something that the Giants toyed with this season. Occasionally, the Giants would line Kadarius Toney up in the backfield as a running back. Toney ran the ball only three times, though, as he struggled to even stay healthy and on the field. But the idea of playing multiple positions is not new to Kadarius. In college, Toney took 66 total carries in his four years with the Florida Gators, rushing for 580 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Kadarius Toney’s rushing ability is an aspect of his game that the Giants underutilized this season when their first-round pick took the field. The Giants could hire the San Fransisco 49ers-made GM and head coach duo of Adam Peters and Mike McDaniel this offseason. In that case, the Giants could plan on turning Kadarius Toney into a dynamic offensive weapon like Deebo Samuel.

The New York Giants are continuing to interview various general manager candidates in their search to replace Dave Gettleman. Adam Peters has gained a lot of popularity amongst the fanbase, as has head coach candidate Mike McDaniel. The idea of pairing those two together in New York is exciting, and could be just what the Giants need to revatilize their offense.

Kadarius Toney is an extremely talented, young player in the Giants’ offense. There is no coach more qualified to extract all of the talent out of Toney than the one involved with the emergence of Deebo Samuel: Mike McDaniel. This would be a bold direction for the Giants to take the team, but it is a direction that could pay off with a high-flying and explosive offense.

The Knicks fleeced the Hawks with Reddish, Hill acquisitions

cam reddish, hawks, knicks

The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks connected via trade on Thursday afternoon, as rumors suggested earlier in the week. New York was linked to Cam Reddish of Atlanta, who have been seeking an expanded role and a chance to earn an extension in the future.

Despite limited minutes, Reddish has had a solid season, averaging 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 38% shooting from three-point range. At 22 years old, Reddish was once considered a potential prospect for the Knicks, but they elected to stay put and draft RJ Barrett out of Duke.

Both Barrett and Reddish attended Duke simultaneously, but according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, they weren’t exactly friends. However, they will team up in New York and look to build upon their collegiate success.

Looking at Reddish’s statistics, he has experienced a tremendous uptick in three-point efficiency, improving by 11% this season from 26% shooting last year. To justify that his numbers have grown sufficiently, he’s attempting 4.5 shots per game, compared to 4.8 last season, so clearly, he experienced some lucrative development this past off-season.

It will be interesting to see how Tom Thibodeau includes him in their strategy as a primary forward. The Knicks don’t often use small forwards, but Evan Fournier is capable of playing the position if need be. The primary forward rotation involves Julius Randle and Obi Toppin, so Reddish will have to find a way to make an impact. He’s currently averaging 23.4 minutes per game, and while we might see a down-turn after the transition, it should hover around that average for the rest of the season.

In the deal, the Knicks also acquired Solomon Hill and a 2025 second-round pick via Brooklyn in the trade. The Knicks also gave up Kevin Knox, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and was destined to leave anyway. The Knicks had to move Knox to open up a roster spot, so Atlanta likely took him on to process the deal.

The Knicks walk away with a tremendous haul by most accounts without giving up too much. Of course, the first-round pick via Charlotte is valuable, but Reddish has one more year on his rookie deal at $6 million and a qualifying offer of $8 million for the 2023–24 season. It is possible they use Reddish as a trade piece in the near future to acquire a more prominent name that can contribute more, but for the time being, he can offer the Knicks more physicality inside plus improved 3-PT shooting.

Objectively, New York gains a true and tried player who can contribute regularly for an unknown draft pick and Knox. New York already has too many young players on the roster to host another two first-round draft selections. This was a win-win for the Knickerbockers.

Knicks reunite Cam Reddish with rising star RJ Barrett

cam reddish, hawks, knicks

The New York Knicks have traded seldom-used Kevin Knox and a 2022 protected first-round pick (via Charlotte) to Atlanta Hawks for Cam Reddish, Solomon Hill, and a 2025 second round-pick (via Brooklyn), according to multiple reports.

ESPN first reported the deal that would reunite Reddish with his former Duke teammate and Knicks’ rising star RJ Barrett.

In December, Reddish, the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, has shown flashes of his potential with a pair of 30-plus point games. For the season, the 6-foot-8 Reddish is averaging a career-best 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in a career-low 23 minutes while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.

Knox, the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, had been buried on the bench since Tom Thibodeau took over in New York. He hopes the change of scenery will help him get his NBA career on track. Knox averaged 8.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in a three-and-a-half season with the Knicks.

Ian Begley of SNY also reported that the Hawks initially sought rookie Quentin Grimes, but some Knicks decision-makers opposed dealing the 25th pick of this year’s draft. Grimes has earned his way into the rotation with his defense and reliable three-point shooting.

The Knicks’ pick to Atlanta is heavily protected (1-18 in 2022, 1-6 in 2023, 1-14 in 2024, and 1-14 in 2025; two second-round picks after 2025). The Knicks originally acquired the pick when they traded their no. 19 selection in the previous draft, which Charlotte used for Kai Jones.

The Knicks will have to release 10-day signee Ryan Arcidiacono to accommodate Hill for their 15th roster spot.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Opinion: How will the New York Yankees act once the lockout ends?

hal steinbrenner, brian cashman

We could be getting closer to the return of the Yankees’ Hot Stove. For the first time since early December, MLB and the MLBPA are meeting today to discuss core economic issues to try and inch closer to an agreement to end the lockout. How today’s meeting goes will tell us a lot more about the length of the lockout.

If the meeting is extremely short and frustrating, we could be looking at a reality where the season doesn’t start on time. However, if there’s promise out of today’s meeting, we could see some positive momentum towards ending the lockout. I’m not holding my breath to be honest.

However, the fact that both sides are going to talk is encouraging. Let’s say today’s meeting goes well and let’s say that we are on track for the lockout to end at the beginning of February. How will the Yankees act once the lockout ends? Well, they are looking at a reality of only having a few weeks to act before pitchers and catchers report while having a ton to get done.

Yankees offseason outlook

When the offseason started, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that they needed to figure out solutions for shortstop, center field, starting pitching, and first base. Obviously a ton to get done before the bombers take the field to start the 2022 season.

Fans, including myself, were incredibly frustrated with the lack of aggressiveness from Cashman before the lockout. A ton of big names like Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Robbie Ray, and others fell off the board and the Yankees did nothing. Now, we understand that they likely didn’t do anything due to the lack of knowledge surrounding the next CBA.

We don’t know what the luxury tax situation will be and we know the Yankees care about the tax. Sometimes it feels like they care about the tax more than they care about doing what needs to be done in order to field a championship ballclub. Once the CBA is announced, expect action from the Yanks.

So what will they do? Well, I could see them making a play for Carlos Correa, but I don’t see them being a favorite. Just hard for me to see them making a big splash in signing him to a massive deal. Instead, I think they are much more likely to target Trevor Story perhaps on a short-term deal to re-establish his value.

This would also give them flexibility to allow their SS prospects to come of age on their on time. In terms of first base, it’s clear the Yankees like Freddie Freeman. However, I don’t see him leaving Atlanta. If he does, expect the Yanks to be right there. Anthony Rizzo is the favorite to return if they go the free agent route.

Trades coming?

One thing that’s for sure is you should expect some trades from the Yankees. I wouldn’t doubt it if we saw them move Gary Sanchez. However, I feel like they are going to ride that one out to the grave and let him walk in free agency after 2022. The one guy that is for sure getting dealt is Luke Voit in my opinion. Cannot see any scenario where they bring him back.

Will be interesting to see what they get in return. The deal all fans want is a trade for Matt Olson. To me, Olson remains the most likely biggest splash the Yankees will make in this offseason. Olson checks every box and Cashman has a great working relationship with Billy Beane and the A’s.

I wouldn’t rule out a big trade coming together featuring Olson and a starting pitcher. There are so many areas that need to be addressed and I’m very curious to see how this all plays out.

Here’s what I ultimately think happens. I think the Yankees land Olson and a starting pitcher from Oakland. They will acquire another outfielder for depth and I think they sign Trevor Story to a one-year deal. I don’t know if Story will take that, but if he will, I like the Yankees chances.

If they don’t land Story, expect a guy like Andrelton Simmons. I feel disgusted even writing that. Keep in mind, these are just my gut feelings. Let me know in the comments what you think the Yankees will do in the shortened offseason rush!

Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson can teach us a lot about Mekhi Becton

mekhi becton, jets

D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s career arc can teach us a lot. Having excellent pieces at premium positions is the foundation of a rebuild. Mekhi Becton is one of these pieces. Not unlike the New York Jets’ current draft situation, the Jets had an extra first-round pick after trading a star player. The Jets used that pick to select the top center in the draft, Nick Mangold.

Seemingly from the start, D’Brickashaw and Mangold were great and changed the tone of the offense. However, things did not come together until the team signed Alan Faneca to what was the most lucrative contract for an offensive lineman. It was this unit that led to two consecutive AFC Championship appearances.

How This Applies To Becton

There has been some talk about getting the Best Player Available at left tackle. That would be Becton to the right side, whether through free agency or the draft. Becton’s advanced stats show that he is a better run blocker than pass blocker. However, that does not mean that moving him to the right side would maximize his strengths. His sample size is too small because of the injury this year, which drastically affected the lineup. More importantly, NFL tackles are not always interchangeable. It happens frequently, and fans that grew up playing Madden will be desensitized to the actual success rate of moving Offensive Lineman around. It does happen, it works, and in some cases provides a major boost to some players’ careers.

Becton was a high first-round pick and has never played particularly poorly at Left Tackle. Joe Douglas’s strategy of building a wall up from is working but will still take some time to finish. Undoubtedly, the Jets need more help on both line units. However, I’m inclined to leave a good run blocker and an improving pass blocker on the left side before we start making changes to his career.

Yes, he has struggled at times on the left side, but that is not indicative that everything will magically fall into place if you stick him on the right side. That’s not to say it does not work: Penei Sewell has improved tremendously on the right side. Moving a player up and down the line is a legitimate technique of evaluating talent, but in some cases, a player is simply meant to play one position.

Looking To The Jets Success From Past To Present

When the Jets took D’Brickashaw Ferguson in 2006, fans were pleased with a top prospect and filled an immediate need. Later that round, the Jets selected Nick Mangold, and some Jets fans were not happy using two first-round picks on one position group. However, many fans knew that when people say players could be here for a decade, these two had every possibility of being right.

In fact, they both had lengthy prolific careers. They were the catalyst for any success the Jets had during their time. Even with the two best lineman, the Jets have seen this century, it led to only two fantastic playoff runs. Nothing is guaranteed, so the Jets need to follow a plan.

Joe Douglas has gone to great lengths to fortify this unit. The offensive line and their depth have improved, but this was always a massive task. Mekhi Becton has a chance to be great, and Alijah Vera-Tucker can comprise a solid left side of the line. Becton deserves his fair shot to prove he is the NFL left tackle he was drafted to be.

UFC books Kelvin Gastelum – Nassourdine Imavov

The UFC has finalized a banger of a middleweight matchup for their April PPV. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report yesterday that the promotion has finalized a matchup between former title challenger and Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum (17-8) and surging contender Nassourdine Imavov (11-3).

The matchup will take place at UFC 273 on April 3rd. This is a huge opportunity for Imavov who will be looking for his third straight win. Last time we saw Imavov was back at UFC 268 when he took on Edmen Shahbazyan. Imavov looked sensational on his way to getting a second round stoppage.

Prior to that, Imavov stopped Ian Heinisch. So far, he’s 3-1 in the UFC with the lone loss coming against Phil Hawes by majority decision. Currently, he’s ranked 12th in the UFC’s middleweight division and he looks poised to break into the top ten. However, it’s not going to be an easy task.

UFC turnaround for Gastelum?

If there’s one man who needs to turn his career around it’s Kelvin Gastelum. Just a couple of years ago, Gastelum looked like he was destined to become a UFC champion. He surged towards the top of the division and earned a shot at the middleweight crown when Robert Whittaker was champion.

However, Whittaker had to pull out and instead, Gastelum fought Israel Adesanya for the interim title at UFC 236. Gastelum pushed Adesanya harder than anyone else has in the octagon. However, it wasn’t enough and Gastelum came up short.

Starting with the loss against Izzy, Gastelum is just 1-5 in his last six fights. One has to wonder what the future holds for this once promising contender. Granted, all of the losses he’s had have come against some of the very best that the UFC has to offer at 185 pounds.

Currently, he’s on a two-fight losing streak. In his last fight, he lost a close decision against Jared Cannonier. Now, he has a big fight with Imavov. If he can’t beat this young contender, Gastelum needs to take a deep look at his career. Perhaps it might be time to move back to 170.

Either way, UFC 273 should tell us a lot about Kelvin Gastelum’s future.

Were the New York Yankees brilliant in their reluctance to act, or short-sighted?

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

It is old news by now that the New York Yankees did next to nothing to improve the team in the first six weeks of the postseason. While many other teams went on an acquisition frenzy in the weeks that followed the World Series, the Yankees made no major league buys to prepare for a 2022 season when they fell short again this past season. The team has given no explanation for their inaction. Nevertheless, there are three reasons they may have sit happily buy as nearly half of free agents found new homes.

  1. The Yankees believe their team and prospects are as good as they need to be!
  2. The Yankees prudently wanted to wait and see the outcome of a new Collective Bargaining agreement and how it will affect the game and their funds!
  3. The Yankees want to protect their profits by not offering any mega-contract players, with Aaron Judge in the wings waiting for a contract extension.

It is not as though the Yankees did nothing; they did hire a few minor league players not affected by the lockout. They also hired a new coaching staff by replacing the hitting coach and assistants, a new first and third base coach, and they also made a few minor coaching changes.

All of this lack of action happened after the Yankees had previously said they would come out swinging by filling their number one priority, a shortstop with a big-name contender. They also named a number two priority, getting a number two type starting pitcher to replace Corey Kluber. Those along with help in center field and filling the first base slot were indicated as their needs. But almost instantly after that announcement, the Yankees changed strategies, suggesting they might hire a stopgap shortstop. At the same time, they wait for Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza to fully develop to the major league level.

From that point on, the Yankees and its fans watched Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, two of the best shortstops out there, go to the Texas Rangers; what the Rangers will do with an extra high paid shortstop is anyone’s guess. Look for a possible trade before the start of the season. Javier Baez went to the Tigers. Next, the Yankees also saw starting pitchers Robbie Ray go to Seattle, Kevin Gausman to the Blue Jays, Eduardo Rodriguez go to the Tigers, and finally, Max Scherzer signed a huge three-year contract with the crosstown Mets.

Considering factor No. 1. the Yankees have had a pretty good team highlighted by pitcher Gerrit Cole and sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton over the last few years. These players have been able to propel the Yankees all the way to a wild card appearance. Consider a solid supporting staff, and the Yankees may think this team is as good as they need with a few minor additions.

Looking at factor No. 2 for inaction, all of baseball is waiting to resolve a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). That settlement could change baseball and its economics. The Yankees could have sat back waiting for that new agreement to see how they stood economically.

Lastly, and most likely is the Yankee’s desire to keep their profits where they are. The Yankees have the highest revenues in all of baseball. In previous years owner, Hal Steinbrenner has been adamant in keeping below the luxury tax threshold. It at first seemed that might be out the window this season, but that has seemed to change with the Yankees watching their pockets.

This week MLB will present their first new set of offers to the players. However unlikely, if there is a positive outcome to those offers, the Yankees could spring into action. The significant issues to be resolved are the players receiving a greater portion of the revenues, more money sooner in their careers with less owner interference, and the raising of the luxury tax threshold.

Yankees News: David Cone breaks down Aaron Hicks issue, bullpen strength

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

The New York Yankees undoubtedly face several big questions this off-season, especially with the Players Union and owners preparing to begin negotiating this week on core economic values.

Finding a shortstop for the 2022 season and beyond is a priority for general manager Brian Cashman, as current YES Network host David Cone confirmed recently.

Cone provided insight into the state of the Yankees’ bullpen and how the consistency of Aaron Hicks will play such an important part in the team’s success moving forward.

Here’s the full quote by David Cone, transcribed by NJ.com:

“It’s obviously going to be on the position-player side. I believe the Yankees and their pitching staff as a whole is in pretty good shape, particularly their bullpen. Pretty loaded. When you have two relievers like Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loaisiga that throw 99 mph demon sinkers, that’s a pretty good combination before you even get to the closer Chapman. So I think the bullpen will be as strong as it has been in the past year. Obviously, you need a shortstop. You need Aaron Hicks to come back and be solid in center field and you have to find that out. Some things you know you need right now as far as a position player and a shortstop. Another thing you need to find out in spring training when we eventually get there is how Aaron Hicks looks, whether he can play a full schedule and stay solid or not. Obviously, look at shortstop and that’s a big deal for them. Are they going to sign one of the big guys that’s still out there or a stopgap situation and wait for some of their prospects to get ready.”

Cone has a solid point with Loáisiga and Holmes. This past season, Loáisiga posted a career-best 2.17 ERA over 70.2 innings. He recorded an 8.79 strikeouts per nine and 60.9% ground ball rates. He also contributed a 3.01 SIERA and 3.15 xFIP, both career bests with a minimum of 30 innings pitched in a season.
Holmes is also an intriguing player the Yankees acquired from Pittsburgh last season. He hosted a 3.60 ERA over 70 innings, enjoying a four mph increase in sinker velocity. Holmes ended up playing a significant part in the Wild Card game, in which the Yankees lost, but he performed adequately.
Cone does have a great point regarding Aaron Hicks, who has dealt with injuries the past few seasons, derailing his progress as a Yankee. The team desperately needs him to come back and be a solid option in centerfield, whether it be in a reserve or start role. This off-season, losing Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Brett Gardner left a massive void.

Knicks’ Evan Fournier has started the new year on a tear

evan fournier, knicks

The New York Knicks have won four of their last five games, primarily thanks to RJ Barrett and three 30+ point performances during that time span.

Since the start of the new year, Barrett has been the team’s primary scorer and leader, but free-agent acquisition Evan Fournier has gone under the radar as a productive member the past two weeks. Fournier started the season struggling in October, but November and December showcased a shell of a player compared to his productive seasons in Boston and Orlando.

Fournier averaged 11.3 points during November and shot 36% from deep and 40.5% from the field. He cracked 20 points just twice in 15 games, and his December wasn’t much better. While he did enjoy a streak of three games where he posted 23, 32, and 22 points apiece, he was largely ineffective averaging 12.7 points.

However, several members of the Knicks have taken a significant step forward in January, including Fournier. The French native is averaging 18.4 points, including a 41 point outing against Boston on January 6 and shooting 52.6% from range. While he had one anomaly against Indiana where he scored zero points over 22 minutes, he bounced back with a lucrative performance against his former team.

With Fournier playing at a high level offensively, it takes a ton of pressure off players like Julius Randle. It has also opened up opportunities for Barrett, as opposing teams are forced to spread their defense out to tame multiple playmakers.

When looking at Fournier‘s advanced statistics, he’s experiencing a few interesting numbers. The majority of his three-point attempts are coming assisted this year, witnessing a drop off of 10% in unassisted three-point field goals made. He hovers at 11.2%. His three-point field goals made assisted is at 88.8%, the highest it’s been since 2013 with Denver.

Another interesting statistic is his free-throw points scored. Only 8.1% of his total points have been via free throws. That is the lowest in his entire career by a significant margin, logging 15% last year with Boston and Orlando. Clearly, the Knicks are asking him to be more of a three-point shooter than driving to the basket picking up fouls along the way. 58.9% of his points are coming from the three-point line, the highest of his career by a massive margin.

Clearly, the analytics department saw him as a shooting threat, and they have finally found a sufficient role for him to start the new year, recording nearly 20 points per game. They desperately needed to extract the maximum value after signing him to a four-year, $73 million contract. It was always going to take time for Fournier to adjust to his new role, but it seems as if he’s finally settling in and developing legitimate chemistry with his teammates.